Zero tolerance

December 31, 2010

Zero-tolerance policies are generally stupid, because they are rarely written with enough care to ensure justice is done and injustice is not. If you’re going to institute a sloppy policy, you had better not make enforce it punctiliously.

When you do, you get asinine situations like the 17-year-old North Carolina girl who has been expelled from school because she accidentally brought a paring knife to school in her lunch box.

But that’s not the bad part. The really bad part is the school’s officials are lying to justify their decision.

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City of Cleveland v. State

December 30, 2010

Eugene Volokh takes a look at this week’s Ohio Supreme Court case striking down Cleveland’s anti-gun laws. It seems that Ohio’s appeals court was making a novel argument. The Ohio constitution provides that municipalities have the right to make their own legislation, provided it does not conflict with “general laws”, which have been interpreted to mean “part of a statewide and comprehensive legislative enactment.”

The appeals court claimed that Ohio’s law, which allows individuals to own guns, was not “comprehensive” precisely because it left a “great deal of firearm activity unregulated.” In other words, the appeals court argued that a state law was comprehensive, and therefore binding on local governments, only to the extent that it restricted individuals. Conversely, a law that protects individual liberty is not binding on local governments.

This would be a very dangerous principle, in practice and theory. The practical consequence is obvious: every person would be subject to the maximum restriction attempted by any government. But the idea behind it is perhaps even more troubling: it says no government scheme is complete unless it is telling people what they can and cannot do. This is not an American idea. I’m glad it was struck down.


Palestinian Authority denies Jewish claims to the Wailing Wall

December 30, 2010

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Only days after it was removed from the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information website, a “study” denying Jews’ rights to the Western Wall has resurfaced, this time on the official website of the PA’s news agency, Wafa.

By publishing the document on Wafa’s website, the official mouthpiece of the PLO and the PA, the authority has sent a message that its has officially endorsed its findings.

The “study,” which had sparked strong condemnations from Israel and the US, was written by Al-Mutawakel Taha, a senior official with the Ministry of Information in Ramallah.

The five-page document claims that the Western Wall, which it refers to as the Al-Buraq Wall, is an integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and has always belonged to Muslims. It states that Muslim “tolerance” had allowed Jews to stand in front of it and cry over its destruction.

“This wall was never part of the socalled Temple Mount,” Taha wrote in his project. “The wall is the property of Muslims and there never was a stone in it that dated back to the era of King Solomon. Jewish faith has no connection to this wall.” The document accused “Zionist occupation of falsely and unrightfully” claiming ownership of the Western Wall.

How long would that “tolerance” last, I wonder, if the Palestinian Authority had the power actually to do something about it?


It’s back

December 30, 2010

The end-of-life planning provision is back. It was deleted from the health care nationalization bill over concerns that the elderly would be pressured into consenting to end their lives, but now it’s back, as part of the regulations being written by the Obama administration.

The new provision is more aggressive than the earlier attempt, in that it pays for the planning sessions every year, rather than every five years:

Section 1233 of the bill passed by the House in November 2009 — but not included in the final legislation — allowed Medicare to pay for consultations about advance care planning every five years. In contrast, the new rule allows annual discussions as part of the wellness visit.

Supporters of the provision did their best to keep it quiet:

After learning of the administration’s decision, Mr. Blumenauer’s [D-OR, the provision’s original author] office celebrated “a quiet victory,” but urged supporters not to crow about it. “While we are very happy with the result, we won’t be shouting it from the rooftops because we aren’t out of the woods yet,” Mr. Blumenauer’s office said in an e-mail in early November to people working with him on the issue. . .

Moreover, the e-mail said: “We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ — e-mails can too easily be forwarded.”

The e-mail continued: “Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response. The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.”

(Previous post.)


New York union botched blizzard deliberately?

December 30, 2010

That’s what the New York Post is reporting:

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts — a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

“They sent a message to the rest of the city that these particular labor issues are more important,” said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), who was visited yesterday by a group of guilt-ridden sanitation workers who confessed the shameless plot.

This would be a delicious story, and I hate to pour cold water on it, but I’m skeptical. This sort of thing is done all the time in Europe — screw the public to show your union’s power — but it’s always done openly. Doing it in secret doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. What would it accomplish?

(Via Instapundit.)


Hamas admits Israel killed mostly combatants

December 29, 2010

After the Gaza War, when Israel’s diplomatic enemies were accusing Israel of massacres and such, the IDF released figures saying that it killed 709 known combatants, 295 known civilians, and 162 unknown (mostly fighting-age men). Palestinians, predictably, claimed that only a negligible number of the deaths (48) were combatants.

But those claims led to a backlash against Hamas from its own people, since the figures implied that its fighters remained safe while allowing civilians to be killed. Now Hamas admits that Israel’s numbers were accurate, that the IDF killed 600-700 Hamas combatants.


Media bias

December 29, 2010

An Illinois union sends people to harass an executive at his home. The local NBC affiliate calls it caroling.


Unintended consequences

December 29, 2010

Sometimes unintended consequences are also entirely predictable consequences. The credit card “reform” act is drying up credit for poor credit risks, which is forcing them to payday lenders.

Nice job, Democrats. Once again, you’ve screwed the people you professed to be trying to help. As bad as credit card interest rates are, payday lending rates are an order of magnitude worse.


Ah, the fact-checkers

December 29, 2010

The New York Times errs:

By the 17th century, people were imagining trips to the Moon and encounters with lunar inhabitants who, Mr. Brunner tells us, “are hardly ever imagined as inferior, ill-natured or threatening.” Perhaps the most famous work in the genre is Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon,” which was published in Paris in 1865, and which accurately predicted not only that people from the United States would be the first to set foot on the Moon but also, among other details, that the craft carrying them would be launched from Florida, splash down in the Pacific and be rescued by the United States Navy.

The NYT gets two points right: the book was published in Paris in 1865, Verne’s travelers did launch from Florida. We can allow them a third if we’re not too picky: The travelers were rescued by the Navy, not in “From the Earth to the Moon”, but in its sequel. However, they failed to land on the m0on.


Lettermarking

December 29, 2010

Congress find a new way to earmark that circumvents the earmark ban and is almost impossible for the public to track.


Post still peddling the 90% lie

December 29, 2010

The Washington Post claims:

President Felipe Calderon reported this month that Mexican forces have captured more than 93,000 weapons in four years. Mexican authorities insist that 90 percent of those weapons have been smuggled from the United States. The U.S. and Mexican governments have worked together to trace 73,000 seized weapons, but both refuse to release the results of the traces.

This is false. The number is not 90%, but closer to 8%. And, the US government has released quite a lot of information on the traces. (Perhaps by the “results” of the traces, the Post means the raw information, but that would obviously be inappropriate to release, not to mention illegal.)

POSTSCRIPT: The actual topic of the article is an astonishing fact: There is only one gun store in all of Mexico and it’s very hard to buy a gun there. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of gun crime in Mexico. Imagine that.


Life after Washington

December 26, 2010

Iowahawk has some good employment tips for people leaving Capitol Hill.


Myth busted

December 24, 2010

At what point are the “rich” paying enough? Taxation is more progressive in the United States than any other leading economy.

(Via Instapundit.)


Saddam’s blood Koran

December 24, 2010

Saddam Hussein — whom the left says was an arch-secularist and would never, ever be involved in Islamic extremism — had a Koran written in his own blood.


Aha!

December 24, 2010

Over the last few months we’ve been noticing around here that our dishwasher doesn’t work as well as it used to. I assumed that it was simply wearing out (which would be annoying since it’s only a few years old). But it turns out that my dishwasher is innocent: Pennsylvania instituted a phosphate ban in July. Phosphate-free dishwashing detergent doesn’t work as well.

It seems that phosphates are bad because they act as a fertilizer. Sewage treatment plants can’t get all of them out, so they end up in the water where they promote algae and aquatic vegetation. Too much algae and plants, environmentalists say, are bad for fish.

This strikes me as an idiotic environmental tradeoff, entirely apart from the reduction in human quality of life. People aren’t going to accept dirty dishes; they are going to wash them again. So in order to cut back on algae, these bans are going to increase human water usage. You think algae is bad for fish, how do you think the fish will react to not having any water?!

Okay, the coefficients of the tradeoff probably aren’t as bad as that for the fish, but many places have severe water shortages already. Imposing a rule that requires more water is idiocy, aside from being a pain in the posterior.

(Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: Replaced a stale link.


PolitiFiction

December 24, 2010

The Wall Street Journal is piling on to the St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact for labeling “a government takeover of health care” as its “lie of the year”:

So the watchdog news outfit called PolitiFact has decided that its “lie of the year” is the phrase “a government takeover of health care.” Ordinarily, lies need verbs and we’d leave the media criticism to others, but the White House has decided that PolitiFact’s writ should be heard across the land and those words forever banished to describe ObamaCare.

It’s a good (if petty) point that a sentence fragment can’t really be a lie. But we’ll set that aside because the important point is that Obamacare is a de facto government takeover of health care.

I’ve noted that many times before (for example). What I want to note here is that the St. Petersburg Times seems to have made a major blunder. Their PolitiFact bit has been, all along, not about truth but about grading statements for ideological correctness from the liberal perspective, leavened with some straight-up fact checking to build credibility.

Their strategy works only as long as they can maintain their credibility. So far they’ve managed to do so. Around the last election they had an entire piece on NPR in which they debunked a bunch of Republican “lies” (and I think one or two Democratic ones in order to maintain credibility).

ASIDE: In that NPR piece (which I never blogged because I couldn’t find a transcript or audio online) they gave their worst “pants on fire” rating to a Republican Senate candidate (I think it was Dan Coats, but I don’t remember for sure) who said that Obamacare was going to force seniors into a government-run health care plan. This was absurd, they said, because Medicare already is a government-run health care plan. But that ignores Medicare Advantage, which is privately run. Obamacare imposes severe cuts on Medicare Advantage that essentially kill the program, which will force its participants into ordinary (government-run) Medicare. The cuts to Medicare Advantage were a big deal: Medicare Advantage represents almost a fifth of Medicare, and Senate Democrats had to agree to exempt Florida seniors from the cuts to get Bill Nelson’s vote for the bill. (The exemption was later revoked as part of the reconciliation shenanigans.)

By making such a patently indefensible statement in such a high-profile way, I think the St. Petersburg Times has gone a bridge too far. People are now noticing that PolitiFact (which they also call their Truth-o-meter) is anything but a fact check. It is now going to be common knowledge on the right side of the political spectrum that PolitiFact is worthless and Republicans will have ready ammunition to refute PolitiFact’s future pronouncements.

POSTSCRIPT: Reason is piling on as well, noting all the lies from the left that PolitiFact had to pass up.


Congress blocks Gitmo transfers

December 24, 2010

The Defense authorization bill passed this week bars the transfer of any prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to the United States.


Homeland Security punishes whistleblower

December 24, 2010

An airline pilot has been punished by the TSA for pointing out flaws in airport security:

The YouTube videos, posted Nov. 28, show what the pilot calls the irony of flight crews being forced to go through TSA screening while ground crew who service the aircraft are able to access secure areas simply by swiping a card.

“As you can see, airport security is kind of a farce. It’s only smoke and mirrors so you people believe there is actually something going on here,” the pilot narrates.

Video shot in the cockpit shows a medieval-looking rescue ax available on the flight deck after the pilots have gone through the metal detectors. “I would say a two-foot crash ax looks a lot more formidable than a box cutter,” the pilot remarked.

Security theater indeed.

UPDATE: What he said:

I don’t know what the point of this is, other than for the TSA to inform all of us that it does not like being shown up by mere airline pilots. . . In a sane world, of course, higher-ups at the TSA, and at the Department of Homeland Security would be forced to answer for the huge security lapses documented in the pilot’s video. But we do not live in a sane world.


A bad desision

December 22, 2010

This is the actual image of President Bush’s book that CBS used in a story about book covers:


Chavez’s endgame

December 22, 2010

Hugo Chavez is not a democrat. After failing to seize power by military coup 1992, he has seized power within the political system. Alas, the framers of Venezuela’s constitution lacked the foresight of a James Madison, and provided a means for Chavez to become a dictator within the system. History shows that such clauses usually get used eventually.

But Chavez cannot work within the system indefinitely. His economic program is essentially communist: he nationalizes industries, imposes price controls, and levies confiscatory taxes. Naturally, the Venezuelan economy has gone into an awful death spiral. (Without oil revenues, Venezuela would have cratered long ago, but the oil industry is now crumbling.)

At the same time, crime in Venezuela has skyrocketed. At 233 murders per 100k inhabitants, Caracas’s murder rate is the worst in the world, only slightly below Baghdad at the height of Iraq’s sectarian violence. (Chavez responded by barring the media from reporting crime.)

Consequently, Chavez’s popularity has plummeted. In legislative elections, the opposition won a popular majority, but due to the way that Chavez has rigged the electoral system, they barely earned a third of the seats. Still, a third is enough to block Chavez from ruling by decree, and with Chavez’s approval ratings in the cellar, his re-election looks iffy (in a fair election).

So it looks like this is the time for Chavez to hop off the democratic wagon. The new Venezuelan legislature doesn’t take office until January, and the lame duck legislature has given Chavez the power to rule by decree for 18 months. (The pretext for the move had something to do with a flood.) That will put Chavez in absolute control of the government until shortly before the next presidential election is scheduled.

Chavez gloated over the irrelevance of the incoming opposition:

“They will not be able to create even one law, the little Yankees,” said Chavez, who brands his opponents as stooges of an imperialist U.S. government. “Let’s see how they are going to make laws now.”

During his time as dictator, Chavez means to make opposition to his rule impossible. The Council on Foreign Relations has an enlightening brief on Chavez’s agenda. (Via Ron Radosh.) It includes:

  • Media and Telecommunications. The modification of the Media Responsibility Law and the Telecommunications Law place severe restrictions on the Internet, centralizing access under the control of a government server. They re-categorize the airwaves as a “public good” and set in place harsh penalties for arcane and obtuse violations of the law. The laws require TV stations to re-apply for their licenses and for the owners to be in the country (a clear reference to Globovision, whose owner, Dr. Guillermo Zuloaga, is in political exile in the United States).
  • Electoral Reform. The reform of the Political Party Law establishes the crime of electoral fraud. Fraud would be committed if a politician changed parties, voted against legislation that was “ideologically represented” by their “electoral offer” (on file when they registered their candidacy with the National Electoral Council), or if they make common cause with ideas or people who are not ideologically akin to their electoral offer. Sanctions are the expulsion from parliament and inability to run for public office for up to eight years. This law is meant to protect against individuals or political parties turning against Chavez, as happened with the opposition parties of PODEMOS (We Can) and PPT (Fatherland for All).
  • Economy and Governance. Chavez is pushing through a block of five laws: Popular Power, Planning and Popular Power, Communes, Social Control, and the law of Development and Support of the Communal Economy. These laws establish the commune as the lowest level of Venezuelan economy and government. They set in place the Popular Power, which is responsible to the Revolutionary leadership (Chavez) for all governing (eliminating the municipalities and regional government’s constitutional mandate). To facilitate the creation of this new governance model, the Assembly is approving the Law of the System for Transferring the Responsibilities of the States and Municipalities to the Popular Power.

ASIDE: The “electoral reform” that criminalizes legislators voting incorrectly is a marvelous idea. I expect we will see it adopted by tyrants everywhere.

In addition, Chavez is taking control of the banks and universities. In short, Chavez is taking complete control of Venezuela from top to bottom. The next time he seeks to institute a police state, he won’t have to backtrack. The next election will be a farce. Nothing short of a revolution will evict him from office now.


Obama institutes price controls on health insurance

December 22, 2010

Sigh. In a competitive market there are two kinds of price caps: caps above the equilibrium price, which are irrelevant, and caps below the equilibrium price, which cause shortages. There are no exceptions. Ever. This is literally day one of any introductory economics class.

I guess President Obama feels that just because it has never worked and fundamentally can’t is no reason not to try.

POSTSCRIPT: Nice editorializing, NYT:

In a move to protect consumers, the Obama administration said Tuesday that it would require health insurance companies to disclose and justify any rate increases of 10 percent or more next year.

(Emphasis mine.) Price controls may have many effects, but the one thing they won’t do is protect consumers.

(Via the Corner.)


Out of the loop

December 22, 2010

Well this doesn’t instill confidence:

The White House counterterrorism adviser acknowledged Wednesday that the reason the nation’s top intelligence official was stumped on an interview question two days ago about a major set of terror arrests in Great Britain was because his staff hadn’t told him about it.

Adviser John Brennan said that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should have been kept abreast of the situation and that “steps” are being taken to ensure he’s not kept in the dark on such significant developments in the future. But Brennan defended Clapper, calling him the “consummate DNI.”

It doesn’t help that Brennan went on to defend Clapper’s ignorance on the matter.

UPDATE: At first Clapper’s office tried to blame Diane Sawyer, claiming her question was “ambiguous”, before admitting the truth. (Admit nothing, deny everything, make counter accusations.)

Also, Janet Napolitano tries to defend Clapper:

NAPOLITANO: Well, let’s — let’s be fair. It — I knew. John Brennan knew. We also knew there was no connect that had been perceived to anything going on in the homeland and that we were in perfect connectivity with our — our colleagues in Britain. So one of the things I think that should be very clear to the American people is that those of us in homeland security who needed to know, we knew.

This is idiotic. Obviously, because the DNI’s mandate is not just the homeland. But more importantly because the US embassy was a target. (Via Hot Air.)


Duke rape hoax accuser convicted of child abuse

December 22, 2010

She was also convicted of property damage and resisting a public officer. The jury deadlocked on an arson charge.


Misconception

December 22, 2010

Sarah Palin is frequently quoted as saying “I can see Russia from my house.” I never heard her say that, so without knowing the context, I assumed that she was using hyperbole. Obviously you can’t see Russia from Wasilla or Juneau and no one is likely to be confused on that point.

But, as it turns out, there is a reason I never heard Palin say it: she didn’t. The line is not from Palin, but from Tina Fey’s parody of Palin.


All it took was a Democratic president

December 22, 2010

The Obama administration is discovering the Unitary Executive theory:

Turning to how terror suspects are tried, Holder said he still believes the “decision as to how people get prosecuted, where they get prosecuted, is an executive branch function. Even if those suspects are being held now at Guantanamo Bay. Holder said Congress should not be interfering with that.

“It’s — from my perspective — a constitutional issue,” he said.

This was bound to happen as soon as a Democrat was in office. Not that anyone will admit changing their position; objection to the unitary executive theory was always based on misstating what it is. The actual theory, which says that the Constitution vests the executive power solely in the president, can’t really be argued, since the Constitution reads:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

Those who attacked the unitary executive theory made it out to be something it never was: the idea that the president somehow holds the legislative and judicial powers as well.

UPDATE: It’s not completely clear from the article, but it appears that Holder is alluding to Congress’s legislation barring the transfer of any prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to the United States. That’s interesting, because Holder is actually going beyond the real unitary executive theory to something close to its liberal parody: he is claiming for the executive branch powers that belong to the legislative branch.

The processes of the criminal justice system and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (which include “where” and “how” people are prosecuted) are established by law — that is, by the legislative branch. But Holder seems to be claiming the authority to establish those processes for the executive branch.


Righthaven update

December 22, 2010

The Righthaven copyright trolls are diversifying from newspaper articles to images.

(Previous post.)


The mythical Laffer Curve

December 22, 2010

. . . is found to be not-so-mythical in Oregon. That state imposed a confiscatory tax on high-income ($200k) taxpayers, and saw it fall flat on its face:

Instead of $180 million collected last year from the new tax, the state received $130 million. The Eugene Register-Guard newspaper reports that after the tax was raised “income tax and other revenue collections began plunging so steeply that any gains from the two measures seemed trivial.”

One reason revenues are so low is that about one-quarter of the rich tax filers seem to have gone missing. The state expected 38,000 Oregonians to pay the higher tax, but only 28,000 did. Funny how that always happens. These numbers are in line with a Cascade Policy Institute study, based on interstate migration patterns, predicting that the tax surcharge would lead to 80,000 fewer wealthy tax filers in Oregon over the next decade.

The Laffer Curve is always stronger at the state and local level. People don’t want to leave America, so at the national level their only choice is between work and leisure. Not so at the state and local level; it’s easy to move to another state. And on that point, Michael Barone’s latest is relevant:

For those of us who are demographic buffs, Christmas came four days early when Census Bureau director Robert Groves announced on Tuesday the first results of the 2010 census. . .

Growth tends to be stronger where taxes are lower. Seven of the nine states that do not levy an income tax grew faster than the national average. The other two, South Dakota and New Hampshire, had the fastest growth in their regions, the Midwest and New England.

Altogether, 35 percent of the nation’s total population growth occurred in these nine non-taxing states, which accounted for just 19 percent of total population at the beginning of the decade.


Whence net neutrality?

December 22, 2010

John Fund, at the Wall Street Journal, takes a look at the organizations that are pushing for net neutrality. Amazingly, an actual communist plot is involved:

The net neutrality vision for government regulation of the Internet began with the work of Robert McChesney, a University of Illinois communications professor who founded the liberal lobby Free Press in 2002. Mr. McChesney’s agenda? “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies,” he told the website SocialistProject in 2009. “But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”

A year earlier, Mr. McChesney wrote in the Marxist journal Monthly Review that “any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself.” Mr. McChesney told me in an interview that some of his comments have been “taken out of context.” He acknowledged that he is a socialist and said he was “hesitant to say I’m not a Marxist.”

For a man with such radical views, Mr. McChesney and his Free Press group have had astonishing influence. Mr. Genachowski’s press secretary at the FCC, Jen Howard, used to handle media relations at Free Press. The FCC’s chief diversity officer, Mark Lloyd, co-authored a Free Press report calling for regulation of political talk radio.

Free Press joined with other leftist organizations and got funding from the usual sources (Soros, Pew, the Ford and MacArthur foundations, etc.). Their rhetorical tack is to call to protect the internet, not to impose government control on it. That strategy was the result of polling:

In 2009, Free Press commissioned a poll, released by the Harmony Institute, on net neutrality. Harmony reported that “more than 50% of the public argued that, as a private resource, the Internet should not be regulated by the federal government.” The poll went on to say that since “currently the public likes the way the Internet works . . . messaging should target supporters by asking them to act vigilantly” to prevent a “centrally controlled Internet.”

And, of course, there’s always the fake research:

To that end, Free Press and other groups helped manufacture “research” on net neutrality. In 2009, for example, the FCC commissioned Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society to conduct an “independent review of existing information” for the agency in order to “lay the foundation for enlightened, data-driven decision making.”

Considering how openly activist the Berkman Center has been on these issues, it was an odd decision for the FCC to delegate its broadband research to this outfit. Unless, of course, the FCC already knew the answer it wanted to get.

The Berkman Center’s FCC- commissioned report, “Next Generation Connectivity,” wound up being funded in large part by the Ford and MacArthur foundations. So some of the same foundations that have spent years funding net neutrality advocacy research ended up funding the FCC-commissioned study that evaluated net neutrality research.

The FCC’s “National Broadband Plan,” released last spring, included only five citations of respected think tanks such as the International Technology and Innovation Foundation or the Brookings Institution. But the report cited research from liberal groups such as Free Press, Public Knowledge, Pew and the New America Foundation more than 50 times.

(Previous post.)


Governor Awesome

December 20, 2010

Chris Christie has freed Brian Aitken.

(Previous post.)


Majority expect Obamacare repeal

December 20, 2010

Rasmussen finds that, for the first time, a majority of voters expect the health care nationalization act to be repealed. An even larger majority think that it should be.


Biden spouts off again

December 20, 2010

I wonder if Joe Biden could be any more irresponsible if he tried?

Despite uneven progress in Afghanistan, Vice President Joe Biden said next summer’s planned withdrawal would be more than a token reduction and that the U.S. would be out of the country by 2014 “come hell or high water.”

Biden’s prediction appeared to go further than statements by his boss, President Barack Obama, who just last month said there would be a reduced U.S. footprint in Afghanistan by 2014 but that the number of troops that would remain was still in question.

Obama has discussed maintaining a counterterrorism capability in Afghanistan after 2014. As recently as Dec. 16, he said the U.S. and its NATO allies would have an enduring presence there after 2014, although the details of that were unclear.

The AP also points out that the outcome of the 2012 presidential election may have some effect on troop withdrawals.


Republicans backslide

December 20, 2010

The Senate has passed the food regulation bill (that’s the one they passed before, but accidentally didn’t follow the Constitution) by unanimous consent.

I seriously thought they wouldn’t start backsliding until the next Congress convened. But this is weird. Unanimous consent? Where was DeMint?


Irony

December 19, 2010

Oh my. Julian Assange (the founder of WikiLeaks) is upset that sensitive government documents are leaking that make him look bad.


Propaganda

December 19, 2010

If you google “Obamacare”, most of the top results point to web pages critical of it. That’s presumably why the federal government decided to spend taxpayers’ money to buy a sponsored link at the top of the page to direct people to a pro-Obamacare propaganda page.

(Via Instapundit.)


The Bolivarian republic

December 18, 2010

The Venezuelan lame-duck legislature has made Hugo Chavez a dictator once more, despite a majority voting against him in the last election. The new legislature is to be inaugurated January 5.
(Via the Corner.)


The Black Panther report

December 18, 2010

The US Commission on Civil Rights’s report on the Black Panther scandal, blasting the Department of Justice, is here.

This is only the beginning. The DOJ refused to allow its employees to testify before the commission, despite subpoenas. When Republicans take over the House of Representatives in January, they will doubtless begin a Congressional investigation. The DOJ won’t ignore Congressional subpoenas as easily.

(Previous post.)


Don’t ask, don’t tell

December 18, 2010

It looks as though Congress is going to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Should they? Well, I think DADT is a good policy and the military is better off with it in place, but I also think it doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things.

The basic problem is romantic relationships — real or imagined — between service members. Service members who form relationships with one another are prone to do stupid, dangerous things. When I was in training with the Army Reserve, I knew one male soldier who was infatuated with a female soldier. The relationship was entirely in his head, but that didn’t help the problem; it might have even made it worse.

Once we were on a field training exercise, and we were manning the perimeter in anticipation of an enemy attack. This soldier thought he heard his would-be paramour screaming for help. (He didn’t, but it doesn’t matter.) He decided he needed to abandon his post to go find her and save her. The rest of us on that part of the perimeter were, shall we say, strongly against his plan. But he went ahead, leaving his zone unprotected. Shortly thereafter the OPFOR penetrated our lines and “killed” us all.

My experience is not at all unusual. The lesson is that men and women should not mix on the front lines. As a practical matter, that means that women should not serve on the front lines, since an all-female combat unit doesn’t seem like a realistic option (outside of fiction).

The problem posed by homosexuals is simultaneously harder and easier. Heterosexual relationships can be prevented by segregating men and women, but that won’t work for homosexuals. (The only way to handle the problem by segregation, to place at most one homosexual in each unit, is obviously not a workable arrangement.) However, while gender cannot be kept secret, sexual orientation can. Doing so gives us a workable arrangement that allows homosexuals to serve in the military. Indeed, this is the essence of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

That’s why DADT is a good policy. It allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military while limiting the problems caused by relations between them.

That said, I don’t see this as a particularly important issue. The lion’s share of the problems come from heterosexual relationships; the homosexual contribution to the problem is miniscule. And, unfortunately, the heterosexual problem is going to get much worse, since the government seems determined to mix genders throughout the armed forces, even in front-line units. Next to that, any damage done by repealing DADT is insignificant.


The health care tax subsidy

December 18, 2010

Megan McArdle looks at historic levels of health care spending across the world and makes a good case that Americans pay more for health care because of the tax subsidy.

Recall that John McCain proposed eliminating the tax subsidy for health care but the idea was shamelessly demagogued by the Obama campaign. (For example, they dishonestly portrayed the proposal as a tax hike, ignoring the tax credit that would compensate for taxing health benefits.)

Also note that the health care nationalization act does nothing about the problem, other than an excise tax on high-value plans that probably will never take effect.


Falcon 9

December 18, 2010

SpaceX has successfully tested its Falcon 9 rocket, the first privately designed spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts into orbit. It’s a two-stage rocket, which is a little less cool than Scaled Composites’s SpaceShip One that won the X-Prize, but SpaceShip One wasn’t able to reach orbit.


Seven years in prison for nothing

December 18, 2010

This is the sort of story that you can’t read without becoming furious. A New Jersey man was sentenced to seven years in prison for nothing at all: a hyper-technical violation of New Jersey’s insane (and unconstitutional) gun laws of which he wasn’t even guilty.

Fortunately, Gov. Chris Christie is considering a pardon.


Sicko banned in Cuba?

December 18, 2010

The Guardian reports:

Cuba banned Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary, Sicko, because it painted such a “mythically” favourable picture of Cuba’s healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a “popular backlash”, according to US diplomats in Havana.

The revelation, contained in a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks , is surprising, given that the film attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system.

But the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so “disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room”.

Castro’s government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it “knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.”

Michael Moore says it isn’t true, that his film was shown widely in Cuba, and he provides links that convince Outside the Beltway. (I haven’t bothered to click through myself.) Now, it wouldn’t be remotely unheard of for diplomats to be wrong, but there’s also no reason that both stories can’t be true. Cuba could have shown the film and then banned it after they saw the public’s reaction.

That sort of propaganda miscalculation used to happen to the Soviets. They would screen anti-American films from the West and it would backfire: the audience would brush off whatever political malfeasance the film alleged and focus instead on all the great stuff Americans owned. The Soviet nomenklatura made this mistake easily; they weren’t denied cars, food, toilet paper, etc., so they would miss the material implications of the films. In the same way, the Cuban nomenklatura isn’t denied quality health care, so they could fail to anticipate how the public would react.

UPDATE: Apparently stories of Cuba banning Sicko predate the date at which Moore claims the movie was shown. I don’t know what the truth is. It is pretty funny, though, to see Michael Moore’s indignation, given his strong support for WikiLeaks.


Getting it wrong

December 17, 2010

Power Line notes:

The New York Times’s Caucus blog reported tonight:

Sixty-one senators have now expressed support for repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, appearing to clear the way for passage if Democrats can bring the bill to a vote before the holidays.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is not “the military’s policy.” It is a federal law,10 U.S.C. Sec. 654. DADT was imposed on the military by Congress. This mistake is made by reporters frequently, but that does not excuse it. . .

As always, it is a mystery how such basic factual errors get past the presumed battery of editors that review articles and editorials in our leading newspapers.

I think Mr. Hinderaker is being rhetorical, because the mystery is easily dispelled if you drop the assumption of fact-checking.


Ghost cities

December 17, 2010

A breathtaking photo gallery of China’s ghost towns. The classic ghost town is empty because its people moved away, but China’s ghost towns were erected by central planners and were never inhabited in the first place.

(Via Instapundit.)


Death panel

December 17, 2010

The FDA is poised, for the first time, to withdraw its approval for a drug because it is too expensive.


Evil

December 17, 2010

Is communism evil or merely foolish? Glenn Reynolds discusses.

I was taught in public school that communism is a laudable idea that simply doesn’t work in practice. Certainly the latter part is true, and for a long time I never really thought about the former. I think that a lack of scrutiny is the way that notion manages to survive.

Once you start thinking about it, it’s not hard to see that communism, even in its imaginary ideal form, is about slavery. The people, all of them, are enslaved to the worker’s state. (In practice, the people are enslaved to the nomenklatura, but we’re talking about the hypothetical perfect implementation here.) The moral question then is simple: is slavery evil, or can it be good under certain circumstances?

Once you ask that question, we can readily dispense with the notion that communism would be good if only it worked.


Drop the charade

December 17, 2010

I’ve often noted the uselessness of the St. Petersburg Times’ PolitiFact, which they also call the Truth-o-Meter. The feature pretends to be an objective fact check, but it is anything but. In fact, they simply grade statements based on whether they agree with them. Not surprisingly, from a left-of-center publication, that means that statements from the right are rated false (even when they are actually true), and statements from the left are rated true (even when they are actually false).

Their latest takes the cake. They say that referring to Obamacare as a government takeover of health care is “false” or even “pants on fire” (their phrase, meaning somehow falser than false):

As previous national PolitiFact checks have shown, no matter how you look at it, the legislation cannot reasonably be considered a government takeover.

The government will not take over hospitals or other privately-run health care businesses. Doctors will not become government employees, like in Britain. And the U.S. government intends to help people buy insurance from private insurance companies, not pay all the bills like the single-payer system in Canada.

“No matter how you look at it.”  Nonsense.  At this blog I’ve frequently referred to Obamacare as the health care nationalization act, because that’s what it does in essence. True, this being America it’s still hard to get away with overt socialism here. So we still have “private” health insurance firms. As I said last June:

The government is merely going to dictate what policies they write, for whom, and at what price. The government will also dictate how much they pay out, require individuals to buy their services, and pay for much of the cost with taxpayer funds.

Hooray for the triumph of free enterprise.

In other words, we have a government takeover of health care, administered through private firms.

According the to the St. Petersburg Times, the preceding sentence is a lie. It is not. It is, in fact, an opinion. Moreover, it is an opinion backed by a strong argument.

The St. Petersburg Times is grading opinions based on whether they agree with them. If they are going to do that, they should drop the charade. They should admit that what they are doing is editorializing, not fact checking. They also might want to considering building their editorials around stronger arguments — without their fact-checking shtick they are left with a really flimsy case — but first things first.

(Via Don Surber.)

UPDATE: Karl at Hot Air has a similar take.


Victory

December 17, 2010

Democrats have given up on the omnibus budget bill. This is great news; this bill was a disaster. The problem wasn’t so much the overspending and the earmarks (although those were bad), but the money appropriated to implement Obamacare.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal is dancing on the budget’s grave.


The 90% lie resurfaces

December 15, 2010

The Washington Post says:

The foundation and the National Rifle Association aggressively challenge statistics that show 80 to 90 percent of the weapons seized in Mexico are first sold in the United States, calling the numbers highly inflated. After being criticized by the gun lobby, ATF stopped releasing such statistics this year.

Well, yes. Gun-rights groups do aggressively challenge those statistics, because they aren’t true and the ATF knows it.

The bogus 90% figure refers to guns that were successfully traced.  As it turns out, traces are not even attempted for most Mexican crime guns, and most of the traces that are attempted are unsuccessful. When a trace is successful, it probably leads to the United States, because the US requires guns to have traceable markings and those markings are recorded whenever guns change hands legally. In other words, the 90% is meaningless, corresponding to the old story about looking for your keys under the lamppost because that’s where the light is.

ASIDE: It is interesting that the Mexican authorities do not consider tracing guns to be a valuable tool (IG’s report on ATF’s Project Gunrunner, page 78) and rarely participate. One official called the effort “some kind of bad joke”. Thus, we can best understand the ATF’s efforts as a weapon against American gun dealers, not as a weapon against Mexican criminals.

According to Bob Owens, William McMahon (deputy assistant director for field operations at the ATF) testified to Congress that the real number of Mexican crime guns originating from legal US sales is 8%. Eight percent!

ASIDE: Unfortunately, the online copy of McMahon’s testimony includes only his initial statement, not his answers to questions, so I can’t confirm Owens’s account directly. However, the numbers that Owens cites

Of the 100,000 weapons recovered by Mexican authorities, only 18,000 were determined to have been manufactured, sold, or imported from the United States, and of those 18,000, just 7,900 came from sales by licensed gun dealers.

are consistent with figures that appear in McMahon’s testimony and the Project Gunrunner report. McMahon (on page 14) refers to 13,382 guns, and the DOJ IG (on page 117) refers to 13,481 estimated guns trafficked, so if the 100k figure is of the right order of magnitude (as surely it must be) then the number holds up, at least to a first approximation.

Returning to the Post, since the 90% figure is bogus, it’s entirely appropriate for the ATF to stop peddling it. It’s a pity that it fell to the gun lobby to criticize them for their misinformation, rather than publications such as the Washington Post.

POSTSCRIPT: The 90% is just an aside in the Post article. The topic of the article is that the Post has gained access to the ATF’s gun tracing statistics, which are required to be confidential by federal law. Anti-gun groups have wanted access to this information for years, but have failed to get the law changed. Nevertheless, as we have seen many times during this administration already, the Holder Justice Department feels no obligation to obey laws it doesn’t agree with. We don’t know who leaked the information to the Post (the Post surely won’t say), and it seems certain that any investigation will be desultory at best.

(Via Instapundit.)


Network neutrality on the ropes?

December 15, 2010

A number of network neutrality advocates are coming out against the FCC chairman’s plan to impose network neutrality despite a court ruling forbidding it.

I don’t understand it (the article doesn’t provide much detail), but I’m glad to see it.

(Previous post.)


Superwheat

December 15, 2010

Australian scientists have found that increased carbon-dioxide levels can dramatically increase crop yields. It may also reduce crops’ need for water. Interesting.

(Via Instapundit.)


Columbia gets away with it

December 15, 2010

Columbia University has succeeded in stealing its neighbors’ land. Columbia employed a cynical plan in which they bought up adjacent land, allowed it to fall into disrepair, and then prevailed on the government to condemn the entire area as “blighted”. A court blocked the scheme but was overruled by the New York Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court will not review the case.

Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

POSTSCRIPT: Glenn Reynolds points out:

Eminent domain is often sold as “the people vs. the powerful.” But in fact it’s property rights that protect the people from the powerful.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Reynolds’s latest column is on the topic.


Washington Post spikes its own poll

December 15, 2010

The poll found that Obamacare has sunk to its lowest popularity yet.


Breyer’s long-distance civil rights

December 13, 2010

Stephen Breyer thinks that it’s okay for some places to infringe the Bill of Rights, as long as your civil rights are respected elsewhere:

WALLACE: I understand. But [the Bill of Rights] certainly didn’t provide for a [gun] ban, at least that’s what the court’s decision was, your court’s — it didn’t provide for a ban on all handguns as they have here in Washington, D.C.

BREYER: Are you a sportsman? Do you like to shoot pistols at targets? Well, get on the subway and go to Maryland. There is no problem, I don’t think, for anyone who really wants to have…

Of course, the hallmark of the left is inconsistency, so we probably don’t have to worry about this jurisprudence being applied to the First or Fourth amendments.


The truth laces up its shoes

December 13, 2010

There’s something special about Sarah Palin. Something about her inspires such hatred in the media that they behave very badly. In the latest instance, Palin was visiting Haiti as part of a mission run by Franklin Graham’s NGO Samaritan’s Purse. Palin was accompanied by her husband Todd and her daughter Bristol.

While they were there, Bristol had occasion to fix her mother’s hair. The Associated Press snapped a picture of the moment and captioned it:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, center, has her hair done during a visit to a cholera treatment center set up by the NGO Samaritan’s Purse in Cabaret, Haiti, Saturday Dec. 11, 2010.

implying that Palin had brought a hair dresser on her trip to a Haitian cholera clinic. Once that story went out, the usual outrage circus wasn’t far behind.

The AP eventually corrected its story, saying it hadn’t been “immediately clear” that the person was Bristol. But that doesn’t really absolve them. They had a story they liked and ran with it. Why risk ruining it by finding out the facts?

Sadly, we know how this plays out. The lie is halfway around the world, and hardly anyone will ever see the correction. The notion that Palin brings hair dressers to cholera clinics will be part of the folklore, and that folklore can never be stamped out. To this day, many people still believe that George Bush (Sr.) was amazed by a checkout scanner, or that George W. Bush waved around plastic turkeys in Iraq while our servicemen went hungry.


Federal judge strikes down Obamacare

December 13, 2010

Breaking news.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, public support for Obamacare hits a new low in the ABC News/Washington Post poll.


Ignorance

December 12, 2010

One of the fascinating things about watching Sarah Palin is how her opponents, by assuming Palin is stupid, expose themselves as ignorant fools. We’ve seen this several times recently, on topics as varied as the date of the Boston Tea Party and the doctrine of fair use. Indeed it goes back to the presidential campaign, when the AP misunderstood the Air-Defense Identification Zone.

In the latest instance, MSNBC commentator Richard Wolffe mocked Palin for saying that she draws divine inspiration from the works of CS Lewis, who he says is merely the author of a series of children’s books.

As anyone even fractionally educated in Christian apologetics knows, CS Lewis wrote many books beyond The Chronicles of Narnia. I included three of them on my list of the ten books that influenced my thinking the most. The Screwtape Letters, in particular, is probably his most famous work.

I suppose assuming your opponents are stupid can save you time and effort, if you’re right. If you’re wrong, you look like an idiot.

UPDATE (12/21): Apparently Joy Behar made the same mistake. Ignorance from Behar isn’t so surprising though.


White House concedes the individual mandate is not severable

December 10, 2010

This is a big deal; if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional, the whole Obamacare edifice comes down with it. That’s unless they change their legal theory, which does not seem beyond the realm of possibility, but even if they do, they’ve made their case harder.


Here’s hoping

December 10, 2010

Iran’s nuclear program may still be mired in a Stuxnet infection, despite Iranian claims to the contrary. (Via Hot Air.)


Fraternal Order of Police opposes our rights

December 10, 2010

In Radley Balko’s latest piece on recording the police and other government officials, I was dismayed to learn that the Fraternal Order of Police supports arresting citizens who record the police:

Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, says he sees no problem with arresting people who photograph or record on-duty cops. Pasco says his main concern is that activists will tamper with videos or use clips out of context to make police officers look bad. . .

Pasco, the head of the Fraternal Order of Police, says cases where video contradicts police testimony are rare. “You have 960,000 police officers in this country and millions of contacts between those officers and citizens,” he says. “I’ll bet you can’t name 10 incidents where a citizen video has shown a police officer to have lied on a police report.” . . .

“Letting people record police officers is an extreme and intrusive response to a problem that’s so rare it might as well not exist,” Pasco insists. “It would be like saying we should do away with DNA evidence because there’s a one-in-a-billion chance that it could be wrong. At some point, we have to put some faith and trust in our authority figures.”

Put some faith and trust in our authority figures? Hell no. And this sort of attitude just makes that trust even less likely.

Oh, this sort of thing makes that trust less likely still:

This is not the first time a police camera in Prince George’s County has malfunctioned at a critical time. In 2007 Andrea McCarren, an investigative reporter for the D.C. TV station WJLA, was pulled over by seven Prince George’s County police cars as she and a cameraman followed a county official in pursuit of a story about misuse of public funds. In a subsequent lawsuit, McCarren claimed police roughed her up during the stop, causing a dislocated shoulder and torn rotator cuff. McCarren won a settlement, but she was never able to obtain video of the incident. Prince George’s County officials say all seven dashboard cameras in the police cruisers coincidentally malfunctioned.

All seven dashboard cameras coincidentally malfunctioned?! That’s just insulting.


Geotagging considered harmful

December 10, 2010

Michael Yon has posted a frightening presentation on the dangers of geotagging. The presentation is from the Army, but the risks apply to anyone with enemies.


Sigh

December 10, 2010

When a state refuses “stimulus” funding, the federal government just reallocates that money to another state.


Disgusting

December 10, 2010

It’s disgusting to watch what’s going on in London right now: privileged kids rioting because their share of the public trough is being diminished.

It’s particularly disgusting when you consider that the enrollment caps that are the inevitable consequence of the government subsidy are preventing countless of these students’ peers from receiving the benefits of higher education at any price. These brats want to deny an education to others, to avoid paying the cost of their own education.


That seems relevant

December 9, 2010

Here’s an interesting fact in should-we-hike-taxes-on-the-“rich” debate: 70% of American manufacturing concerns are taxed as individuals. A tax hike on the “rich” means a tax hike on manufacturing investment; less investment means lower productivity; lower productivity means fewer high-paying jobs.


Dems expand gambling

December 9, 2010

House Democrats slipped a provision into their stopgap spending bill that would make it much easier for Indian tribes to operate casinos.


Socialized medicine

December 9, 2010

Britain’s NHS is reaching the “breaking point”, according to a study by the UK Royal Colleges of Physicians. (Via the Corner.)

That’s the system that Medicare and Medicaid should be modeled after, according to the man who runs Medicare and Medicaid.


Card check becomes a reality

December 9, 2010

Abolishing the secret ballot in union certification votes has been a bridge too far even for the Democratic Congress. But the National Labor Relations Board has gone ahead and done it by itself. A new decision from the NLRB allows unions to dispense with the secret ballot if the employer agrees.

The decision makes a mockery of the idea that certification votes protect the rights of the workers. Now an employer can allow a non-secret ballot (at the associated intimidation by union organizers) in exchange for (temporary) union concessions, and the workers — who this is supposedly all about — have no protection.

In the past, the SEIU has struck such deals to increase its own power, to the clear detriment of the workers its purported to represent, according to the liberal San Francisco Weekly:

Instead, it’s merely a re-hash of the sort of sweetheart company-union labor deals that have marred the reputation of trade unionism throughout history. It has involved trading away workers’ free-speech rights, selling out their ability to improve working conditions, and relinquishing their capability to improve pay and benefits, in order to expand the SEIU’s and Stern’s own power.

The vote was 3-1, with three Obama appointees outvoting the one remaining Bush appointee. (Craig Becker, formerly of the SEIU, whom Obama recess-appointed to the NLRB after the Senate would not confirm his appointment, did not vote — probably because his vote wasn’t needed.)


Who cheats an ally?

December 9, 2010

The Obama administration struck a deal with Israel for a three-month extension of Israel’s moratorium on settlement construction, in exchange for several considerations on our part. Whether this was a good idea on our part is moot; the deal fell through. The sticking point:

The United States ultimately decided not to comply with an Israeli request to put its offer in writing, including $3 billion worth of jet fighters, a commitment to object to anti-Israel resolutions in international organizations, and an agreement never again to ask for a suspension of settlement construction.

The deal was no secret, obviously, so there’s really only one reason why the administration would refuse to put it in writing.

(Via Power Line.)


Wikileaks damage

December 8, 2010

The Pentagon confirms that other countries are more reluctant to cooperate with the United States now that we have proven unable to keep our secrets. (Via Hot Air.)


Health care union drops coverage for children

December 8, 2010

1199SEIU, a powerful health care union affiliated with SEIU, is dropping its health coverage for children, in part due to the new costs imposed by Obamacare:

“In addition, new federal health-care reform legislation requires plans with dependent coverage to expand that coverage up to age 26,” Behroozi wrote in a letter to members Oct. 22. “Our limited resources are already stretched as far as possible, and meeting this new requirement would be financially impossible.”

1199SEIU was a big supporter of Obamacare.


Helen Thomas spouts again

December 8, 2010

More anti-semitism from the former “dean of the White House press corps”:

[Helen] Thomas, who grew up in Detroit the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, was in Dearborn today for an Arab Detroit workshop on anti-Arab bias. . . In a speech that drew a standing ovation, Thomas talked about “the whole question of money involved in politics.”

“We are owned by propagandists against the Arabs. There’s no question about that. Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where there mouth is…We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.”

When someone refers to “the Zionists”, it’s not hard to tell whether they are using the term (1) to refer to persons who support a Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel, or (2) as code for Jews. Obviously, Thomas is using the term in the second fashion, since she is spouting a standard anti-Semitic slander.

She also retracted her apology for her earlier anti-Semitic and apparently pro-Holocaust remarks:

Striking a defiant tone, journalist Helen Thomas, 90, said today she absolutely stands by her controversial comments about Israel made earlier this year that led to her resignation. . .

“I paid the price for that,” said Thomas, a longtime White House correspondent. “But it was worth it, to speak the truth.”

POSTSCRIPT: Also note that Thomas got a standing ovation from the Arab Detroit workshop on anti-Arab bias. It occurs to me that applauding anti-Semites might not be helping on the anti-Arab bias front.

(Previous post.)


Finally

December 7, 2010

A serious, scientific look at what it takes to kill a zombie.


I guess I wasn’t using my freedom of the press anyway

December 7, 2010

The acting chairman of the FCC (a Democrat, of course) wants to regulate the news. (Via Instapundit.)


Obama: Republicans are like hostage-takers

December 7, 2010

Yep, he really said that. This guy really has no idea how a president is supposed to behave, does he?

POSTSCRIPT: Last week Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) called Republicans terrorists. Could this be a deliberate meme?

UPDATE: Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) says “a ransom was paid”. I guess this really is the Democratic line.


Natch

December 7, 2010

I trust you will not be surprised to learn that Al Sharpton does not believe in free speech.


How not to do science

December 6, 2010

Are the TSA’s much-reviled body scanners safe? Some scientists aren’t sure. They say that existing analyses, which were designed for X-ray machines, aren’t appropriate to body scanners. X-ray machines distribute their radiation throughout the body, but body scanners apply it all to the skin, resulting in a much higher exposure than an X-ray-based analysis would suggest.

In response, the government was able to muster only this:

The FDA asserts that its method is correct. “This is how we measure the output of X-ray machines and how we’ve done it for the past 50 years,” says [FDA spokeswoman Kelly] Classic.

“We’ve always done it this way” is not a scientific rebuttal.

POSTSCRIPT: Some of the dubious scientists think the machines probably are safe (“You would have to be a heavy traveler to accumulate a large dose.”) but others aren’t sure (“At this point, until I knew more information, I’d tell people to take the pat-down.”)


Obamacare and severability

December 6, 2010

Some thoughts from Aaron Worthing. My thoughts from earlier this year are here.


Based on a leftist fantasy

December 6, 2010

It seemed certain that the new movie Fair Game on the Valerie Plame pseudo-scandal wouldn’t be truthful. The truth would not make a very good story. The Washington Post editorial page confirms my expectation:

WE’RE NOT in the habit of writing movie reviews. But the recently released film “Fair Game” – which covers a poisonous Washington controversy during the war in Iraq – deserves some editorial page comment, if only because of what its promoters are saying about it. The protagonists portrayed in the movie, former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV and former spy Valerie Plame, claim that it tells the true story of their battle with the Bush administration over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and Ms. Plame’s exposure as a CIA agent. “It’s accurate,” Ms. Plame told The Post. Said Mr. Wilson: “For people who have short memories or don’t read, this is the only way they will remember that period.”

We certainly hope that is not the case. In fact, “Fair Game,” based on books by Mr. Wilson and his wife, is full of distortions – not to mention outright inventions. . .

Hollywood has a habit of making movies about historical events without regard for the truth; “Fair Game” is just one more example. But the film’s reception illustrates a more troubling trend of political debates in Washington in which established facts are willfully ignored. Mr. Wilson claimed that he had proved that Mr. Bush deliberately twisted the truth about Iraq, and he was eagerly embraced by those who insist the former president lied the country into a war. Though it was long ago established that Mr. Wilson himself was not telling the truth – not about his mission to Niger and not about his wife – the myth endures. We’ll join the former president in hoping that future historians get it right.

(Emphasis mine.) (Previous post.)


Cooking the books

December 6, 2010

The Washington Post reports:

In reaching 392,862 deportations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement included more than 19,000 immigrants who had exited the previous fiscal year, according to agency statistics. ICE also ran a Mexican repatriation program five weeks longer than ever before, allowing the agency to count at least 6,500 exits that, without the program, would normally have been tallied by the U.S. Border Patrol.

When ICE officials realized in the final weeks of the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, that the agency still was in jeopardy of falling short of last year’s mark, it scrambled to reach the goal. Officials quietly directed immigration officers to bypass backlogged immigration courts and time-consuming deportation hearings whenever possible, internal e-mails and interviews show.

Instead, officials told immigration officers to encourage eligible foreign nationals to accept a quick pass to their countries without a negative mark on their immigration record, ICE employees said. . . A voluntary return doesn’t bar a foreigner from applying for legal residence or traveling to the United States in the future. . .

The surge to break the deportation record in the final weeks of the fiscal year consumed the agency, said a high-ranking immigration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

“They had everyone burning the candle at both ends to reach 390,000,” the official said. “They were basically saying anything you can do to increase the overall removal number, that’s what you should do – over everything else.”

In summary, the ICE’s record number of deportations was in part due to creative accounting, and in part due to weakened enforcement.

And then the administration lied about it:

But at a news conference Oct. 6, ICE Director John T. Morton said that no unusual practices were used to break the previous year’s mark.

“When the secretary tells you that the numbers are at an all-time high, that’s straight, on the merits, no cooking of the books,” Morton said, referring to his boss, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “It’s what happened.”

(Via Instapundit.)


$117 million < 0?

December 4, 2010

This must be the most misleading headline of the year:

North Shore Connector said to be on schedule and under budget

As anyone following the Pittsburgh boondoggle knows, the project is $117.8 million over budget (so far), and was rated the nation’s third-worst waste of stimulus funds.

So how do they justify calling it “under budget”? They’ve scaled back service so the project’s operating costs will be less than originally projected:

Mr. Simmonds said the North Shore Connector was projected to add about $1 million to the authority’s operating costs (the authority has a $300 million-plus operating budget). With its chronic financial problems and imminent layoffs, the authority has scrapped plans to hire additional personnel for the subway extension, so its cost will be less than originally projected.

That explanation appears at the very end of the article.

(Via That’s Church.)


Situational ethics

December 4, 2010

The New York Times on the Climategate emails:

The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.

The New York Times on the Wikileaks cables:

The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match.

It all depends on whose ox is getting gored, I see. When the documents damage the credibility of global warming, their provenance is all-important. But, when the documents damage our national security, it’s all about the public’s right to know.

POSTSCRIPT: Interestingly, the former post now has an update attached:

In the last couple of days, some conservative commentators have compared the treatment of the East Anglia climate files in this post with the dissemination of Wikileaks files by The Times and charged that a gross double standard exists.

But I’m not sure why they bothered with the update. They go on to make two remarks (which I assume to be true, as I can’t be bothered to verify them), neither of which rebut the double-standard charge.

(Via Patterico.)


XM25 debuts in Afghanistan

December 4, 2010

Cool:

Since the dawn of modern warfare, the best way to stay alive in the face of incoming fire has been to take cover behind a wall. But thanks to a game-changing “revolutionary” rifle, the U.S. Army has made that tactic dead on arrival. Now the enemy can run, but he can’t hide.

After years of development, the U.S. Army has unleashed a new weapon in Afghanistan — the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System, a high-tech rifle that can be programmed so that its 25-mm. ammunition detonates either in front of or behind a target, meaning it can be fired just above a wall before it explodes and kills the enemy. . .

[Lt. Colonel Christopher] Lehner said the first XM25s were distributed to combat units in Afghanistan this month. The 12-pound, 29-inch system, which was designed by Minnesota’s Alliant Techsystems, costs up to $35,000 per unit and, while highly sophisticated, is so easy to use that soldiers become proficient within minutes.

I first saw this weapon in the video game Ghost Recon 2. Good to see it’s finally become a reality.


Feds tracking Americans without warrants

December 4, 2010

Wired reports that federal agencies have been using credit card systems and other electronic systems to track the movements and activities of Americans in real-time, without obtaining warrants.

A few years ago, the press was outraged because we were eavesdropping on foreign terrorists who occasionally spoke to Americans. This is something entirely different. Here, agencies are tracking the movements of Americans on US soil. But, with a Democratic president in charge, I expect the press’s reaction to be muted, if there is any at all.

(Via Instapundit.)


Administration spent millions on Obamacare propaganda

December 4, 2010

The Obama administration spent millions of taxpayer money on a (failed) propaganda campaign to shore up support for health care nationalization:

A new Judicial Watch investigation has found that President Obama spent millions of taxpayer dollars on a “misleading” propaganda campaign to help foster public support for his extremely unpopular “health care reform” law, also known as Obamacare.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, our investigators obtained documents from the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding a series of three Medicare television advertisements featuring actor Andy Griffith, which were deemed misleading by a number of press outlets, including the nonpartisan (but left-of-center)FactCheck.org.

The new documents show the Obama administration spent $3,184,000 in taxpayer funds to produce and air the advertisements on national television in September and October of 2010 to educate “Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers, and family members about forthcoming changes to Medicare as a result of the Affordable Care Act.”

(Emphasis mine.)


Networks broke embargo on Obama Afghanistan trip

December 4, 2010

Several news networks broke the embargo on President Obama’s trip to Afghanistan early, which could have endangered him:

A growing flap — and concerns — over President Obama’s personal safety and security in the Afghan war zone tonight, given that some American news outlets reported he was there nearly a half-hour before Air Force One actually landed.

The concern is not just factual. Thus alerted, an enemy with a shoulder-fired missile near Bagram Air Base outside Kabul could have fired on the president’s plane or its decoys. . .

According to news pool reports from Air Force One, already White House officials are investigating how the news embargo was dangerously broken first by ABC News and then CNN and MSNBC.

Security for Obama’s trip was much less rigorous than for President Bush’s unannounced trip to Iraq:

According to Bush, he and national security adviser Condi Rice were hidden in the backseat of a Secret Service car leaving the president’s Texas ranch late one evening. The long overnight voyage was kept so secret that even a detachment of Secret Service agents at the ranch was unaware until the next day that the commander-in-chief had been spirited halfway around the world by conspiring security colleagues. Such, obviously, was not the case Friday.

I seem to recall the press at the time being outraged at being kept in the dark. (Of course, when it came to Bush, they tended to be outraged by anything.) This incident proves the wisdom of keeping the press in the dark.

Why the change now, I wonder. Is this Obama’s predilection to reverse all things Bush, or just general foolishness?

UPDATE: Fox News was the only network to observe the embargo, which is something to keep in mind the next time the left accuses Fox of fomenting violence against the president.


Legislative control over spending is such a drag

December 3, 2010

President Obama has asked for the authority to shift spending from one part of the budget to another. It’s quite obvious why the he wants such authority. Why Congress would want to grant it is quite another question.

Such authority would clearly be an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power, but who knows if that means anything any more.


Heh

December 3, 2010

Andrew Klavan:

The point is: religions are sacred. Otherwise they wouldn’t be called religions. They would be called systems of metaphysical ideas that can be discussed, criticized, and even ridiculed by free people with free minds. And we wouldn’t want that. . .


Menendez: Republicans are like terrorists

December 3, 2010

Who is regularly accused of using extremist political language? Republicans of course. Who actually does it? Democrats, such as Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) who says that negotiating with Republicans is like negotiating with terrorists.


Amtrak lifts gun ban

December 3, 2010

Amtrak has lifted its ban on transporting firearms in checked luggage. (Passengers still will not be allowed to carry guns on their person.)

The ban served no conceivable legitimate purpose, it was just a way to inconvenience gun owners. The anti-gun crowd looks ridiculous trying to argue otherwise.


Change!

December 3, 2010

For the first time in as long as I recall, more Americans now identify as Republicans than as Democrats.

(Via Power Line.)


ACORN grant found improper

December 2, 2010

Fox News reports:

An ACORN affiliate in New Orleans was improperly awarded a fire safety and prevention grant worth nearly a half-million dollars, according to a new report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general. . .

In the findings, obtained by FoxNews.com, the inspector general’s office said that FEMA went against the advice of an evaluation panel to hand out the $450,484 grant to the ACORN Institute in New Orleans. From there, not all of the money could be tracked. . .

The report said that ACORN applied for the fire safety and prevention grant — meant to fund efforts to distribute and promote the use of smoke detectors and fire extinguishers – by claiming to operate programs that did not yet exist. The institute claimed to have partnerships with local fire departments through the “Urban Fire Initiative,” when in fact, that initiative “did not exist prior to the grant application.”

FEMA reduced the grant request from its original $1 million. But the report said the institute could not provide documentation to support how it spent nearly $161,000 of the money it did receive.

Lots of blame to go around here: ACORN for committing the fraud, of course, and FEMA for letting them do it after being warned.


Administration lied about missile defense negotiations

December 2, 2010

The Washington Times reports:

The Obama administration, despite public denials, held secret talks with Russia aimed at reaching a ballistic missile defense agreement that Moscow ultimately rejected in May, according to an internal State Department report. . .

The four-page document circulated on Capitol Hill stated that administration officials held four meetings with the Russians and last spring presented a draft Ballistic Missile Defense Cooperation Agreement (BMDCA) to Russian negotiators.

The internal report contradicts congressional testimony by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in June denying a missile defense deal was in the works.


Wikileaks

December 2, 2010

The content of the latest Wikileaks treason dump is mostly unsurprising. The main damage will be done not by the content of the document dump, but by world leaders’ unwillingness to speak frankly in the future since they know we cannot keep a secret.

Still, the dump does contain some interesting revelations:

  1. During its 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah smuggled weapons in ambulances marked by the Red Crescent.
  2. When President Obama said he needed concessions from Israel to get Arab states to agree to action against Iran’s nuclear program, that was a lie. The Arab states wanted Iran stopped, and Israel had nothing to do with it.
  3. Germany urged the Obama administration to tighten the screws on Israel. (One might have thought that Germany, with its history, would have felt it better to stay out of it.)
  4. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, and his government lied in saying that they had not discussed basing missile defense on Turkish soil. (ASIDE: A high-ranking Turkish politician, nonplussed by this and other revelations, accused Israel of being behind Wikileaks somehow. The anti-Semitism is never buried very deep with these guys.)