Claire Berlinski reports that it looks like major election fraud is in the offing in Turkey.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Consumers are used to paying $60 each for videogames that run on consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Now the publisher behind the industry’s biggest videogame franchise—”Call of Duty”—is about to find out whether it can get them to pay a monthly bill, too.
Activision Blizzard Inc. plans to launch an online service called Call of Duty Elite this fall that will work with the next major edition of the game, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” and future installments of the hyper-realistic combat-simulation game. In a move industry executives describe as a first, Activision plans to charge a monthly subscription fee for the service, which will provide extra content that isn’t offered on game discs sold in stores, including downloadable map packs that give players new “Call of Duty” levels to play.
An Activision official added that multiplayer would continue to be free (with the purchase of the game, of course):
COD Elite will be free to all COD players – paid aspects TBD, and as promised, no charge for MP. Many more details in the AM.
It’s not hard to see why they would want to do this. There’s a lot of money in those monthly fees. It’s much harder to see what service they could offer that would be paying for. They would need to offer an ongoing service, like an MMO. (Even World of Warcraft, the most successful MMO, is a rip-off in my opinion. For a monthly fee they need to offer five-nines availability (or at least four-nines) and regular new content, and they are nowhere close to either.)
I can’t see paying a regular fee for occasional new content. Besides which, there’s no evidence that they can deliver good new content on a regular basis — the single-player content has been crappy in every COD game other than COD4.
I can’t see paying for multiplayer as it exists now. Currently, multiplayer games are run on individual consoles that communicate amongst themselves, with matchmaking done over Microsoft’s Xbox Live service. There’s no role there for them to play to justify a fee.
Electronic Arts has deliberately put themselves in the middle of the multiplayer experience by requiring that gamers play on their servers, but the way they’ve done it doesn’t actually provide any benefit to the gamer. Plus, it leaves gamers hostage to EA servers that go down. That’s not a model for a successful pay service.
The one thing I could see paying for is lag-free games. If they could offer that, I would consider paying for it. But they would need to provide five-nines availability and the same flexibility we have now. I doubt they can do it. Moreover, from the description it doesn’t sound like that’s what they are talking about.
UPDATE: This makes it sound as though Call of Duty Elite is something like a stats-tracking service. That strikes me as strange; I can’t see people paying more than a pittance for such a thing.
In the political battle over tort reform, Democrats argue that discouraging frivolous lawsuits creates a chilling effect that also hurts those with legitimate claims. Are they in earnest? Or are they just making a convenient argument to protect the rent-seeking efforts of trial lawyers?
We get a hint at the answer by considering the terms of the auto bailouts:
Vicki Denton died several years ago after the airbag in her 1998 Dodge Caravan minivan failed to deploy during a head-on collision in the Georgia mountains. In 2009, a jury found Chrysler responsible for her death because of a manufacturing defect, awarding her surviving son and other relatives $2.2 million.
The family was near collecting those damages on the eve of Chrysler’s government-brokered bankruptcy. Now, two years removed from a $12.5 billion bailout, Chrysler Group LLC still hasn’t paid the damages, and doesn’t have to.
The reason: The company’s restructuring allowed it to wash away legal responsibility for car-accident victims who had won damages or had pending lawsuits before its bankruptcy filing. The same holds true for General Motors Co., which discarded the liabilities as part of its own $50 billion bailout and restructuring. . .
Among the creditors who suffered most, car-accident victims represent a distinct mold. Unlike banks and bondholders, this group didn’t choose to extend credit to the auto makers. As consumers, they became creditors only after suffering injuries in vehicles they purchased.
When push came to shove, Democrats protected the labor unions, not accident victims.
Last month, Republican lawmakers wrote to President Obama asking him to promise not to give away our missile defense technology to the Russians — which obviously would help the Russians develop countermeasures. The White House refused to answer.
POSTSCRIPT: The subject of the linked article is a veiled threat by Dmitry Medvedev, but it was sufficiently veiled that I don’t understand it.
This sounds right:
The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.
Whether this matters is another question. We brush off acts of war nearly every day because it is politically inconvenient to recognize them, so I think the deterrent effect of this finding will be limited.
I can hardly think of any policy better suited to ending seismology research in Italy than this one:
Italian government officials have accused the country’s top seismologist of manslaughter, after failing to predict a natural disaster that struck Italy in 2009, a massive devastating earthquake that killed 308 people. A shocked spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) likened the accusations to a witch hunt. . .
Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial along with six other scientists and technicians, after failing to predict the future and the impending disaster.
Earthquakes are, of course, nearly impossible to predict, seismologists say. In fact, according to the website for the USGS, no major quake has ever been predicted successfully.
Congratulations Italy, you have guaranteed that no one in Italy will ever predict an earthquake. And, of course, the effects won’t be limited to seismology. After this, who would work in Italy in any field that could conceivably predict a disaster?
The Economist recently printed this letter (subscription required) from the Chinese Embassy in London. It’s really quite astonishing:
SIR – Your criticisms of China in the Ai Weiwei case were unwarranted, show a disrespect for our judicial sovereignty and are an attempt to interfere with our internal affairs (“China’s crackdown”, April 16th). Mr Ai, an artist, has made his comments before, through Twitter and interviews given to Western journalists, and he has travelled abroad to hold exhibitions. These activities were not restricted. Mr Ai is now under investigation for suspected economic crimes. The case is not a human-rights matter nor is it about freedom of speech, but rather it is a question of whether the rule of law should be upheld.
China is ruled by law, not by man; it is not a case of rule by a few. Over the past 30 years of reform China has achieved a great deal, not just in becoming the second-largest economy and improving the living standards of its people, but also in terms of much greater freedoms. Some people in the West assert that China only wants economic reform and not political reform. This is not true either in theory or in practice. . .
The letter goes on in this vein for three more paragraphs, and alludes to China’s respect for the rule of law two more times. It’s quite an amazing feat of chutzpah, since it is not even remotely true.
Case in point: Just a few weeks earlier the Economist ran a story (subscription required) on the death sentence handed down by a Chinese court to Wu Jing, a prominent entrepreneur. The most troubling thing about the case is that no one knows exactly what Wu did:
The case struck a nerve across the country, and not just because of the severity of the sentence and the fame of the accused. What she was convicted of was raising and pooling money outside the official system, which is common among Chinese entrepreneurs. There has been much speculation about why she was singled out. Perhaps it was that her promises to investors of annual returns of up to 80% seemed just too good, to the authorities, to be genuine. It is also possible that she lent on the money she received at even higher rates, and the borrowers, unable to pay, used their political connections to have her arrested.
China’s entrepreneurs are left with plenty to worry about. Many have to rely on a form of financing that now seems to be interpreted by the courts as a grave crime. The distinction between being a successful tycoon and being an enemy of the people has been blurred, a step back to the days when China was communist in more than just name.
This is not what the rule of law looks like.
A Federal court in Virginia has ruled a law prohibiting corporations from making political contributions is unconstitutional. The ruling draws from last year’s landmark Citizens United decision.
I agree with the decision as a matter of policy. I also agree that the law is unconstitutional, reasoning from first principles. But from existing case law, I don’t think that this holds up. Citizens United found it unconstitutional to limit the speech of people in corporations, but it didn’t find campaign finance restrictions unconstitutional. Under existing case law, direct political spending is speech, but political contributions are not. Consequently, I don’t think Citizens United applies.
Maryann Sumi, the Wisconsin judge who blocked Wisconsin’s budget repair bill, has delivered her entirely unsurprising ruling throwing out the bill. The surprising thing is that she ruled so soon, thereby allowing the appellate process — which will almost certainly overrule her — to proceed.
Christian Schneider explains that Sumi, having made public pronouncements regarding the issue, was under pressure to recuse herself. By issuing her ruling, she has made the recusal matter moot.
As a tactical matter, it probably makes sense. It gets the ruling in place before anything can be done regarding her improper role in the case. But it doesn’t address the underlying ethical issue in the slightest.
Good grief. Rarely is the hypocrisy so blatant as Democrats calling for the “nuclear option” to put an end to filibusters in light of the defeat of a judicial appointment.
Some are trying to allege that the Republicans are being hypocritical for defending the filibuster now that they are in the minority. That’s frankly dishonest. It’s one thing for the side that lost (the Republicans) to play by the rules they were unable to change. It’s quite another for the side that won (the Democrats) to change the rules they previously insisted upon, because those rules have since become inconvenient to them.
Krauthammer’s latest must be read in its entirety. Just to get you started:
Every Arab-Israeli negotiation contains a fundamental asymmetry: Israel gives up land, which is tangible; the Arabs make promises, which are ephemeral. The long-standing American solution has been to nonetheless urge Israel to take risks for peace while America balances things by giving assurances of U.S. support for Israel’s security and diplomatic needs.
Unfortunately, President Obama is now repudiating all those past assurances.
Interesting how demagoguery and hypocrisy tend to go hand-in-hand:
The new chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee was criticizing Republicans who opposed President Obama’s bailout of the American automakers union, oh, no, make that American automakers.
“If it were up to the candidates for president on the Republican side,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, “we would be driving foreign cars. They would have let the auto industry in America go down the tubes.”
So Michael O’Brien of The Hill newspaper went and checked what kind of automobile loyal-American-car-supporter Debbie Wasserman Schultz owns.
Yup, you guessed it — Japanese.
Another reason not to trust the government (any government): The Economist (subscription required) reports on a new study that finds that even well-meaning justice systems can be quite arbitrary:
The government might deliver even-handed justice, but you certainly can’t count on it.
The White House has a new rapid propaganda czar (“Director of Progressive Media & Online Response”). Jesse Lee’s job will be to respond to critical stories online, and encourage favorable stories in the “progressive media”. This sort of activity is ordinarily paid for by political parties, but now it will be paid for by our tax dollars.
Who is this guy? David Steinberg at the PJ Tatler took a look. The most interesting thing he found is that Lee’s wife was connected with (and, although we can’t be sure, was probably responsible for) MoveOn’s infamous “General Betray Us” ad.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has assembled a list of the seven best schools for free speech. My institution, Carnegie Mellon University, made the list. The other six were Arizona State, Dartmouth, William & Mary, Pennsylvania, Tennessee-Knoxville, and Virginia.
They also have a list of the twelve worst.
Okun’s Law says that recoveries should come with a drop in unemployment, but our last three recoveries have been jobless ones. The weakness of the current recovery explains some of it, but it can’t be a complete explanation. Is Okun’s Law dead? What did we do to it?
A little bit of googling found me an article from the New York Fed, written during the much-more-mild jobless recovery of 2001-2003. They found:
We advance the hypothesis that structural changes—permanent shifts in the distribution of workers throughout the economy—have contributed significantly to the sluggishness in the job market.
We find evidence of structural change in two features of the 2001 recession: the predominance of permanent job losses over temporary layoffs and the relocation of jobs from one industry to another. The data suggest that most of the jobs added during the recovery have been new positions in different firms and industries, not rehires. In our view, this shift to new jobs largely explains why the payroll numbers have been so slow to rise: Creating jobs takes longer than recalling workers to their old positions and is riskier in the current uncertain environment.
From a policy perspective, this suggests two things to me. First, there are a lot of reasons why the economy might be shifting from one industry to another, and there’s no way to stop that sort of trend (if we even wanted to). We should get it over with. What I mean by that is we should not be trying to prop up shrinking industries. We can’t do it in the long run, and our attempts serve only to push the adjustment process into recessions (reality sets in when times are tough).
Second, we should make it easier and less risky to create new jobs in new industries. That means encouraging investment and cutting regulation.
Unfortunately, our current administration is doing exactly the opposite of all the above.
A disgruntled soldier shops a story about the murder of three Guantanamo detainees to the media. His story is deemed implausible by 60 Minutes, ABC, NBC, and the New York Times. (None of whom, I might add, have shown any great reluctance to run weakly sourced stories attacking the military.) But the soldier persists, and eventually, despite the inconsistencies in his story, he gets Harper’s Magazine to run with it.
The resulting article wins the National Magazine Award for Reporting.
My question is, what is the award grading articles on? Obviously not the quality of the reporting.
Marc Thiessen writes in the Washington Post:
In a television interview last October, President Obama accidentally let slip a key element of his political philosophy: “We’re gonna punish our enemies, and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.” . . .
This incident is worth remembering as the president prepares to issue a far-reaching executive order that would require the government to collect detailed information about the political activities of anyone applying for a federal contract. . .
Why is this a bad idea? Recall that in August 1971, Richard Nixon’s White House counsel John Dean penned a confidential memorandum in which he proposed creating a list of “our political enemies.” The purpose of the exercise, according to Dean, was to “determine what sorts of dealings these individuals have with the Federal Government and how we can best screw them (e.g., grant availability, federal contracts.. . . etc.)” Since then, enormous steps have been taken to clean up the federal contracting process and ensure that government contracts are granted solely on the basis of merit. Obama’s proposed executive order would undermine that progress, reverse years of effort to remove politics from contracting decisions and create incentives for impropriety.
Let’s not forget, this bunch is from Chicago. To them, increasing the importance of politics and graft in government contracting is a feature, not a bug.
There is a lot to like about Herman Cain, but you can’t be taken seriously as a presidential candidate without a familiarity with basic foreign policy issues. That includes the issue of right-to-return in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, which Cain seems not to understand.
POSTSCRIPT: Judging by the question, Chris Wallace doesn’t entirely understand the issue either, as he spoke of Palestinians having been kicked out of Israel in 1948. A man ready to be president would be able to correct him.
(Via Michael Barone.)
Ed Morrissey comments on all the rapture nonsense:
I suspect that the media feeding frenzy Stanley describes has less to do with an impulse to lampoon the ridiculous than an impulse to ridicule Christianity in general. Despite Camping and his followers being an extremely small fringe group, the media has covered this story as if the entire Southern Baptist church made this prediction.
Indeed. I never heard of this guy before a few days ago. Since when does an obscure preacher’s prediction of the end of the world constitute top news?
Contrast this with the prediction in 2005 by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, that the end-times were less than two years away. That prediction, by a man eager to play a role in the end of the world, actually mattered. But almost no one ever heard of it.
Could New Hampshire become a right-to-work state? That would give them a huge competitive advantage in the northeast.
Cynthia McKinney does what Cynthia McKinney does:
A former U.S. congresswoman slammed U.S. policy on Libyan state TV late Saturday and stressed the “last thing we need to do is spend money on death, destruction and war.”
The station is fiercely loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and her interview was spliced with what appeared to be rallies in support of the embattled Libyan leader.
So she gives aid and comfort to the enemy during Democratic administrations as well as Republican ones. At least she’s consistent.
President Obama, at a fundraiser in Austin:
Internationally, we’ve gone through a Teutonic [sic] shift in the Middle East that could have enormous ramifications for years to come.
It’s amusing to picture what a Teutonic shift might look like.
President Obama “clarifies” that when he called for a Israel to pull back to its 1967 borders, he meant “a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”
The Philadelphia police have announced that they are not going to respect the law:
With a shocking altercation between Philadelphia police and a 25-year-old IT worker putting the spotlight back on open-carry gun laws, local authorities are warning gun owners that they will be “inconvenienced” if they carry unconcealed handguns in the city. Lt. Raymond Evers, a spokesman for the city police, told FoxNews.com that gun owners who open carry, which is legal in the city, may be asked to lay on the ground until officers feel safe while they check permits.
This is going to cost Philadelphia a lot of money they don’t have.
As of today, President Obama is out of compliance with the War Powers Act, which requires the president to obtain congressional approval for military action within 60 days. Absent such approval, the president must terminate the military action after 60 days, unless he certifies in writing that “unavoidable military necessity” requires the continued use of military force, in which case the president may delay the withdrawal for at most 30 additional days.
Sixty days after the opening of the Libyan campaign, President Obama has not even tried to obtain Congressional approval, nor has he certified “unavoidable military necessity.”
Of course, it is an open question whether the War Powers Act is constitutional. But presidents usually follow the rules anyway, even while maintaining they are not required to do so. Indeed, the Obama administration pledged to act “consistent” with the Act less than two weeks ago.
Personally, I think it’s a tough call whether the Act is constitutional or not. In any case, I think the best policy is to preserve the useful ambiguity that has largely prevailed since 1973, in which presidents have followed the Act’s requirements, but have maintained they were not required to do so. For Obama to abandon that policy, for no apparent reason at all, is foolish.
POSTSCRIPT: It is interesting to note that Obama is the second president to violate the War Powers Act. The first was our last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. In 1999, President Clinton continued his Kosovo campaign for over 60 days without obtaining approval. His legal team argued that Congress had implicitly given approval by funding the campaign, but that argument was absurd, since the Act says explicitly that funding cannot be construed as approval:
Authority . . . shall not be inferred — from any provision of law . . . including any provision contained in any appropriation Act, unless such provision specifically authorizes the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities . . .
A proposal to ban the circumcision of male children in San Francisco has been cleared to appear on the November ballot, setting the stage for the nation’s first public vote on what has long been considered a private family matter.
But even in a city with a long-held reputation for pushing boundaries, the measure is drawing heavy fire. Opponents are lining up against it, saying a ban on a religious rite considered sacred by Jews and Muslims is a blatant violation of constitutional rights. . .
If the measure passes, circumcision would be prohibited among males under the age of 18. The practice would become a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail. There would be no religious exemptions.
The mere fact that the measure could make the ballot tells us a lot about what “tolerance” really means in San Francisco. It will be very interesting to see if it passes.
Research conducted by Auto Trader suggests that money, not the environment, is the main driving force behind motorists’ interest in eco-friendly vehicles, at least in Great Britain. The majority of UK motorists (73 percent) would consider “going green” to save money on fuel, compared to just 41 percent of drivers admitting that environmental concerns would motivate them to purchase a greener vehicle.
This is good (if unsurprising) news for an efficient economy. In a competitive market, the best measure of the resources expended to make a product is price. When people base decisions on price, they are optimizing resource allocation.
The thing about price is it values all resources even-handedly, according to their scarcity. When environmentalists push us to spend more for a green product, they are encouraging sub-optimal resource allocation. Specifically, they want us to use increase our use of more-expensive (and therefore more scarce) resources in certain categories (such as labor or precious metals), in order to conserve less-expensive (and therefore less scarce) resources in other categories (such as oil). Green advocates feel that the latter categories are more important despite being less scarce.
President Obama says he is still working on gun control, “under the radar”, says Sarah Brady. Fortunately, I don’t think “under the radar” will work. The gun-rights community is paying close attention, and whatever Obama tries to sneak in by regulation will end up as a political issue.
Medicare and Social Security are in even worse shape than we thought.
When Osama Bin Laden was killed two weeks ago, a lot of reporters and commentators had trouble with the name, confusing Osama with Obama. On one level it’s understandable; the two names are just one character apart, and we say Obama’s name much more often.
But here’s my problem. Osama is the terrorist’s first name. Why did those people feel like they are on a first-name basis with Osama Bin Laden in the first place? Needless to say, this man was not our friend. If they had called him Bin Laden, they couldn’t have made the mistake.
I think the proliferation in our culture of first names for people we don’t know is unfortunate, but times do change and far be it for me to stand in the way. But can we at least eschew friendly terms with villains?
It’s bad enough that Ann Althouse’s blog was shut down completely for a full day, and damaged for days after that, due to completely unfounded spam accusations. It’s worse still that Althouse had to suffer abuse from Google employee/volunteer “nitecruzr” (seriously!). But people are losing access to their Google accounts for criticizing nitecruzr? Absolutely unacceptable.
I’ve moderated my distrust of Google over the past year, but this is a good reminder of why I distrusted them in the first place.
Of the latest batch of Obamacare waivers, 1 in 5 went to Nancy Pelosi’s Congressional district. With 435 Congressional districts (not counting DC), it seems hard to explain this by chance alone.
What do we, the public, know about the decision process for waivers? Anything at all?
The U.N. nuclear agency is investigating fears from its experts that their cell phones and lap tops have been hacked into by Iranian officials looking for confidential information.
Diplomats tell The Associated press that the hardware apparently was tampered with while left unattended during inspection tours in the Islamic Republic.
This is telling. The IAEA left their stuff unattended while visiting Iran. Unless you’re an idiot (which, I admit, is possible), you only do that if you trust your host.
In 2005 the Senate decided to keep judicial filibusters in order in “extraordinary circumstances”. Democrats, by and large, supported the filibuster, and Republicans opposed it, but a few Republicans crossed the aisle to save the maneuver.
As much as the Democrats might have hoped for it, Republicans obviously were not going to disarm unilaterally and concede the filibuster as a maneuver for Democrats only. The GOP wanted to change the rules, but the Democrats won. And if there were ever extraordinary circumstances, this was the time.
Goodwin Liu was an astonishing appointment to the US Court of Appeals:
A legal scholar who has never been a judge and has little experience practicing law, Liu occupies a place on the far left side of the legal spectrum. To take just one example, Republicans are fond of repeating Liu’s assertion that the Constitution guarantees the right to “expanded health insurance, child care, transportation subsidies, job training, and a robust earned income tax credit.”
His testimony against Samuel Alito was so intemperate — not to mention false — that even he admits it was wrong (although he never figured that out until he was facing confirmation himself). Worse, he believes that the Constitution requires liberal policies. Worse still, he is actually willing to proclaim those beliefs openly.
In short, Liu is a politician. As Lindsey Graham said, he should be running for office, not taking a seat on the bench. Now he will have the chance. I hope he loses.
Run an op-ed the White House disapproves of, and get yourself kicked out of the White House press pool.
CBS News has learned that virtually all the top ATF managers in Phoenix involved in the controversial “Fast and Furious” operation have been reassigned and replaced. The shake-up comes in the wake of the gunwalking scandal in which ATF allegedly allowed more than 2500 weapons to hit the streets or “walk.”
During the last administration, poorly-drawn, poorly-reasoned, vitriolic cartoons attacking the president had no trouble being published. Now, Ted Rall complains that he can’t find a market for his crap.
Double standard? Sure. But on the bright side, Obama’s election has improved the quality of editorial pages everywhere, so that’s one thing he’s doing right.
A truly execrable decision from the Indiana supreme court says that people may not resist the police entering their homes, even when the police entry is illegal:
Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes. In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer’s entry.
“We believe … a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,” David said.
The Magna Carta reference is no hyperbole; the opinion itself acknowledges it:
The English common-law right to resist unlawful police action existed for over three hundred years, and some scholars trace its origin to the Magna Carta in 1215.
The US Supreme Court has also upheld the right:
If the officer had no right to arrest, the other party might resist the illegal attempt to arrest him, using no more force than was absolutely necessary to repel the assault constituting the attempt to arrest.
This, by the way, is exactly what the victim here did. He didn’t shoot at the police, or anything reckless like that. He physically blocked the door, and when the police tried to force their way in, he pushed back.
(Via the Corner.)
POSTSCRIPT: The opinion pretty much admits to judicial activism:
We believe however that a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.
What follows is not a legal argument, but, as promised, a public policy argument. But here’s what is what is particularly troubling about when the courts change the law. We are protected from ex post facto laws passed through the political process; the legislature cannot make a law that retroactively criminalizes something that happened before the law was passed. But we have no such protection when the courts change the law. In this case, the court admits that it is changing the law, and the victim goes to jail as a result:
In sum, we hold that Indiana [sic] the right to reasonably resist an unlawful police entry into a home is no longer recognized under Indiana law. Accordingly, the trial court‘s failure to give Barnes‘s proffered jury instruction on this right was not error.
Frank J is dissatisfied with the quality of our enemies:
America has been in a slump for a long time. We just can’t get our act together and be the shining city on the hill we used to be, and I think a big part of that is terrorists. Not terrorism; terrorists — in that they are our big enemy right now. The fact is, to achieve great heights, America needs a great villain to overcome, and as long as our big enemy is a bunch of primitive thugs servicing themselves in barren compounds, we’re going to be stuck in a rut.
Read the whole thing for a smile.
But seriously, although I enjoy mocking our enemies, I don’t agree with Frank’s thesis. Terrorists do pose an existential threat to our way of life. It’s true that the terrorists and their state sponsors are much weaker than any enemy we’ve faced before, but unlike the Soviets, we have no way to deter them. When they start using nuclear weapons against us (and we’re running out of time to prevent it), they cannot destroy our country, but they can destroy the open society that we hold dear.
The Philadelphia police arrested a man and subject him to verbal abuse for legally carrying a firearm. They released him when they found they hadn’t a leg to stand on, but when he posted recordings of the incident they charged him with disorderly conduct:
The Police Department heard about the YouTube clips. A new investigation was launched, and last month the District Attorney’s Office decided to charge Fiorino with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct because, a spokeswoman said, he refused to cooperate with police.
This is going to cost Philadelphia a lot of money. I hadn’t heard they had money to waste.
POSTSCRIPT: The police also says that their officers weren’t trained in the relevant gun laws. I’m not sure if it’s worse if that’s true or false.
The New York Times isn’t giving up, but their complaints are starting to become a little thin:
In downtown Baghdad, a police headquarters has been painted two shades of purple: lilac and grape. The central bank, a staid building in many countries, is coated in bright red candy cane stripes. . .
Baghdad has weathered invasion, occupation, sectarian warfare and suicide bombers. But the latest scourge, tastelessness, may prove the toughest to overcome.
An Instapundit reader remarks:
When all the New York Times can complain about is the color of buildings in Baghdad, can we officially say that the war was a success?
BONUS: Perhaps sensing that their thesis was a bit overwrought, the NYT has changed the final sentence of the quote to “But now it faces a new scourge: tastelessness.”
I waited a little while to repeat this, since so much of what we were told about the attack that killed Bin Laden turned out to be wrong, but it seems pretty solid now:
A stash of pornography was found in the hideout of Osama bin Laden by the U.S. commandos who killed him, current and former U.S. officials said on Friday.
The pornography recovered in bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive, according to the officials, who discussed the discovery with Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Personally, I don’t find this surprising. We’ve seen since 9/11 that terrorists have often indulged in their forbidden vices, if they lived in a place where they could. If someone can rationalize mass murder, we can hardly be shocked that they can rationalize the little things as well.
POSTSCRIPT: However, it seems that a lot of people just can’t accept that Islamic extremist thugs could also be complete hypocrites. When I was googling up the link above — reporting that Mohammed Atta, among others, liked to hang out at strip clubs — I was surprised to find that it is now apparently a tenet of 9/11 trutherism that Atta’s strip club visits never happened. I simply don’t understand those people.
If this report is accurate, the NLRB’s horrifying decision to try to block Boeing’s decision to locate a factory in South Carolina is not some crazy outlier, but the first wave of a deliberate push by President Obama’s NLRB to give unions a veto over company decisions.
Atlas Shrugged is starting to feel a lot less alarmist than it used to feel.
If this Gallup poll is accurate, Republicans have the upper hand in the debt ceiling debate.
With the budget, Democrats can demagogue specific line items to attack budget cuts. As Milton Friedman famously pointed out, special interests are more passionate about protecting their specific perks than the general interests are about cutting them all. But with the debt ceiling there are no specific items to demagogue; the debate is on general terms, which favors fiscal conservatives.
The Economist comments on the Kahn affair:
LEAVE aside the details of the allegations against Dominique Strauss Kahn, the head of the IMF (his lawyer indicates he will plead not guilty). Just note that the New York Times states that he was staying in a $3,000 a night suite and was taking a first class flight to Paris. This is the IMF, the body that imposes austerity on indebted countries and is funded by global taxpayers. And this was the likely leading socialist candidate for the French presidency.
Yes, but how is this unusual? You see this whenever you look at the amenities of the ruling class. Socialism’s true purpose is to protect the privilege of the nomenklatura. Everything else is just propaganda.
Mike Huckabee will not run for president. This is good news. I would vote for him over Obama, but I wouldn’t be happy about it.
It’s hard to find anything to disagree with in this Wall Street Journal editorial, criticizing Mitt Romney for his glaringly inconsistent position on health care nationalization. I really want to like Romney, but he’s weak on my number one domestic issue.
It’s not too late for him to reverse course on this. No one remembers flip-flops from the primary season, and the ever-lengthening primary season is moving them ever-further from election day. But he needs to get on with the flop. The WSJ’s advice for how to handle this is good, I think.
The Democrats who control the Illinois legislature called a vote on a budget bill that no one had seen.
The NLRB is suing the state of Arizona to block a new law that guarantees a secret ballot in union certification elections. To put it more clearly: the Obama administration is suing to deny workers a secret ballot.
The New York Times is accusing Facebook of hypocrisy, advocating the use of real names in social networking but making anonymous attacks against Google.
The criticism is fair enough, but this shouldn’t surprise us. Corporations, like governments, are run by fallen humans and you’re making a mistake if you expect too much of them.
In January, the Guardian and Al Jazeera revealed a collection of Palestinian documents that purported to shed light on the Palestinian Authority’s negotiations with Israel. Their reporting on the documents painted the Palestinians as reasonable and the Israelis as intransigent. But both the Guardian and Al Jazeera are openly hostile to Israel, so this may have colored their selection of documents to publicize.
Now an article in the Jerusalem Post does indeed paint a different picture. The Post reports that a full reading of the documents, rather than the ones cherry-picked by the Guardian and Al Jazeera, actually supports Israel and casts doubt on the Palestinians’ offer of concessions. There’s an important caveat: the documents were reviewed by an organization that seems basically unknown.
The article is pretty much unexcerptable, so I’ll pick one example:
THE KEY concession that the Palestinians were reported to have made was control over Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Al Jazeera broadcast that the Palestinians had offered to “let Israel keep all but one of the Jewish enclaves it built in East Jerusalem,” referring to Har Homa, and settlements over the Green Line amounting to some 2 percent of the land controlled by Jordan between 1948 and 1967.
But Christians for Fair Witness found that the Palestine Papers did not indicate that Abbas made a counter- offer to Olmert’s August 31 proposal. They revealed documents indicating that the Palestinians had decided ahead of the final Olmert-Abbas meeting on September 16 not to issue a counter-offer at that meeting and that Abbas had been advised by his team to wait to respond until George W. Bush was out of the White House.
A December 2, 2008, memo indicated that in response to Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Welch’s question about Olmert’s offer, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Welch that “We offered a 2% swap that would allow 70% of the settlers to remain.”
But the 2% figure is not mentioned at all in either a September 16, 2008, memo of “talking points” for Abbas at his final meeting with Olmert, or a September 22, 2008, memo of “Palestinian Talking Points Regarding Israeli Proposal.” Therefore, it appears that the 2% figure did not play a part in the Palestinian thinking about possible responses to Olmert’s package offer. Moreover, there is no indication whatsoever of this figure having been presented to Olmert post-September 16, 2008.
It’s a little hard to know what to make of this. The Guardian and Al Jazeera are hostile to Israel. The Jerusalem Post is generally friendly to Israel, of course, but as a western newspaper it is often sharply critical of its government. However it wasn’t the Post that did the analysis, but this unknown Christian organization. I was able to find the September 16, 2008 memo (mentioned above) myself using the Al Jazeera search tool, and it does say what the organization claims. But other documents mentioned in the article were hard to find. I wish a mainstream news outlet would do an independent review.
(Via the PJ Tatler.)
There’s some very delicate phrasing in Timothy Geithner’s recent talk about “looking forward to the full repayment of our loan to [Chrysler]”. By “our loan” he doesn’t mean all of our loans to Chrysler. He means one of our loans to Chrysler — the $7.1 billion loan that we’re still hoping to see paid back. The other loans, on which we’ve lost a combined $3.5 billion, that money is gone for good.
(Via Kaus Files.)
POSTSCRIPT: I wasn’t able to locate the document that The Truth About Cars shows in the link above, but the Congressional report on the auto bailout has the same information on page 52.
Eugene Volokh notes a troubling case in which a court agreed to enforce a religious provision in a man’s will. This is in apparent violation of existing case law which forbids the court to make religious decisions.
If you wanted to undermine freedom of religion, can you think of a better way than expanding the notion of religion to include every sort of taste or opinion? A UK tribunal has ruled that supporting public broadcasting is a form of religion.
The Boston Herald reports:
President Obama could soon have the ability to personally text message every single cell-phone-toting American -— whether they like it or not — with “critical emergency alerts” under a new federal program that civil libertarians and political opponents say is a Big Brother-like intrusion posing a high risk of political abuse.
Federal officials in New York yesterday unveiled the three-tiered emergency alert system that would blast messages about Amber Alerts, impending weather disasters and terror threats to mobile devices.
Cell-phone users could opt out of most alerts if they want to, but not the texter-in-chief’s presidential pages.
“It’s like the state rep sending out mailings about how wonderful they are,” said Tad Kasperowicz of the Quincy Tea Party. “President Obama says,’Here come the high winds and the thunderstorms’ and it’s not really an emergency, but, hey, he gets his name out to every cell phone in the area. I can see that. Absolutely. There’s potential for abuse there.”
Potential? I’d say near-certainty. Politicians already exploit every avenue they can find to get their names in front of you, from Congress’s franking privileges to governors stamping their name on billboards at every entrance to the state. Of course they will abuse this, but they’ve never had such an invasive tool before.
WikiLeaks is cracking down on leaks:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange now makes his associates sign a draconian nondisclosure agreement that, among other things, asserts that the organization’s huge trove of leaked material is “solely the property of WikiLeaks,” according to a report Wednesday. . .
The confidentiality agreement (.pdf), revealed by the New Statesman, imposes a penalty of 12 million British pounds– nearly $20 million — on anyone responsible for a significant leak of the organization’s unpublished material.
The appeal of the Virginia lawsuit against Obamacare will be heard by an all-Democratic panel, so we can expect the lower court decision will probably be overturned. The more interesting thing will be to see what reasoning they come up with.
Then it will be on to the next-level appeal. And the appeal of multi-state lawsuit heard in Florida is still pending. It’s a pity the Supreme Court declined to take the case up early.
South Carolina is taking matters into its own hands. Who knows if this will stand up in court, but it’s great that they are trying. If nothing else, it will be good to see the federal government have to defend the light bulb ban.
Peter Kirsanow has a question for the president:
You extended deserved praise and congratulations to the SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden. You did not, however, extend praise and congratulations last year to the SEAL team that captured Ahmed Abed — the most wanted al-Qaeda terrorist in Iraq — responsible for killing and mutilating a number of Americans. Instead, three members of that SEAL team — Officer Second Class Matt McCabe and Petty Officers Julio Huertas and Jonathan Keefe — were tried because Abed claimed he’d been slapped by one of the operators. All three SEALs were acquitted.
Will you now praise and congratulate McCabe, Huertas, and Keefe for capturing Abed? If not, why not?
Remember when Democrats’ rallying cry was “count every vote”? That was then.
Now, Joanne Kloppenberg, the defeated union candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court, is working to get as many votes thrown out as she can. In one instance, she succeeded in getting 18 votes from cloistered nuns thrown out because they were missing witness signatures. (That gained her 10 of the seven thousand votes she needs.)
My opinion has always been that the election rules should be applied punctiliously. But it certainly is no good when the rules are applied strictly in only one direction.
. . . in 2001, reports the Guardian:
The US and Pakistan struck a secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil similar to last week’s raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, the Guardian has learned.
The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.
Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.
This isn’t the least bit surprising.
There was a time when Paul Krugman was serious. In 1996 he wrote:
Generous benefits for the elderly are feasible as long as there are relatively few retirees compared with the number of taxpaying workers — which is the current situation, because the baby boomers swell the workforce. In 2010, however, the boomers will begin to retire. . . The budgetary effects of this demographic tidal wave are straightforward to compute, but so huge as almost to defy comprehension.
. . .
In fact, the so-called ”trust funds” are making barely any provisions for the future. In another spectacular statistic, Mr. Peterson notes that if Medicare and Social Security had to obey the same rules that apply to private pensions, the reported Federal deficit this year would be not its official $150 billion, but roughly $1.5 trillion.
In short, the Federal Government, however solid its finances may currently appear, is in fact living utterly beyond its means. While the present generation of retirees is doing very nicely, the promises that are being made to those now working cannot be honored.
Today, demagoguing entitlements is the core Democratic strategy. Now Krugman toes the line, taking the trust fund very seriously and smearing anyone concerned about entitlement (such as 1996 Krugman) as dishonest:
Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 — and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come. . .
So where do claims of crisis come from? To a large extent they rely on bad-faith accounting. In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don’t count — because hey, the program doesn’t have any independent existence; it’s just part of the general federal budget — while future Social Security deficits are unacceptable — because hey, the program has to stand on its own.
I don’t even understand what he is alleging that dishonest people like me and 1996 Krugman are saying. Yes, the trust fund is an accounting fiction. Social Security takes in tax money and spends it on benefits. For decades it has run a surplus doing so. (Those surpluses “don’t count”? What is that even supposed to mean?) Now it is running a deficit. Soon — long before the “trust fund” runs out of imaginary money — it will be running a massive, unaffordable deficit.
I paid $4 per gallon for gas yesterday. The Obama administration’s energy policy is working.
Yes, it’s working. Because this is exactly what they said they wanted to accomplish, according to the Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu:
“Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” Mr. Chu, who directs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in September.
The Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, has also explained that it is his aim to “coerce people out of their cars.”
Neither of the aims have fully succeeded yet, but they are making excellent progress:
Note how the period of soaring gas prices coincides almost precisely with the Obama administration.
I’ve been puzzled by how the Obama administration could take such an unambiguously good event as the death of Osama Bin Laden, and roll out the news so ineptly, but Victor Davis Hanson explained it in the latest Ricochet podcast.
If this had happened during the Bush administration, the story would have been: we went in and shot him, he’s dead, ooo-rah. There would not have been any hand-wringing about whether this was the right thing to do. But the Obama administration is different. They are profoundly uncomfortable with extra-judicial killings. Their allies in the media attacked US special forces (which includes the team that took out Bin Laden) as the Dick Cheney’s assassination squad. In 2009, Eric Holder was even unable to answer the question of whether Bin Laden, if captured, would need to be read a Miranda warning.
As a result, a story that would have been good enough as-is for President Bush needed to be embellished for President Obama. Hence we were told he was taken in a firefight, he was resisting, using a human shield, etc. All of that was to provide an excuse for why we didn’t take him alive, read him his rights, and whisk him off to a civilian jail. All of that was to provide answers to questions no one outside the far-far-left would ask. Unfortunately for Obama, his administration has internalized the far-far-left.
Bob Zubrin has a proposal for ending gerrymandering. He proposes that a quantitative measure of the compactness (or conversely, the irregularity) of legislative districts be devised (such as the ratio of the area to the square of the circumference). Then both parties submit a districting plan and the more compact (less irregular) plan wins.
I’ve had a similar thought, but why limit it to the parties? Let’s “crowd-source” it: let anyone at all introduce a plan and take the best one.
Canada’s CBC network is in hot water for reporting election results. Canada has a law that bars the media from reporting election results in any province in which the polls are still open — a law that becomes more of a farce every year since results are easily obtainable via the internet.
Sounds like I’m not a fan of TomTom:
GPS mapping company TomTom apologized after it admitted selling data collected from its customers to Dutch police, the Financial Times reported Friday. The Amsterdam-based company sold data to cops in The Netherlands that was then used to help police set speed traps for motorists.
To be clear, TomTom wasn’t selling personally identifiable information (at least, such is not alleged), but what they did do is clearly against the interests of their customers.
No. Some day, perhaps, but today? No respectable scientist would suggest such a thing.
But Think Progress seems to think that it is. And here’s the kicker, they say so with great disdain for the anti-science bent of the “deniers”.
Those who pay attention to the Middle East are familiar with the phenomenon in which the region’s villains tell different stories to western audiences (in English) and domestic audiences (in Arabic). They get away with this because the western media almost never reports speeches given in Arabic. Whether this is because they are just too lazy, or because, for political reasons, they don’t actually want to expose these villains, is not clear. (Probably it’s some of both.)
Thus we had the spectacle in which Yassir Arafat was perfectly open about how the Oslo treaty was a ploy for the PLO to gain what it could, after which they would return to war (which is exactly what happened) — but he only said it in Arabic so it was not widely reported.
Thus, when the Muslim Brotherhood (the “moderate” and “secular” group likely to end up in control of Egypt) publicly laments the passing of Osama Bin Laden, they just do it in Arabic and most in the west will never hear about it.
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting map of Osama Bin Laden’s compound.
The Obama administration is floating a mileage tax, supported by mandatory GPS tracking.
An administration spokeperson adamantly denies that this is an administration proposal. I’m glad of that, but it’s bad enough that someone liked the idea enough to have a bill drafted.
UPDATE (5/13): A reader points out the Apple press release. I’m still puzzled, though. The press release says:
The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it’s maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location . . .
But this contradicts the Guardian’s story:
The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone’s recorded coordinates along with a timestamp . . .
I wonder who’s right. (Also, Apple has a history of collecting location information.)
Canadians have elected Stephen Harper to a third term, and (according to projections) his first majority government. The Liberals and the separatist Bloc Quebecois were decimated. The openly socialist NDP will become the opposition party, which should lead to clarified debates in Parliament.
All in all, today was a good day.
Fars (Iran’s official news agency) gets its tin-foil hats on:
The US has killed the Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, in a bid to prevent any possible leakage of intelligence and information about the US-Al-Qaeda joint terrorist operations, a senior Iranian legislator underscored on Monday.
(Via Gateway Pundit.)
The Associated Press is reporting that the information that resulted in Osama Bin Laden’s discovery and killing arose from interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi, both of whom were held in secret CIA prisons and subjected to enhanced interrogations.
The New York Times is also reporting that the name was given by Guantanamo detainees. Whether the NYT is referring to Mohammed and al-Libi (who were later transferred to Guantanamo) or someone else isn’t clear.
Either way, the policy of obtaining information from terrorist detainees has been unambiguously vindicated.
I was off the internet last night so I didn’t get the news until this morning. I’m very pleased to see justice done.
That said, we need to remember that the war on terror isn’t about vengeance for 9/11. It’s about dismantling the terror networks and their state sponsors so they can’t hurt us again. (The administration has occasionally been confused on this point.)
But that’s for tomorrow. Today we celebrate.