Barbarians

March 31, 2011

A 14-year-old girl in Bangladesh has been executed by flogging. Her crime: being raped.

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Are you sure this isn’t the Onion?

March 31, 2011

President Obama yesterday received an award for transparency, in a secret ceremony. I swear I am not making this up.


Government at work

March 29, 2011

It’s funny, with all the outrages committed by our government, that something as petty as this could make me so angry. And yet it does.

(Via the Corner.)


Excuse #1

March 28, 2011

The morality of the Arab League (paraphrased):

The Golan Heights—0.65% of Syria’s land mass—is in Israel’s usurping hands. So fire away at those protesters! Asad has a license.


FDR: anti-Semite

March 28, 2011

Rafael Medoff, a Holocaust scholar, has uncovered US government documents that shed new light on Franklin Roosevelt’s policy toward Jews. The SS St. Louis incident — in which nearly a thousand Jews fleeing Europe were denied asylum in the United States and sent back to Europe, where many of them were murdered — was no aberration. FDR was an anti-Semite.

The documents, which were publicized last week by former New York mayor Ed Koch, are the record of a meeting in Casablanca between Roosevelt and the notorious French general Auguste Noguès. In the wake of the Allied landings in North Africa, the Vichy government had released most of the Jews from their concentration camps, and Noguès wanted to know how much of the Jews’ civil liberties must be restored. The record (page 608) relates Roosevelt’s response:

It was also stated that the Jews, especially those in Algeria, had raised the point that they wish restored to them at once the right of suffrage. The President stated that the answer to that was very simple, namely, that there weren’t going to be any elections, so the Jews need not worry about the privilege of voting.

Mr. Murphy remarked that the Jews in North Africa were very much disappointed that “the war for liberation” had not immediately resulted in their being given their complete freedom. The President stated that he felt the whole Jewish problem should be studied very carefully and that progress should be definitely planned.

In other words, the number of Jews engaged in the practice of the professions (law, medicine, etc.) should be definitely limited to the percentage that the Jewish population in North Africa bears to the whole of the North African population. Such a plan would therefore permit the Jews to engage in the professions, and would present an unanswerable argument that they were being given their full rights.

To the foregoing, General Noguès agreed generally, stating at the same time that it would be a sad thing for the French to win the war merely to open the way for the Jews to control the professions and the business world of North Africa.

The President stated that his plan would further eliminate the specific and understandable complaints that the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany, namely, that while they represented a small part of the population, over fifty percent of the lawyers, doctors, school teachers, college professors, etc., in Germany, were Jews.

(Paragraph breaks and emphasis added.)

In regard to the “over fifty percent” statistic, Medoff adds “It is not clear how FDR came up with that wildly exaggerated statistic.”

Such statements from a US president are astonishing and horrifying, and indeed are all the more horrifying because they were not merely anti-Semitic remarks, but a policy to be imposed on North Africa by the Allies.

There is no question as to the veracity of the account, as Koch observes:

Hard to believe a president would say such a thing? Maybe, but the source is unimpeachable: the transcript appears in Foreign Relations of the United States, a multivolume series of historical documents published by the U.S. government itself. The Casablanca volume was published in 1968, but did not attract much notice at the time. Dr. Medoff has done a public service by bringing it to our attention again.

(Via PJ Tatler.)


Biden staff detain reporter in closet

March 28, 2011

The most astonishing story I’ve seen in some time:

Not looking for sympathy here, but the life of a political reporter isn’t all champagne and canapes. Consider our man Scott Powers, who was sent over to the Winter Park home of Alan Ginsburg this morning as the designated “pool reporter” — aka scribe — for the fundraiser where Vice President Joe Biden is appearing on behalf of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Turns out the veep hadn’t arrived, but about 150 guests (minimum donation $500) were already in the house. So to prevent Scott from mingling with the crowd, a member of Biden’s advance team consigned him to a storage closet — and then stood outside the door to make sure he didn’t walk out without permission.

This is so bizarre that I was skeptical at first, but it’s been confirmed from a variety of sources. The Biden staff apologized for the incident, but Powers found the apology quite inadequate:

“Scott – You have our sincere apologies for the lack of a better hold room today,” wrote Vice President Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander last Wednesday to Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers. . .

Continued Alexander in her email to Powers: “I am told, once the Vice President and Senator Nelson arrived, the situation was quickly rectified – and hopefully you weren’t waiting too long.”

Powers says the situation was never “rectified.” Any time he stuck his head out he’d been shooed back inside. He said he was held for more than an hour in the closet, was allowed out for 35 minutes of remarks by Biden and Nelson, after which it was back into the closet until the VP left.

Alexander’s note to him thus didn’t quite satisfy him, Powers said. Especially compared with that of Ginsburg who called Powers Friday and apologized, saying Biden’s advance team made all the decisions about the event, Powers said. The wealthy Democratic fundraiser told the reporter he hadn’t even been aware that Powers was there, much less shoved into his closet.

One can’t help wondering whether the Biden staff broke the law. Probably not. It sounds as though Powers meekly accepted the situation, and they didn’t have to force him.

(Via Reason.)


News from Planet Clinton

March 28, 2011

Hillary Clinton, when asked why the administration didn’t get Congressional approval for its action in Libya, spouts a whole lot of nonsense:

“Well, we would welcome congressional support,” the Secretary said, “but I don’t think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago.”

“I think that this had a limited timeframe, a very clearly defined mission which we are in the process of fulfilling,” Clinton said.

Point 1: Not unilateral? One of a number of countries? On the contrary, this action has our smallest international coalition in decades.

Point 2: Limited timeframe? Gates said, in the very same appearance, that he has no idea how long it will take. The British say it could take 30 years. (That’s nonsense, but it underscores that we have no idea how long it really will take.)

Point 3: Clearly defined mission? Not remotely.

Moreover, I don’t see how any of those things would absolve the administration of the need (morally, if not legally) to obtain Congressional approval anyway. Furthermore, Gates said, again in the very same appearance, that no vital national interest was at stake, which only heightens the need for the administration to get the people’s representatives on board.

(Via Hot Air.)


Iron Dome goes live

March 28, 2011

Israel is deploying its new rocket defense system, Iron Dome. The system wasn’t due to be deployed until later this year, but it was accelerated due to Hamas’s acceleration of rocket attacks from Gaza.


Understanding radiation

March 28, 2011

Pajamas Media has useful primer on radiation doses. It makes a good complement to the XKCD chart.

I’m sure there will be a spike of alarmism with the detection of tiny amounts of radiation in North American rainwater. I hope this helps us remember that “measurable” is an entirely different thing from “even remotely dangerous”. The rainwater story doesn’t mention any numbers, but I’m sure they are very much smaller than the banana-equivalent dose.


Lautenberg the magnanimous

March 26, 2011

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) says we “don’t deserve the freedoms that are in the Constitution.” But he will graciously allow us to keep them anyway.

Er, thanks. I appreciate that.


Dangerous times

March 25, 2011

Here’s a shocker: the Muslim Brotherhood is proving to be the dominant force in post-Mubarak Egyptian politics. How could anyone have seen that coming. . . ?

(Via Hot Air.)


Getting nervous

March 25, 2011

The Obama administration says it is not responsible for the outcome of its intervention in Libya:

Mr. Obama’s administration, however, has clearly tried to avoid the debate over a strategy beyond that by shifting the burden of enforcing the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing force on to France, Britain and other allies, including Arab nations like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which on Thursday said that it would contribute warplanes to the effort. In other words, the American exit strategy is not necessarily the coalition’s exit strategy.

“We didn’t want to get sucked into an operation with uncertainty at the end,” the senior administration official said. “In some ways, how it turns out is not on our shoulders.”

If we aren’t committed to what we’re doing (whatever that is), it’s hard to see how we can succeed. We outmatch the enemy so badly that we might nevertheless back into success (whatever that means), but it doesn’t seem likely.

(Via the Corner.)


Medicare now mandatory

March 25, 2011

If you are of retirement age and want to keep your current insurance rather than going on Medicare, you are out of luck. Enrolling in Medicare is now mandatory. More precisely, a federal judge has approved a government policy that penalizes persons who decline Medicare by revoking their Social Security. The ruling hinged on a highly dubious interpretation of “entitled” to mean “obligated”.


Ah, the civility

March 25, 2011

Remember all that talk early this year about civility in politics?

Remember how the legacy media said that union thugs shouldn’t be ripping up recall petitions. Remember how they said it was wrong to shoot out the windows of the GOP headquarters in DC? Remember how they said that threats against bloggers for exposing the activities of Wisconsin’s unions were completely out of bounds? Remember how they condemned the vandalism and death threats targeting Wisconsin GOP lawmakers? Remember how they criticized Joe Biden for likening Republican fiscal policy to rape?

And remember all that talk about how martial rhetoric in politics could be dangerous?

Remember how they swore off such things as describing a Media Matters training session as “partisan boot camp where rebel forces were trained for combat on Fox News”. Remember how they criticized violent metaphors such as describing ideological debate  as “gut[ting] everyone”? Remember how they tut-tutted Michael Moore for likening the Wisconsin public-sector union debate to “war”?

Remember the new focus on civility?

Me either.


Body scanners everywhere

March 25, 2011

The Department of Homeland Security is looking at using its hated body scanners outside the airport:

Giving Transportation Security Administration agents a peek under your clothes may soon be a practice that goes well beyond airport checkpoints. Newly uncovered documents show that as early as 2006, the Department of Homeland Security has been planning pilot programs to deploy mobile scanning units that can be set up at public events and in train stations, along with mobile x-ray vans capable of scanning pedestrians on city streets.

The non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) on Wednesday published documents it obtained from the Department of Homeland Security showing that from 2006 to 2008 the agency planned a study of of new anti-terrorism technologies that EPIC believes raise serious privacy concerns. The projects range from what the DHS describes as “a walk through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events or other points of interest” to “covert inspection of moving subjects” employing the same backscatter imaging technology currently used in American airports. . .

One project allocated to Northeastern University and Siemens would mount backscatter x-ray scanners and video cameras on roving vans, along with other cameras on buildings and utility poles, to monitor groups of pedestrians, assess what they carried, and even track their eye movements. In another program, the researchers were asked to develop a system of long range x-ray scanning to determine what metal objects an individual might have on his or her body at distances up to thirty feet.

TSA responded to the Forbes story saying that they have no plans to test body scanners in mass transit environments, but that doesn’t explain why they are funding studies to do exactly that. (Forbes has the documents.) The answer might come from a loophole in TSA’s carefully worded denial: “TSA has not tested the advanced imaging technology that is currently used at airports in mass transit environments and does not have plans to do so.” This leaves open that a slightly different technology might be used.

But never mind that, it pales in comparison to the other part of the story: roving body-scanning vans. DHS vans would prowl the streets searching everyone, no warrants, no notification, no fuss.

Another great idea from the civil libertarians in the Obama administration.


Detroit’s death spiral approaches the end

March 25, 2011

America’s worst-governed big city, Detroit, lost one-quarter of its remaining population during the last decade. I don’t see any floor short of zero.


The awesome power of New York Times foolishness

March 25, 2011

The New York Times is reporting, in all seriousness, that the Chinese government is monitoring cell phone calls and terminating conversations in which someone uses the word “protest” (in English!). This is based on two anecdotes in which the cell phone calls were dropped after the word was used.

This, of course, is complete nonsense. I’m sure the Chinese despots wish they could monitor every call in their country, and detect keywords from speech in real time. Not even the NSA can do that. To extrapolate such a fantastic capability from just two anecdotes is stunningly ignorant.

If the sheer impossibility of the claim weren’t evidence enough, the Shanghai Scrap blog ran the experiment and confirmed it to be nonsense. Apparently that minimal level of fact-checking was beyond the New York Times.

Ah, but it’s worse than that. The dateline for the story is Beijing, which means they had to have at least one reporter working on the story from Beijing. His name is Jonathan Ansfield. (You won’t find it on the byline, it appears in the very last line of the story.) Anfield confirmed to Shanghai Scrap that the story was nonsense, but “regrettably his input on the story made little difference.”

(Via Instapundit.)


Chavez opposes Martian capitalism

March 25, 2011

Is there anything capitalism can’t do?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who routinely blames capitalism for many of this world’s troubles, pointed elsewhere in the galaxy for his latest critique, saying Tuesday that the economic system may have destroyed life on Mars.

“I have always said, have heard, that it would not be strange that there had been civilization on Mars,” the firebrand socialist said on Venezuela’s state television. After pausing a moment, he added, “But perhaps capitalism arrived there, imperialism arrived, and finished that planet.”


Miranda down

March 25, 2011

The Obama administration has limited Miranda protection for terrorism suspects:

New rules allow investigators to hold domestic-terror suspects longer than others without giving them a Miranda warning, significantly expanding exceptions to the instructions that have governed the handling of criminal suspects for more than four decades. . .

The Supreme Court’s 1966 Miranda ruling obligates law-enforcement officials to advise suspects of their rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present for questioning. A 1984 decision amended that by allowing the questioning of suspects for a limited time before issuing the warning in cases where public safety was at issue.

That exception was seen as a limited device to be used only in cases of an imminent safety threat, but the new rules give interrogators more latitude and flexibility to define what counts as an appropriate circumstance to waive Miranda rights.

The new rules were issued last December, but not made public.

Yet another civil rights triumph from the administration that wants to search laptops without a warrant, sample the DNA of every suspect arrested, and track US citizens via their cell phones (without a warrant), that investigated political opponents posing no threat to public safety, and that planned to limit our rights to petition our government. (Those last two policies were reversed after they came to light.)

(Via Professor Bainbridge.)


Reuters has trouble with math

March 25, 2011

Reuters says, in an analysis run in the New York Times:

Obama is committed to partnering with other countries rather than going it alone as did his predecessor George W. Bush, which both broadens and complicates the decision-making process.

That’s crap. Obama is twice the unilateralist that Bush was. Literally. Bush had twice as many coalition partners in Iraq as Obama has in Libya.

I know “analysis” is a synonym from “opinion run in the news pages”, but it still ought to be factually accurate.

(Via the Atlantic.)


Reuters loses its dictionary

March 24, 2011

Reuters, reporting on the latest terrorist atrocity against Israel:

Police said it was a “terrorist attack” — Israel’s term for a Palestinian strike.

Israel’s term?! What, pray tell, is Reuters’s term for a bomb planted at a busy bus stop?!

(Via the Atlantic.)


Happy bloggiversary

March 23, 2011

I launched Internet Scofflaw three years ago today. In honor of the occasion, I’ve collected some of my favorite posts:

  • The Scofflaw Principle: in which I expounded my political philosophy that gave the blog its name.
  • A fable: tax-and-spend is theft, except without the risk to the robber.
  • Media failure: how I learned that the media cannot be trusted.
  • Hauser’s Law: the truly amazing result that federal tax revenue (as a fraction of GDP) is constant, regardless of where tax rates are set. Consequently, we should give up on dickering around with the tax rates and focus on encouraging growth.
  • Tribal politics and the suicide pact: in which I observe that the Democratic party is not an ideological movement, but an alliance of tribes. I also speculated that its nature might hurt their effort to nationalize health care. (Perhaps I was right, but clearly it didn’t hurt enough.)
  • Urban legend claims Palestinian 9/11 celebration video is fake: It wasn’t fake, as much as some people would like to believe it so. I didn’t think this post was anything special, but it has gotten tons of hits from search engines from people searching “Palestinian 9/11 celebration video fake”, so I take some pride in helping to put that particular urban legend down.

Dangerous times

March 23, 2011

Israel and Hamas are back at war once again. Can another war with Hezbollah be far behind?


Gallup survey finds unemployment unimproved

March 23, 2011

Story here. They also look at why they aren’t seeing the improvement that the government is reporting.


Dems lie about health care nationalization

March 23, 2011

The Washington Post reports:

Gifts of bogus statistics for the health-care law’s birthday

House Democrats held a birthday party last week for passage of the health-care law. Just as we looked at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s floor speech noting the milestone, we will now examine some of the claims made by Democrats.

McConnell framed his speech in negative terms, citing data to back up his language. Both Democrats and Republicans can pick and choose numbers and studies to make their case, but we found that generally McConnell did not exaggerate or use bogus figures. . .

By contrast, House Democrats appear to show little hesitation about repeating claims that previously have found to be false or exaggerated. So let’s take a tour through the numbers.

(Emphasis mine, other than the headline.)

The Post story then goes on to look at three big lies told by the Democratic proponents of the health care act: (1) it’s about jobs, (2) it’s about reducing the deficit, and (3) it’s working.


Cooking the books

March 23, 2011

California’s public-sector unions don’t care about keeping/making their pensions solvent; they just want to hide the insolvency from the public.


Smart diplomacy

March 23, 2011

The anti-Qaddafi coalition is collapsing due to lack of leadership:

Deep divisions between allied forces currently bombing Libya worsened today as the German military announced it was pulling forces out of NATO over continued disagreement on who will lead the campaign. A German military spokesman said it was recalling two frigates and AWACS surveillance plane crews from the Mediterranean, after fears they would be drawn into the conflict if NATO takes over control from the U.S.

The infighting comes as a heated meeting of NATO ambassadors yesterday failed to resolve whether the 28-nation alliance should run the operation to enforce a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone, diplomats said.

. . .

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested that air strikes launched after a meeting in Paris hosted by France on Saturday had gone beyond what had been sanctioned by a U.N. Security Council resolution.

‘There are U.N. decisions and these decisions clearly have a defined framework. A NATO operation which goes outside this framework cannot be legitimised,’ he told news channel CNN Turk.

Adding pressure to the already fractured alliance, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has also reiterated a warning that Italy would take back control of airbases it has authorised for use by allies for operations over Libya unless a NATO coordination structure was agreed.

. . .

In the U.S., Obama has made it clear he wants no part of any leadership role in Libya.

As the leader of the free world, leadership is our job. If Barack Obama doesn’t want it, he has no business being president of the United States.


My how times change!

March 23, 2011

President Obama’s old position on presidential war-making power (I noted this one a few days ago):

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

Vice-President Biden’s old position on presidential war-making power:

The President has no authority to use force in Iran unless Iran attacks the United States, or there is an imminent threat of such an attack. The Constitution is clear: except in response to an attack or the imminent threat of attack, only Congress may authorize war and the use of force.

and:

I want to make it clear. And I made it clear to the President that if he takes this nation to war in Iran without Congressional approval, I will make it my business to impeach him. That’s a fact. That is a fact.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s old position on presidential war-making power:

If the country is under truly imminent threat of attack, of course the President must take appropriate action to defend us. At the same time, the Constitution requires Congress to authorize war. I do not believe that the President can take military action – including any kind of strategic bombing – against Iran without congressional authorization.

We are now at war without any imminent threat of attack, and without any Congressional consultation, much less approval, which makes one thing completely clear: This bunch didn’t mean one word of what they said. They are completely full of it. As Joe Biden would say, that is a fact.

UPDATE: Biden is getting grief for his pledge to impeach the president if he takes us to war without Congressional approval. Plus, a second occasion on which he made the pledge.


Republicans look to save the light bulb

March 22, 2011

It’s about time.


Rules of engagement

March 22, 2011

The rules of engagement for our pilots in Libya are troubling. Two good examples of the strange judgements they are required to make:

“It’s a very problematic situation,” Ham said. “It’s not a clear distinction, because we’re not talking about a regular military force. Many in the opposition truly are civilians, and they are trying to protect their homes, their families, their businesses, and in doing that some of them have taken up arms. But they are basically civilians.”

So they are protected by American pilots. But what about the rest of the anti-Gadhafi forces? “There are also those in the opposition that have armored vehicles and have heavy weapons,” Ham continued. “Those parts of the opposition, I would argue, are no longer covered under the protect-civilians clause.”

The bottom line: The United States will protect Libyan rebels if they unarmed or lightly armed. If those rebels are heavily armed, no.

and:

Ham was asked what U.S. forces are instructed to do when they encounter pro-Gadhafi military units that are heavily armed but aren’t actually attacking civilians. “What we look for is, to the degree that we can, to discern intent,” Ham explained. He described a hypothetical situation in which an American pilot spotted a Libyan unit south of Benghazi. If the pilot determined the unit was moving toward the city, he could attack. If he determined the unit was setting up some sort of position, he could also attack. But if he determined the unit was moving away, then he couldn’t attack. “There’s no simple answer,” Ham said. “Sometimes these are situations that brief much better at headquarters than they do in the cockpit of an aircraft.”

We outmatch the enemy so badly that we might well succeed anyway, but this is no way to run a military campaign. And why? To avoid angering the Arabs? That’s a foregone conclusion.


Unrest in Syria

March 22, 2011

Potentially exciting. If I could pick a regime to fall, Syria’s would be my third choice.


Agreeing with George Monbiot

March 22, 2011

The prominent British environmentalist and leftist writes in the Guardian:

You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

Exactly right. The safety margins are so wide that when an old plant using an obsolete design is hit by as bad a natural disaster as is ever going to happen, nothing really bad happens.

He also cites the XKCD chart.

(Via Instapundit.)


Paul Krugman: hypocrite

March 22, 2011

When Paul Krugman said that he didn’t read any commentary coming from the right, I though it was unsurprising and not worthy of note. But it is worthwhile to note his rank hypocrisy when he comes back, just two weeks later, to write this:

If you’ve reached the point where you don’t pay attention to anything that might disturb your orthodoxy, you’re not doing science, you’re not even pursuing a discipline. All you’re doing is perpetuating a smug, closed-minded sect.

I know of no one more smug than Paul Krugman.

(Via Instapundit.)


Memory lane

March 21, 2011

President Bush had twice as many partners in his anti-Saddam coalition (30) as President Obama (or should I say President Sarkozy) has in his anti-Qaddafi coalition (15).

Bush also had the approval of Congress. But Obama has the approval of the Arab League. (Or at least, he did until the action actually started.)

None of which is to say that Obama’s action is illegitimate. But it’s very interesting how Bush was condemned for his “unilateralism” when he was actually much more multilateral than Obama.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: A listing of the coalitions for major recent US military actions. This is the smallest of all — smaller even than Kosovo.


Arab League votes yes before voting no

March 21, 2011

Say what you will about allowing the Arab League to direct US foreign policy. At least we’ve ensured that our military action against Qaddafi won’t be encumbered by continuous condemnation from the Arab world. . . right?

The Arab League chief said that Arabs did not want military strikes by Western powers that hit civilians when the League called for a no-fly zone over Libya. . .

“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,” Mr Moussa told Egypt’s official state news agency.

The volte-face by the Arab League raises uncertainty about the unity of Western and Muslim leaders and highlights varying interpretations of tactics and strategy. Only Qatar has openly supported the Western-led campaign.

Well dang.


Trolls lose again

March 20, 2011

The Righthaven copyright trolls have lost another ruling. US District Judge James Mahan found that the defendant’s use of the material satisfied the conditions for fair use, but then made a much more important observation:

Mahan also found Righthaven’s use of the copyright for a lawsuit gives the copyright less protection than if the Review-Journal were using it in the normal course of delivering the news.

“Here the copyright has been removed from its original context,” Mahan said.

“Righthaven is not using the copyright the same way the R-J used it. Righthaven is using it to support a lawsuit,” Mahan said.

This type of copyright use has a chilling effect on free speech and doesn’t advance a purpose of the federal Copyright Act, which is to encourage and protect creativity, Mahan said.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


A public service message

March 20, 2011

Chart by XKCD. More non-alarmist information here.

(Via Instapundit.)


My, how times change!

March 20, 2011

Barack Obama on presidential war-making power, in 2007:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

Barack Obama on presidential war-making power, in 2011:

ε

(Via Instapundit.)

POSTSCRIPT: It’s striking to look over Obama’s other preening answers to the 2007 questionnaire, and compare them to his actions as president. (For example: 123, 45.)

UPDATE: John Larson’s (D-CT) complaint seems fair:

They consulted the Arab League. They consulted the United Nations. They did not consult the United States Congress.

(Via Instapundit.)


Naivety

March 19, 2011

It should be obvious to anyone with the slightest grasp of history that sanctions and threats aren’t going to stop a murderous dictator from defending his regime. Should be. But apparently it is not obvious to our president, according to ABC News:

On Tuesday, President Obama became clear that diplomatic efforts to stop the brutality of Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi weren’t working.

Presented with intelligence about the push of the Gadhafi regime to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the president told his national security team “what we’re doing isn’t stopping him.”

Some in his administration, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been pushing for stronger action, but it wasn’t until Tuesday, administration sources tell ABC News, that the president became convinced sanctions and the threat of a no-fly zone wouldn’t be enough.

It took President Obama until last Tuesday to figure out what should have been obvious from day one?! I had assumed that Obama knew it probably wouldn’t work, but didn’t care. After all, this is a guy that wanted to pull out of Iraq even if it caused a genocide.

Now they tell us that he actually thought it would work? He actually thought that, for the first time ever, sanctions and threats would be enough to stop a murderous dictator from doing the things that murderous dictators do?

That kind of naivety is horrifying to contemplate.

(Via the Virginian.)


Libya

March 19, 2011

I’m glad to see us taking action against Moammar Qaddafi. Still, two things trouble me: First, if we’re doing this, why didn’t we do it two or three weeks ago, when the rebels had the upper hand, instead of waiting until Qaddafi was wrapping things up?

Second, I’m troubled to see us as a junior partner in this operation. I saw a headline earlier today (can’t find it now), “US joins French operation”. Ugh. Worse, the administration seems to see this as a feature:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Saturday that the United States would strongly support the international military action to halt Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s attacks on rebels, but she made clear that Washington would not be in the lead.

The US ought to be leading, not following. Still, I’m glad we’re finally doing something.


Unfair editing?

March 18, 2011

Time’s James Poniewozik thinks that James O’Keefe edited his video of Ron Schiller unfairly. That’s crap. Unlike the legacy media, O’Keefe makes his unedited video available. If the video really were edited unfairly, NPR had all the material it needed to defend him. It did not.

But I want to take this thought a little bit further. Poniewozik has been Time’s “media and television critic” since July 1999, so he had the job when Michael Moore released his execrable Bowling for Columbine in 2002. Moore is notorious for his dishonesty, but he outdid himself in Columbine by featuring a Charleton Heston speech that Charleton Heston never gave. It was edited together from scraps of two different speeches. Moore even put sentences together from multiple sentence fragments.

Did Poniewozik ever complain about the unfair editing in Columbine? If so, Google knows nothing of it. (And it’s not as though Poniewozik was unaware of Columbine. He made a stir by criticizing Moore’s speech accepting the Oscar for Columbine; lamenting that Moore diluted his anti-war message with other complaints.)

To sum up: Time seems to be quite concerned with unfair editing on the right (where it isn’t), but not at all concerned with unfair editing on the left (where it really is, flagrantly).


What is tenure for, again?

March 18, 2011

The dean of Widener Law School is going ahead with her effort to fire a tenured professor for controversial material in his lectures, despite the recommendation of a university committee that the matter be dropped. Wow.


Not. Helpful.

March 18, 2011

Regina Benjamin, the Surgeon General, says that taking iodine tablets because the radiation leak in Japan is a reasonable precaution, which it absolutely is not. In addition to feeding the general hysteria, iodine tablets can make you very sick, so one should not take them without a likelihood of exposure, which there isn’t.

Later HHS put out a statement in which they “clarified” that Benjamin meant the exact opposite of what she said. NPR also noted that the “clarifying” statement was false, in that it attributed some helpful statements to Benjamin that she did not in fact say.

Why do we have a surgeon general anyway? The position’s sole purpose today is as a spokesman. If she is going to put out misinformation, let’s just dissolve the position.


Civility update

March 16, 2011

If the Wisconsin union showdown had resulted in numerous death threats against Democrats, would the media have reported it? Of course they would have — they are oh so concerned about civility and the danger of political violence.

If the Wisconsin union showdown had resulted in numerous death threats against Republicans, would the media have reported it? We needn’t speculate. Despite numerous death threats, LexisNexis finds zero stories on ABC, CBS, MSNBC, NBC, or NPR. Also nothing in the Washington Post, the LA Times, or USA Today.

Fox (natch) and CNN did cover the story. The New York Times also ran one story, but managed to omit the party affiliation.


Making stuff up

March 16, 2011

The New York Times’s Eric Lipton is unable to substantiate his allegation that the Koch brothers were somehow behind Wisconsin’s recent union standoff.

POSTSCRIPT: I find interesting that after the left failed to cast various GOP elected officials in the role of chief boogeyman, they’ve settled on a couple of private citizens to demonize.


The Japanese reactor

March 16, 2011

Iain Murray has an update on the Japanese reactor situation. Bottom line: it’s a serious situation, but not a disaster, and not likely to become one. Also Robert Zubrin laments that anti-nuclear hysteria is going to divert resources from essential recovery efforts.


One terrorist gang, two statements

March 16, 2011

Years ago, back when people still took the Israel/Palestinian “peace process” seriously, my eyes were opened when I read a story (I wish I could find it now) that observed that Yasser Arafat gave dramatically different speeches in English and Arabic. In English he would act like a reasonable partner for peace, but in Arabic he continued to pledge to destroy Israel. He even declared openly that the Oslo treaty was just a ploy, intended to gain Palestinians what they could, after which they would return to war. (Which is exactly what happened.) He got away with this because the western media only ever reported his remarks given in English.

I’m reminded of this when I read of Hamas’s statements regarding the recent slaughter of an Israeli family in the West Bank. In English they decry the murders, claim no involvement, and suggest that an Israeli was responsible. In Arabic they celebrate the murders and laud the Palestinian perpetrator.


Please check your work

March 16, 2011

The New York Times accuses Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, of affecting a southern accent to attract Republican primary votes. But their example is wrong. Plus, there’s more to a southern accent than using the word “ain’t” and dropping g’s.

Describing his speech as more colloquial would probably be true, but that description wouldn’t allow them to appeal to anti-southern bigotry.


Blockade works again

March 16, 2011

The Israelis have intercepted another arms shipment to Gaza.


Transparency

March 12, 2011

AP reports:

President Obama once promised that negotiations over his health care overhaul would be carried out openly, in front of TV cameras and microphones. Tell that to the White House now.

Republican congressional investigators got the brush-off this past week after pressing for details of meetings between White House officials and interest groups, including drug companies and hospitals that provided critical backing for Obama’s health insurance expansion.


Cause, meet effect

March 12, 2011

Illinois has instituted a sales tax on Amazon purchases, so Amazon is severing its relationship with Illinois affiliates. As a result, those Illinois affiliates lose their business, and the state ends up with less tax revenue than before.

This idiocy is doubly inexcusable because the same thing has happened in several other states already. It always plays out the same way.


Medicaid often worse than nothing

March 12, 2011

Studies show that Medicaid is so bad, it is often worse than having no health coverage at all.

This underlines one of the main misconceptions that underly the health care nationalization act: the failure to understand the difference between health coverage and access to health care. Obamacare emphasizes the former, to the detriment of the latter.


Harrison Bergeron, call your office

March 12, 2011

A federal judge in Kansas has struck down a tax increase in the Shawnee Mission School District. A victory for individual rights? Not in this case.

The reason the tax hike was struck down had nothing to do with protecting the taxpayer. The tax hike was struck down because it would make that district’s schools too good:

U.S. District Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed the case on the grounds that the cap was a crucial and integral part of the state’s complex formula for distributing education funds in a manner meant to ensure that wealthy school districts don’t pull far ahead of poorer districts.

If you want to cap public-school spending to protect the taxpayer, I could get behind that. But capping public-school spending to keep schools from becoming better than others is simply perverse.


Delete me

March 12, 2011

The European Union wants to improve your privacy, but there’s a little problem:

The commission said consumers should be informed “in a clear and transparent way” about how their data will be used. They should also have the right to fully delete digital information, like social networking profiles, and should be informed when their data has been used in unlawful ways, the commission added.

What is this “full delete” of which they speak?


“Unwittingly”

March 12, 2011

Sue Schardt, an NPR board member, speaks:

What happened as a result is that we unwittingly cultivated a core audience that is predominately white, liberal, highly educated, elite.

Unwittingly? That hardly seems possible.

“Super-serve the core” — that was the mantra, for many, many years. This focus has, in large part, brought us to our success today. It was never anyone’s intention to exclude anyone.

Exclude? Perhaps not. Mock us, slander us, show absolute contempt for us, yes. That doesn’t mean we’re “excluded”; we’re still welcome to listen.

And, of course, we always get to participate through our taxes.

POSTSCRIPT: To be fair, Schardt’s comments are somewhat thoughtful. But ultimately NPR did not become what it is by accident, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Obama: my opponents are racists

March 11, 2011

President Obama says that opposition to his administration is really all about race:

But Obama, in his most candid moments, acknowledged that race was still a problem. In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent “Tea Party” movement that was then surging across the country. Many middle-class and working-class whites felt aggrieved and resentful that the federal government was helping other groups, including bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor, but wasn’t helping them nearly enough, he said.

A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to “take back” their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn’t dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a “subterranean agenda” in the anti-Obama movement—a racially biased one—that was unfortunate. But he sadly conceded that there was little he could do about it.

A lot of Americans thought that, by electing a black president, they were proving that America has put race behind her. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened; any opposition to any of the president’s policies is smeared as racist.


My heart bleeds

March 11, 2011

The Righthaven copyright trolls are complaining that one of their targets is running up excessive legal bills. That takes chutzpah, since unnecessary litigation is Righthaven’s entire business model.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Obamacare FSA provision burdens doctors

March 11, 2011

Another small way in which health care nationalization increases health care costs.


Once a crook, always a crook

March 11, 2011

Not always true, but evidently true for Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). The corrupt, impeached ex-judge is in legal trouble again.


Pot, meet kettle

March 11, 2011

President Obama says it’s “irresponsible” to fund the government using short-term continuing resolutions. Well, maybe the Democrats should have passed a budget when they were in charge.

Also, the administration is suggesting that Obama might veto any further CRs. I doubt it. What we learned in 1994 is when the government gets shut down, it’s of paramount importance not to be blamed for it. If Obama vetoes an unencumbered CR, I don’t see how he can avoid blame, even with the media’s assistance.


Ah, the civility

March 10, 2011

It’s interesting how quickly the talk about civil discourse faded away once the left became angry about something. All of the sudden, Hitler analogies and death threats are just part of healthy democratic debate.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse:

My tag for the “new civility” has always been “civility bullshit.” It was always, obviously, a strategy to control conservatives (while liberals regrouped after the drubbing in the 2010 elections). Now that the Wisconsin protesters have gone so far beyond anything that could be attributed to Tea Partiers or to Sarah Palin maps-with-crosshairs, I suppose the MSM will act as if there never was a new civility movement at all. Suddenly, virulent dissent will be portrayed as noble.


The plot thickens

March 10, 2011

In response to James O’Keefe’s sting video in which two journalists posing as Islamic radicals met with two NPR executives, NPR released this statement:

The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept. We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for. Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job.

The statement was a little bit strange, in that the video focused primarily on Ron Schiller’s ignorant and intolerant views. But, sure, it’s good they refused the money.

Except now it appears that might not be true. In a second video, O’Keefe reveals that Betsy Liley, the other NPR executive at the first meeting, held a telephone conversation with one of the men in which she discussed the prospect of keeping their donation anonymous. She later emailed him to inform him that a draft agreement was being prepared by their legal counsel.

At what point NPR started refusing the contribution, if they ever did at all, is not yet clear.

UPDATE: NPR has released emails showing that it said it could not accept the money unless MEAC (the fake organization) could show it was a 501(c)(3) organization. That’s a long way from what NPR seemed to imply (that NPR wasn’t going to take money from Islamic radicals), but it is consistent with what they literally said.

Also, NPR says that — contrary to what Betsy Liley said in the new video — it will not hide donations from the IRS, and they have placed Liley on administrative leave pending an investigation. How NPR’s Senior Director of Institutional Giving could be so confused about NPR’s policy and the law is still not clear.

(Previous post.)


Andrew Klavan explains public sector unions

March 10, 2011

Wisconsin Assembly passes budget repair bill

March 10, 2011

Reports Althouse, who has been doing a much better job reporting this story than anyone else, especially the legacy media.


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

March 10, 2011

Alicia Shepard, the NPR ombudsman, tweets:

Ron Schiller said in the full two hour Okeefe video he is a Republican, and was raised as a Republican. that didn’t make it in video

Oh, come on! That doesn’t even pass the laugh test. This guy, who hates Republicans so much, is actually one himself? Please.

Patterico actually went to the trouble to prove it untrue and request a correction. His exchange is unreal. First he finds out what Schiller actually said:

I grew up a Republican and am proud of that even though I’ve voted mostly Democratic lately.

So, not a Republican. Then he sends the index into the video to Shepard. (ASIDE: The part about “that didn’t make it in video” was also untrue. Unlike the legacy media, O’Keefe always releases the full video.)

It turns out that Shepard never watched the video, she was working from a transcript that someone prepared. (Even when Patterico sent the index, she still didn’t want to watch the video.) But even the transcript didn’t support her statement. She was just guessing what Schiller said where the transcript read “unintelligible” and guessed wrong. In fact, if she had watched the video she would have found that part wasn’t the least bit unintelligible.

In the end, Patterico finally gets through, and Shepard posts a correction. But despite the fact that her original tweet was flat wrong, she calls her correction a clarification.

Keep in mind that this is the ombudsman. It’s not the first time she’s done such shoddy, dishonest work either. Sounds like NPR needs a meta-ombudsman.

(Previous post.)


Why Wisconsin Democrats couldn’t compromise

March 10, 2011

Mickey Kaus observes that point on which it was impossible for the Wisconsin Democrats to compromise wasn’t collective bargaining, but the provision that allows public workers to decline to pay union dues. In Governor Walker’s proposed compromise, he offered to allow public-sector unions to retain most collective bargaining rights (which the unions said was the issue), but retained the union-dues provision (which was the real issue).


Stay tuned

March 9, 2011

James O’Keefe says he has more material on NPR still to come. And a New York Times report suggests that O’Keefe may have material on PBS as well.

(Previous post.)


Wisconsin Senate passes budget repair bill

March 9, 2011

The Wisconsin Assembly will take up the bill tomorrow morning. It should be interesting; on-the-scene reports suggest that the union protesters may be planning a riot.

Senate Republican accomplished the action by amending the bill to remove items that required a three-fifths quorum. Governor Walker had already rejected passing the collective bargaining provision by itself, but a ruling from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (Wisconsin’s CBO) enabled them to pass the bill largely intact. The Bureau found that several items in the bill, although fiscal, were not “appropriations”, and therefore did not trigger the larger quorum. The main provision that had to be deleted was a debt refinancing, which presumably will later be passed alone (unless the Democrats decide to play sore loser).

UPDATE: The Democrats have already begun to complain that the action violated Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law. Republicans apparently believe that an exception in the law allows them to give only two hours notice, rather than 24. I’m sure we’ll hear more about this.

UPDATE: Wisconsin’s Senate Majority Leader explains why they decided to resort to this.

UPDATE: Jim Lindgren has more on the legislative maneuver.

UPDATE: It doesn’t look as though the Open Meetings Law thing is going to fly. The Wisconsin Senate Rules state that the 24-hours notice can be set aside whenever the Committee on Senate Organization determines it is necessary. Another rule might say (it isn’t clear) that even 2-hours notice isn’t necessary, but the Republicans wisely decided not to rely on that. Moreover, the Open Meetings Law contains an exception for when it conflicts with Senate rules. So I think they are in the clear.


Journalistic ethics

March 9, 2011

John Nolte calls for some:

With their most recent undercover video investigations, independent journalists James O’Keefe and Lila Rose have set a new standard of transparency in the field of journalism — a standard I call on all media outlets — print, online, and broadcast — to adopt and to institute immediately. Within hours of releasing what the AP called “heavily edited” video footage of a high-powered NPR executive’s troubling statements . . . , Mr. O’Keefe then released to the public the full, unedited two-hour video of the entire conversation. Another New Media pioneer, Lila Rose, also released the full video of her undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood.

While the biased AP apparently only whips out the term “heavily edited” when the institutional left is under fire, . . . every facet of the MSM broadcast and publishing world release reports no less “heavily edited” than Rosa and O’Keefe’s initial video releasse. However, unlike Rose and O’Keefe, the mainstream media never allows the public to view the full, unedited material in order to judge the full context for ourselves. . .

Let’s start a new era of responsible journalism that we’ll call The Rose/O’Keefe Standard of Journalistic Transparency, where the insidious practice of “heavily edited” interviews and reporting finally comes to an end. . .

As a show of good faith from the MSM in accepting this offer, we call on Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric to release every frame of video involving their 2008 interviews with then Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin.

(Previous post.)


New Obamacare waiver: Maine

March 9, 2011

If it’s necessary to exempt entire states from the health care “reform” act, do you think maybe it ought not be a federal law?


Challenge accepted

March 9, 2011

Ha haJames O’Keefe’e sting comes on the heels of NPR’s CEO challenging critics to find any evidence of bias at NPR.

(Previous post.)


Cop poses as public defender to get suspect to incriminate himself

March 8, 2011

One of the most outrageous violations of a suspect’s civil rights you’ll see, and committed with the knowledge of the sheriff and district attorney. (Via Instapundit.)


Defund NPR

March 8, 2011

The recent incendiary remarks by Ron Schiller, head of the NPR foundation, are just the latest reason for us, the taxpayers, to object to financing NPR. Their “tea bag” cartoon, their firing of Juan Williams, the George Soros grant, etc. are all good reasons as well. (ASIDE: NPR’s president admitted yesterday that they handled the Juan Williams controversy badly. Ya think?)

But let’s set aside all the bias and bigotry. The bottom line is there’s no good reason for the taxpayers to fund a domestic radio network. No one ever tries to defend it on the grounds that we don’t have enough domestic radio. Occasionally some will say it’s good to have commercial-free radio, but most people recognize that NPR’s “enhanced underwriting messages” are no different from commercials. Instead, most NPR supporters say that NPR provides a “different perspective”.  In short, NPR’s supporters like it for its content, and they are afraid that its content won’t survive in the free market of ideas.

Who is NPR’s audience? They are wealthier and more educated than the average American. NPR doesn’t report political affiliation, but it’s fair to assume its audience is more liberal and more Democratic than average. Thus, NPR is a regressive institution, a transfer payment from the masses to the gentry.

I think that NPR will survive being cut loose. After all, it’s audience is a privileged elite. But if I prove to be wrong, I think I’ll be able to manage my sorrow.

(Previous post.)


NPR hates us

March 8, 2011

In a new James O’Keefe video, we learn what NPR executives say about us when they are among friends. Ron Schiller, the head of the NPR foundation, described the Tea Party as

. . . not just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic, I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

He also showed that he is not only prejudiced against the Tea Party but actually has no idea whatsoever what they are about by asserting:

The current Republican party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian — and I wouldn’t even call it Christian; it’s this weird Evangelical kind of move.

(The Tea Party is interested in taxes, government spending, and personal liberty; not religion, and the exact opposite of involvement in people’s personal lives.)

He also said that NPR would be better off without federal funding (which might be the only true thing he said), lauded NPR’s handling of the Juan Williams debacle, and failed to object to the statement that “the Jews do kind of control the media”.

NPR is distancing itself from Schiller’s comments, and said that Schiller announced his departure from NPR last week for unrelated reasons. Despite that, NPR’s record makes pretty clear where they stand on the Tea Party.

UPDATE: I think Juan Williams has earned this. Also, Schiller is on “administrative leave” until he leaves for his new job.

UPDATE: Ron Schiller will not be taking his new job at the Aspen Institute.

Also, the NPR CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation), is leaving NPR. According to NPR’s media reporter, she didn’t quit; she was forced out by the board. (Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Hah: “Video Kills the Radio Czar“. Nice. (Via Ricochet.)


Dems bail on Berwick

March 8, 2011

Senate Democrats have reportedly decided not to move on President Obama’s re-nomination of Donald Berwick to run Medicare and Medicaid. I don’t find this surprising, Obama gave Berwick a recess appointment in the first place purely to avoid airing Berwick’s radical views in a public hearing. There’s no reason they’d be any more eager for it now than last year.


Court upholds religious freedom

March 8, 2011

The US Court of Appeals has ruled that the University of Wisconsin cannot discriminate against religious activities:

A key part of the ruling involved the university’s decision to fund broad categories of activities in the first place. The majority decision indicated that the university could have blocked student fees from going to the activities in question if it had blocked entire categories of support — no matter whether conducted by secular or religious groups. Once a university allows any category of student activity to receive support, however, the court ruled that it can’t bar support for that activity just because it may involve worship.

Sounds right.


Pittsburgh missing $25 million, maybe

March 7, 2011

Could Pittsburgh’s finances be any more scandalously opaque? Yes!

Last year’s pension battle between Pittsburgh City Council and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office has evolved into a $25 million mystery over how much money is available to buy police cars, pave roads and demolish old homes. . .

[City finance director Scott Kunka] said council’s 2011 budget — which diverted about $13.4 million in parking tax revenue to the foundering pension fund, the first installment in a controversial 30-year, $735.7 million bailout plan — provided no money for the capital fund.

He said the only capital money on hand is about $27 million earmarked for projects in past years but not yet spent. He said he’ll study the list of projects to see how much money might be redirected to meet this year’s needs. . .

Council’s budget director, Bill Urbanic, provided a different account.

In addition to the $27 million remaining from previously authorized projects, Mr. Urbanic said, the capital fund should hold about $25 million that’s not spoken for. He said the money was part of a large capital fund infusion the city made a few years ago and has been tapping annually since.

Mr. Kunka said that $25 million doesn’t exist and hinted that council might have to give up special projects . . . for more pressing initiatives. . .

Councilman William Peduto said council adopted a 2011 capital budget and that various documents reflect the money’s existence. He said the confusion highlights the urgent need for a new financial management system.

“When members of council can’t get information, then the public is kept in the dark, and it’s their money, not the mayor’s money,” Mr. Peduto said, suggesting the mayor’s office is hiding funds to give residents a skewed impression of the city’s finances and embarrass council members in an election year.

(Via That’s Church.)


Obama reinstates military tribunals

March 7, 2011

Remember the fierce moral urgency of change?

President Obama announced Monday that military trials will resume for detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, saying he wants to “broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice.”

The president issued an executive order outlining the changes Monday afternoon, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates rescinded a January 2009 ban against bringing new charges against terror suspects in the military commissions.

All that stuff about the horrible immorality of the military tribunals was merely political posturing? Who could have predicted such a thing?

Let’s review: Military tribunals are on. The Surge is retroactively a Democratic accomplishment. The troop withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan is kaput. Guantanamo is still open, with no sign of closing. The FISA Amendments Act (which approved warrantless wiretapping of foreign terrorists even when they call the United States) was passed with bipartisan support, with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton managing to miss the vote (and with announced support from Obama). And the unitary executive theory has been embraced by Democrats.

In short, now that they are in a position where they have to take responsibility for the consequences of their policies in the war on terror, Democrats have embraced nearly every Bush-era policy they used to condemn. In other words, virtually everything they ever said to attack President Bush’s anti-terror policies was simple demagoguery.


Iran to obtain African uranium

March 7, 2011

Well this story sure brings back memories:

A leaked intelligence report suggests Iran will be awarded with exclusive access to Zimbabwe’s uranium in return for providing the country with fuel.

The report – compiled by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog – said Iran’s Foreign and Co-operative Ministers had visited Zimbabwe to strike a deal, and sent engineers to assess uranium deposits. . . Uranium ore, or yellow cake, can be converted to a uranium gas which is then processed into nuclear fuel or enriched to make nuclear weapons.

This should be read keeping in mind that we have offered to give Iran nuclear fuel rods in exchange for giving up its enriched uranium. If they are going elsewhere for uranium, it’s because they have something other than nuclear power in mind.

But of course, no reasonable person contests any longer that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. John Hinderaker juxtaposes this with another story, noting that a new National Intelligence Estimate has finally retracted the infamous 2007 NIE’s absurd conclusion that Iran had halted its nuclear-weapons efforts. It’s not clear what took them so long; the revelation in 2009 of Iran’s secret nuclear installation at Qom, which is too small for civilian use, torpedoed the notion.

In fact, all public evidence is that there was no good intelligence to support the NIE’s conclusion even at the time. Obviously I’m not privy to any classified intelligence, but those who were have written that they were shocked at the time that the NIE was written so strongly. They believe that the NIE was written to be leaked. That would fit into a concerted effort by some at the CIA to undermine Bush administration policy, particularly in regard to Iran.

POSTSCRIPT: Returning to the African yellowcake, it’s hard not to compare with the Joe Wilson fiasco. In light of that, it’s worthwhile to remember that the British investigation ultimately concluded that British intelligence had credible information from multiple sources to support its conclusion that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium from Niger. Furthermore, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence discovered that, despite what Joe Wilson told the press, his own findings actually buttressed the case that Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa.


Snyder v. Phelps

March 6, 2011

It’s tempting to characterize the Supreme Court’s decision in Snyder v. Phelps — in which the high court upheld First Amendment protection for the Westboro jerks picketing at a US Marine’s funeral — as a straightforward free speech case in which the court declined to recognize a jackass exception to the First Amendment.

But on reading the opinion, I think that characterization is wrong. The opinion makes the decision into a much more close-run thing, hinging on whether the Westboro jerks are expressing opinions on matters of public concern or merely private concern. They find that the speech is on matters of public concern, and therefore it is protected. (Alito, to the extent to which I understand his dissenting opinion, seems to find that the speech is on matters of private concern, and so is unprotected.)

Where does this public/private concern test arise? The opinion cites Dun & Bradstreet v. Greenmoss Builders for the distinction, but Dun & Bradstreet seems to say something quite different. It says that in matters of private concern there is less protection for false statements; a plaintiff need not show “actual malice” in order to recover damages. But as referenced in Snyder, this morphs into the idea that opinion may be unprotected if it relates to matters of private concern.

I’d like to know where this doctrine was first extended to opinion. Was it just invented in Snyder v. Phelps, or was it invented in some case between Dun & Bradstreet (1985) and today?

Frankly, I find the idea very troubling. Apparently, If I go across the street and call my neighbor a jerk, that is a private concern so it is not protected by the First Amendment. There’s no law against that today (that I know of), but if the government wanted to pass such a law, this doctrine would allow it. This is not what the freedom of speech ought to mean.

POSTSCRIPT: As I said, I don’t really understand Alito’s dissenting opinion, but he seems to be working from the same distinction between public and private concerns as the majority opinion. Breyer’s concurring opinion is even more troubling: he says that the public-concern determination should not be the end of the analysis. Even speech related to public concerns could be restricted without violating the First Amendment, he says.

In this case, Breyer finds with the majority because of one of those horrible, ill-defined balancing tests he seems to like so much. Granted, there are some rare cases in which the government must restrict speech (e.g., the proverbial crowded theater) but nothing remotely like that is in play here. The fact that Breyer finds it necessary to mention the balancing test suggests that he thinks the balancing point is much closer than it should be.

UPDATE (4/29): Glenn Reynolds explained to me that a distinction in torts between public and private concern goes back to English common law. I still don’t quite understand it, but we weren’t speaking in a setting conducive to a more detailed discussion. But it definitely seems safe to say this is not a new doctrine.


Prison rape and the government

March 5, 2011

In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act created a commission to study the problem of prison rape and issue draft regulations to deal with it. The Justice Department would then have a year to review them and issue regulations. The commission issued its report in June 2009, but the Obama Justice Department is slow-walking its review and scaling back the commission’s recommendations.

I really do not understand it. Preventing brutality against prisoners would seem to be squarely within progressive ideology, so why is Eric Holder working against protecting prisoners? Why is President Obama letting him? This is not a rhetorical question; I wish I knew the answer. Are they responding to pressure from prison-guard unions?

One thing seems certain: of all the criticisms that can be leveled against progressive ideology, support for prison rape is not one of them, so they must be doing this for some political reason. I’ve written before that the Democratic party functions as an alliance of tribes, not as an ideological movement. This seems likely to be a prime example.

(Via Instapundit.)


US government creates fake people

March 4, 2011

Oh, I’m sure this won’t be abused:

The US government is offering private intelligence companies contracts to create software to manage “fake people” on social media sites. Private security firms employeed by the government have used the accounts to create the illusion of consensus on controversial issues.

(Via Instapundit.)


Rule of law, please?

March 4, 2011

Here is a good example of what is wrong with our regulatory state:

[EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson] was questioned [by a House subcommittee] on a variety of topics, ranging from the effects of the agency’s proposed climate rules to whether the EPA would regulate spilled milk.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) made the spilled-milk allegation, asking: “How can the EPA promulgate new rules like this? What’s next — sippy-cups in the House cafeteria?”

Jackson said the agency moved to exempt milk storage from proposed regulations on inland oil containment facilities. “We made it clear in our rules that we were not going to apply the rules to spilled milk,” she said.

(Via Instapundit.)

So these people are writing regulations so broad that they cover spilled milk, but not to worry: they won’t apply them in that case!

How about some freakin’ rule of law, dammit?!

Write the regulation so it means what it says! If you have to institute arbitrary exceptions to avoid obviously absurd results, you’ve written the regulation too broadly. You are giving the power to determine our fate to people, rather than to the law.

And that brings us back, once again, to health care nationalization. Philip Hamburger explains that the myriad waivers that the Obama administration is issuing for the new health care regime violate the Constitution, because they give the president the power to decide who does and who does not have to follow the law. (More here.)


Book review fail

March 3, 2011

An LA Times book reviewer lambastes a book based on a passage that doesn’t appear in the book. The passage apparently came from a humor website. The legacy media seems to be making that mistake a lot lately.

(Via Instapundit.)


Smackdown

March 3, 2011

Two weeks ago, the Obama administration asked Judge Vinson, the federal judge in Florida that struck down Obamacare, to order states to obey it nonetheless. I thought the administration was unlikely to prevail.

As it turns out, the administration did win, sort of, but they probably would rather they hadn’t. In a harshly worded order, Judge Vinson said he would stay his decision, but only for seven days, on the condition that the administration file an expedited appeal.

The administration, you see, has not yet gotten around to filing an appeal. In the meantime, however, they have simply proceeded as if the court had not ruled against them. When some states announced they would cease implementing the law, the administration asked the court to order them to resume, the ruling notwithstanding.

The administration presumably prefers to delay the ultimate resolution of the case by the Supreme Court for some political reason. The conditional stay forces the administration to do it now (p. 19):

As I wrote about two weeks after this litigation was filed: “the citizens of this country have an interest in having this case resolved as soon as practically possible” . . . That was nearly eleven months ago. In the time since, the battle lines have been drawn, the relevant case law marshaled, and the legal arguments refined. Almost everyone agrees that the Constitutionality of the Act is an issue that will ultimately have to be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. It is very important to everyone in this country that this case move forward as soon as practically possible.

He had sharp words for the administration’s failure to comply with his ruling (p. 14):

So to “clarify” my order and judgment: The individual mandate was declared unconstitutional. Because that “essential” provision was unseverable from the rest of the Act, the entire legislation was void. This declaratory judgment was expected to be treated as the “practical” and “functional equivalent of an injunction” with respect to the parties to the litigation. This expectation was based on the “longstanding presumption” that the defendants themselves identified and agreed to be bound by, which provides that a declaratory judgment against federal officials is a de facto injunction. To the extent that the defendants were unable (or believed that they were unable) to comply, it was expected that they would immediately seek a stay of the ruling, and at that point in time present their arguments for why such a stay is necessary, which is the usual and standard procedure. It was not expected that they would effectively ignore the order and declaratory judgment for two and one-half weeks, continue to implement the Act, and only then file a belated motion to “clarify.”

(Emphasis mine.) Also note that this is almost word-for-word consistent with the analysis I cited here.

He had even sharper words for the administration’s actions in light of their promise (on which they reneged) to obey a declaratory order (p. 11):

The defendants have suggested, for example, that my order and judgment could not have been intended to have the full force of an injunction because, if I had so intended, I would have been “required to apply the familiar four-factor test” to determine if injunctive relief was appropriate. . .

I did not undertake this four-factor analysis for a simple reason: it was not necessary. Even though the defendants had technically disputed that the plaintiffs could satisfy those four factors, the defendants had acknowledged in their summary judgment opposition brief that, if I were to find for the plaintiffs, separate injunctive relief would be superfluous and unnecessary. The defendants expressly assured the court that, in light of the “long-standing presumption that a declaratory judgment provides adequate relief as against an executive officer, as it will not be presumed that that officer will ignore the judgment of the Court,” any declaratory judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor “would [ ] be adequate to vindicate [the plaintiffs’] claims.”

And he found the administration’s profession of confusion frankly dishonest (footnote 6):

The defendants have suggested in reply to the plaintiffs’ response that the reason for the delay was due to the fact that my order “required careful analysis,” and it was only after this “careful review” that the defendants could determine its “potential impact” with respect to implementation of the Act. . . This seems contrary to media reports that the White House declared within hours after entry of my order that “implementation will proceed apace” regardless of the ruling.

His sharpest words were in a footnote in which he dispensed with the administration’s argument that they should be permitted to continue to apply the law despite it being struck down (footnote 5):

The two cited cases are plainly inapposite for the reasons identified by the plaintiffs. . . Mendoza-Martinez, for example, applied a statute that precluded single-judge district courts from enjoining an Act of Congress; but that statute was repealed by Congress thirty-five years ago, in 1976. The defendants’ selective quoting from those cases — to suggest that the federal government may simply ignore a declaratory judgment by a district court until the appeals process has fully run its course — borders on misrepresentation.

(Emphasis mine.)

That’s going to sting.


Lies, damn lies, and Paul Krugman

March 3, 2011

If we didn’t already know not to trust figures quoted by Paul Krugman, this would be an object lesson. Iowahawk breaks from his usual format and explains how Krugman’s latest attack on Texas education is full of crap. Alas, my beloved Economist is guilty as well.

Iowahawk debunks figures showing that Wisconsin education is superior to Texas education (Krugman uses dropout rates, the Economist uses standardized test scores), showing that they fail to control for a very important variable:

As a son of Iowa, I’m no stranger to bragging about my home state’s ranking on various standardized test. Like Wisconsin we Iowans usually rank near the top of the heap on average ACT/SAT scores. We are usually joined there by Minnesota, Nebraska, and the various Dakotas; Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire…

… beginning to see a pattern? Perhaps because a state’s “average ACT/SAT” is, for all intents and purposes, a proxy for the percent of white people who live there. In fact, the lion’s share of state-to-state variance in test scores is accounted for by differences in ethnic composition.

If you control for ethnicity in standardized tests, Iowahawk shows that Texas beats Wisconsin in 17 out of 18 categories. (Wisconsin won the last category by a statistically insignificant margin.)

If you control for ethnicity in dropout rates, Wisconsin does slightly better than Texas for white and hispanic students, but Wisconsin does much worse than Texas for black students. Texas beat the national average in all three categories; Wisconsin beat the national average in two, but did much worse for black students.

Paul Krugman is an economist. The Economist is presumably staffed by economists. As any economist knows, you need to control for hidden variables when analyzing data. Neither of them did that. Is that merely malpractice? Or dishonesty?

UPDATE: Iowahawk takes a few questions from people who don’t understand statistics.


Dangerous times

March 2, 2011

The head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, that thoroughly moderate and indeed secular organization, says that Egypt’s new government should be modeled after Iran’s. He also says that Egypt needs “innocent, honest and brave leaders” like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Claire Berlinski adds:

It’s weird how items like this always get reported in Fars [Iran’s official news agency], but not the New York Times, isn’t it?

Well, not really.


Irony

March 2, 2011

When their own funds are at stake, unions behave the same as everyone else. When a union needs to hire picketers, it hires non-union labor. This leads to delicious irony:

The union’s Mr. Garcia sees no conflict in a union that insists on union labor hiring nonunion people to protest the hiring of nonunion labor.


Insider trading

March 2, 2011

High-level officials at the Department of Education that have been attacking for-profit colleges and threatening them with new regulations, have, at the same time, been colluding with short-sellers. (Via Instapundit.)

It’s good to remember that it’s not always about progressive ideology with this bunch; sometimes it’s simple corruption.

POSTSCRIPT: Congress and its staff are exempt from insider trading rules, wouldn’t you know. I’m not sure about the executive branch.


Libya today

March 2, 2011

Two thoughts on Libya today:

First, it looks like there will be no no-fly zone. The military is saying that a no-fly zone would be “very complicated” to organize, and they are saying it in so many venues that it has to be a concerted message. I don’t know whether that message originates from the Pentagon or the White House, but I do know that the White House is ultimately in charge. Now, it may be true that a no-fly zone would be a very complicated operation, but the military organizes very complicated things all the time. If they were directed to do so, they would manage.

Second, how fortunate is it that Qaddafi gave up his nuclear program in 2003? (Yes, that was the Bush Administration’s doing.) Imagine what this civil war would look like if one or both sides had nuclear weapons.


Union thugs

March 2, 2011

Union protesters outside the Wisconsin capitol mob Glenn Grothman, a Republican state senator, and follow him, screaming, as he tries to get into the capitol building. Eventually they pin him into a dead end and won’t let him leave. A Democratic legislator among the protesters eventually intervenes, but even then it takes him several minutes to calm the crowd enough to allow Grothman to leave.

Watch as much of that video as you can stand. Then contrast that with the incident outside the US Capitol that got the media so exercised. In that case, Democratic representatives chose to enter the capitol building through the protesters (they could have more easily taken an underground subway from their offices). The protesters allowed them to pass without any appreciable delay, and do not follow them. The protesters certainly do not pin them into a corner where they need rescue.

Can you imagine the media reaction had the Tea Party protesters done anything remotely like what these union thugs did here?