The “Protect IP” bill

July 28, 2011

The Protect IP bill is a terrible idea and it needs to go away. It would allow the government to shut down web sites without any due process, and it would break the Internet for good measure. In short, this thing is a dream for tyrants. Kill it.

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Tomorrow’s news today

July 28, 2011

President Obama’s attack on the LIFO accounting rule (removing which would result in a massive tax increase and accounting headache) is finally getting some attention. I had the story two years ago.


Walker to Wisconsin teachers: you’re welcome

July 28, 2011

Wisconsin’s budget repair act saves teachers from layoffs.

UPDATE: An interesting note from that article: the only districts with large layoffs were the two that rushed through a contract before the budget repair act became law.


The debt ceiling debate

July 28, 2011

I’m not ignoring the debt ceiling debate. But things are moving so quickly, and with me only finding time to blog once a week or so, I just can’t keep up with it.

I will say though, that the idea that the President could go ahead and borrow more money without the approval of Congress was stupid. More than stupid, appalling. I’m glad it went away. Mostly. Apparently some Democrats are still pushing the notion.


Scientific literacy and global warming

July 28, 2011

A new paper (well, new a month ago) finds the more scientifically literate a person is, the less likely he is to believe that global warming poses a catastrophic threat.

Now, as much as global warming skeptics would like to draw the conclusion that the scientific evidence opposes global warming, that’s not what the study finds. It finds that in regard to the issue of global warming, scientific literacy tends to reinforce a person’s pre-existing biases: those predisposed to skepticism become more skeptical, and vice versa. The effect is stronger for the skeptics, which accounts for the overall finding.

What is interesting is that the effect does not appear to apply in general. In regard to nuclear power, the more scientifically literate a person is, the less likely he is to believe that nuclear power poses a safety risk, regardless of the person’s predispositions.

The paper notes that, in regard to nuclear power, the effect once again is stronger for those predisposed to think nuclear power is safe. Consequently, greater scientific literacy leads to greater polarization, just as with global warming. This leads the authors to the conclusion of their paper, which I won’t go into.

But curiously — unless I missed it when I skimmed the paper — they didn’t discuss, or even conjecture, why the effect was different for global warming and for nuclear power.

My guess is there are two effects being mixed together. One effect is the degree to which the scientific evidence points in one clear direction and people find that evidence convincing, and the second effect is the polarization effect that the paper emphasizes. The paper shows clearly that the first effect is not the whole story. But it seems likely to me that in nuclear power, the scientific evidence is so compelling that it dominates the polarization effect. Hence both populations move in the same direction. For global warming the polarization effect dominates, so both populations move in opposite directions.

This makes sense to me, because my reading of the climate science is that it does not support strong conclusions about the future either way. Global warming could be dangerous, or not; we just don’t know.

This is all conjecture. Hopefully someday someone will tease those effects apart.  But the one thing this study says clearly is that skepticism of global warming is not the result of scientific illiteracy.


Burgeoning tyranny

July 28, 2011

As bad as health care nationalization is, it could be worse. Under Obamacare, at least people will still be able to hire a doctor and pay them out-of-pocket, if they can afford to do so. Under Canada’s national health care, it is illegal for an individual to pay a doctor. In Canada, you are required to get your health care from the government or not at all. (Or, as the particularly wealthy do, go abroad, outside Canadian jurisdiction.)

How long will this freedom last? Not long, if the Center for American Progress has its way. They want the IPAB (Obamacare’s cost-cutting/rationing board) to have the power to impose cost-cutting “reforms” on private health-care plans.

Granted, restricting spending by health-care plans isn’t quite the same thing as restricting spending by individuals. But once you’ve established the principle that the government may control what people can pay for health care, it won’t take long for the tyrants to apply that principle to individuals as well.

POSTSCRIPT: Moreover, this is an instructive example of how statism works. Obamacare hasn’t even gone fully into effect yet, and the statists are already plotting how to take away the next piece of our freedom. The benchmarks can move breathtakingly quickly. What today is supposedly unimaginable (as Paul Krugman says about restricting private health-care spending) quickly becomes commonsense and only an evil conservative could argue against it.


Andrew Klavan explains the facts of life

July 28, 2011

ATF lied about Terry shooting

July 27, 2011

The LA Times reports:

The claim by senior ATF officials that none of the weapons lost in the botched Fast and Furious sting operation were used in the shooting of a Border Patrol agent is not supported by FBI ballistics tests, according to a copy of the FBI report on the shooting.

Last week, spokesmen Scot Thomasson and Drew Wade of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told The Times that the FBI had assured them that neither of the two Fast and Furious weapons found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry’s death were the ones that killed the agent. . .

A copy of the FBI report obtained by The Times’ Washington bureau shows ballistics tests did not rule out the Fast and Furious guns.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Gunwalker reaches White House

July 27, 2011

Given how many people knew about Gunwalker, it seemed extremely unlikely that the White House didn’t know, but now we have confirmation:

At a lengthy hearing on ATF’s controversial gunwalking operation today, a key ATF manager told Congress he discussed the case with a White House National Security staffer as early as September 2010. The communications were between ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office, Bill Newell, and White House National Security Director for North America Kevin O’Reilly. Newell said the two are longtime friends. . .

It’s the first time anyone has publicly stated that a White House official had any familiarity with ATF’s operation Fast and Furious.

Recall that Eric Holder’s chief of staff was also informed. The separation between Gunwalker and the principals is getting very small indeed.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


First, do no harm

July 27, 2011

A study commissioned by the House of Representatives found that President Obama’s brakes on the Gulf of Mexico oil industry are costing 230 thousand jobs.

(Via Instapundit.)


I feel protected already

July 27, 2011

President Obama has nominated Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection bureau. This is the same guy who, as Ohio attorney general, spent taxpayer funds to defend the state employees who illegally searched state databases for dirt on Joe the Plumber during the 2008 presidential campaign.

(Via Instapundit.)


DOJ investigating whistleblower retaliation

July 27, 2011

NPR reports:

The Justice Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into possible retaliation against a whistle-blowing agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to two people briefed on the inquiry.

Watchdogs are examining whether anyone at the Justice Department improperly released internal correspondence to try to smear ATF agent John Dodson, who told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month that he repeatedly warned supervisors about what he called a reckless law enforcement operation known as “Fast and Furious.”

This sounds like a different case of ATF retaliation than the one I noted a month ago. I’m not at all confident that an internal investigation will get to the bottom of this, but at least they are going through the motions.

(Via Pajamas Media.) (Previous post.)


Cause and effect

July 27, 2011

It’s not hard to understand this stuff: (1) President Obama threatens tax hikes on companies that buy private planes. (2) Companies cut back on purchases of private planes. (3) The economy suffers:

Orders for durable goods drop 2.1 percent in June with weakness led by fall in aircraft demand

Obama’s much-vaunted manufacturing initiative will do little to promote manufacturing (although it will succeed in spending money, which is probably its real aim). He could have a much greater (and much quicker) effect simply by not attacking manufacturing.

(Via Instapundit.)


Stalemate

July 27, 2011

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs says we are in a stalemate in Libya. This is what happens when the president launches a war that he doesn’t really care about. You should go in to win, or not at all. I don’t see how we get out of this without a major loss of face.


Obama plummets

July 27, 2011

Why is the White House so frantic? President Obama trails the generic Republican by 8 points. But it’s worse than that: Obama only leads Ron Paul by 4.


Mission accomplished, I guess

July 27, 2011

Years of the left’s vilifying pharmaceutical companies are finally paying dividends: The pharmaceutical companies are starting to cut back on research.

Now Megan McArdle suggests that the fault lies more on the cost side of the companies’ cost-benefit equation. I don’t deny that the increasing difficulty in making progress plays an important role, but you have to take both sides of the ledger into account.

Drug research is paid for by the windfall from the rare success, and our government’s policy has been to make that windfall much more uncertain. Mind you, not by making the success itself less likely (although that could be happening too), but by limiting companies’ confidence that they will be able to financially exploit their successes. I’m not talking (just) about Obamacare; this has been going on for decades.


ATF restricts agents’ testimony

July 27, 2011

The ATF has directed its agents due to testify before Congress on the Gunwalker scandal to limit their testimony. (This is in addition to the earlier allegations that ATF has been tampering with witnesses.)

(Previous post.)


Gunwalker expands, again

July 27, 2011

It’s getting hard to keep track of all the agencies that were part of the Gunwalker scandal. It now appears that the FBI was involved, rigging its background-check system so that felons could buy guns:

In the latest chapter of the gunrunning scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, federal officials won’t say how two suspects obtained more than 360 weapons despite criminal records that should have prevented them from buying even one gun. Under current federal law, people with felony convictions are not permitted to buy weapons, and those with felony arrests are typically flagged while the FBI conducts a thorough background check.

However, according to court records reviewed by Fox News, two of the 20 defendants indicted in the Fast and Furious investigation have felony convictions and criminal backgrounds that experts say, at the very least, should have delayed them buying a single firearm. Instead, the duo bought dozens of guns on multiple occasions while federal officials watched on closed-circuit cameras.

Congressional and law-enforcement sources say the situation suggests the FBI, which operates the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, knowingly allowed the purchases to go forward after consulting with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which initiated Operation Fast and Furious. . .

When asked about the breakdown, Stephen Fischer, a spokesman for the NICS System, said the FBI had no comment. However, an ATF agent who worked on the Fast and Furious investigation, told Fox News that NICS officials called the ATF in Phoenix whenever their suspects tried to buy a gun. That conversation typically led to a green light for the buyers, when it should have stopped them.

If this is true (as seems likely), the NICS had these criminals flagged so the FBI would contact ATF whenever they tried to buy a gun, and the FBI then allowed the purchases.

In addition, William Newell, the former head of the Phoenix ATF, said in testimony before Congress that three other agencies were “full partners” in Fast and Furious: the DEA, the IRS, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. When asked if they knew “that guns were being walked to Mexico,” Newell said “they were aware of the strategy.”

That’s five government agencies from three different departments: Justice, Treasury, and Homeland Security.

But that’s not all. According to Phil Jordan, a former director of the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center, the State Department has been selling military-grade weapons directly to the Zetas, the Mexican drug cartel originally formed by mutinying Mexican special forces.

It is not alleged that the Zeta sales were connected with Fast and Furious, but that only makes it worse. At least Fast and Furious was ostensibly a law enforcement operation.

So we have four departments of the Obama administration all working to make sure that Mexican drug cartels have weapons. But at the same time, the Obama administration is tightening gun controls on law-abiding Americans.

(Previous post.)


We must have won

July 21, 2011

Even the anti-war left knows now that we won in Iraq, if the bumper sticker I saw recently is any indication:

There can be no victory in a war which never should have been fought

Hmm.


70% is still a lie

July 21, 2011

For years now, the anti-gun movement has been promoting a factoid that 90% of the guns used in Mexican crimes were purchased in the United States. It’s a lie. The true figure is closer to 8%. (The 90% figure refers to guns that were traced by U.S. authorities, and Mexican authorities generally don’t bother asking U.S. authorities to trace guns unless they already have reason to believe they come from the U.S.)

Despite having been debunked conclusively, the anti-gun nuts have continued to cite the “statistic”, as recently as the Democratic minority report on Gunwalker this very month.

But perhaps the truth is leaking through a little, because the New York Times is now lowering its version of the bogus statistic from 90% to 70%:

It is an open and deadly scandal that at least 70 percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico’s bloody drug war originate in the United States, where shady gun buyers operate freely thanks to loopholes in American law.

They don’t cite a source, of course, and 70% is still a lie, but it’s progress.

POSTSCRIPT: Oh, by the way, the “shady gun buyers” have been operating freely, not because of loopholes in American law, but because of the ATF was ordering gun stores to allow them free rein, despite the law. Amazingly, the NYT manages to write an entire editorial on the subject of American guns in the hands of Mexican drug cartels without even mentioning Gunwalker! (Bob Owens goes on to correct some further errors.)

(Previous post.)


End the war on salt!

July 21, 2011

A new study contradicts was nutritionists have been telling us for years:

For years, doctors have been telling us that too much salt is bad for us. Until now. A study claims that cutting down on salt can actually increase the risk of dying from a heart attack or a stroke. The research has left nutritionists scratching their heads.

Its findings indicate that those who eat the least sodium – about one teaspoon a day – don’t show any health advantage over those who eat the most.

ASIDE: I’ll note that this isn’t the first study to report findings such as this.

Personally, I welcome this news, whether it holds up or not. The truth is that different people need different amounts of salt, regardless of the averages say. I’ve known for many years that I happen to be one of the people who needs more salt than most. Unfortunately, the anti-salt campaign has occasionally made it difficult to get it. Anything that hinders the anti-salt campaign is good for me.

POSTSCRIPT: There’s an amusing addendum to attach to this story. The New York Times, in its reporting on this story, shows that media bias is not limited to politics:

Low-Salt Diet Ineffective, Study Finds. Disagreement Abounds.

A new study found that low-salt diets increase the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes and do not prevent high blood pressure, but the research’s limitations mean the debate over the effects of salt in the diet is far from over.

The article continued with four paragraphs telling why no one should believe the study before it deigned to report what the study actually found.

UPDATE: According to Scientific American, the anti-salt campaign has always been on shaky scientific footing. For example:

For every study that suggests that salt is unhealthy, another does not. Part of the problem is that individuals vary in how they respond to salt. “It’s tough to nail these associations,” admits Lawrence Appel, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University and the chair of the salt committee for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One oft-cited 1987 study published in the Journal of Chronic Diseases reported that the number of people who experience drops in blood pressure after eating high-salt diets almost equals the number who experience blood pressure spikes; many stay exactly the same.

Indeed. People are trying to cut my salt intake, even though I need more than average. Of course, this is always the problem with one-size-fits-all policy.

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: In light of this article, I’m going to strengthen this post’s title.

UPDATE: I said that the New York Times’s hit piece on the salt study proves that media bias isn’t limited to politics, but on further reflection, I think it’s entirely political. The New York Times is, after all, located in New York, where the mayor has waged a high-profile war on salt (and just about anything else that people enjoy, it would seem). If New Yorkers learn that Bloomberg’s entire war on salt was based on false information, they might wonder what other infringements of their personal liberty are unnecessary and/or counterproductive.


White House lied about Fox strategy

July 21, 2011

The White House lied when it claimed in 2009 that it was not deliberately targeting Fox News:

Newly released emails show the Obama administration communication team privately discussed whether to exclude Fox News from interviews in late 2009, despite claims at the time that the White House did not intend to snub the cable news channel.

The emails, obtained and released by watchdog Judicial Watch, pertain to a kerfluffle over whether the administration tried to lock Fox News out of a round of interviews with “pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg, who was then responsible for reviewing compensation of Wall Street executives.


Gunwalker gets worse

July 21, 2011

I’ve been reluctant to believe that our government, even under this current administration, would deliberately traffic guns to Mexican drug cartels in order to promote a gun-control agenda in the United States, but it’s getting very hard to deny now.

We already know that the ATF stopped tracking the guns once they were in criminal hands, which undercuts any legitimate law-enforcement purpose. Now an email has surfaced that makes an explicit political connection.

Mark Chait (the ATF’s assistant director for field operations) wrote (via Instapundit) to William Newell (director of the Tucson ATF) on July 14, 2010 to ask for anecdotal evidence to support a new proposed ATF policy restricting gun sales in border states:

Bill – can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same FfL and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks Mark R. Chait Assistant Director Field Operations.

As I understand it, Fast and Furious was already underway on July 14, 2010, so this email doesn’t explain how the operation got started. However, it does prove that the Tucson office was involved in promoting an anti-gun agenda, and it could explain why Newell never reeled the program in, despite numerous pleas from rank-and-file ATF agents. (ASIDE: The ATF got its wish, despite its malfeasance becoming public. Shameless.)

There’s more. It now appears that Gunwalker was not limited to the Tucson ATF, but was a nationwide strategy. In addition to the Tampa ATF, there may have been similar operations in Texas and Oklahoma.

That’s not all. Rep. Issa and Senator Grassley, who are heading the Congressional investigation, have written to the Department of Justice naming 12 people they know for a fact were aware of Gunwalker. The list includes Gary Grindler, Eric Holder’s chief of staff. Is it plausible that Holder’s office knew but Holder himself was never informed?

Plus, the Department of Justice is actively obstructing the Congressional investigation. In addition to ordering its employees to remain silent, the DOJ is engaging in witness tampering, by its own definition.

The ATF and Department of Justice might still turn out to be innocent, somehow, but they are certainly acting guilty.

(Previous post.)

UPDATE: This story casts doubt on whether the Tampa operation was so similar to Gunwalker. One certainly hopes not. But if this was above board, why did they conceal it from Congressional investigators? (Via the Corner.)


What’s going on

July 21, 2011

I’ve been horrendously busy this summer, and my intermittent posting will continue for the rest of the summer. Regular posting should resume in the fall.


Victory

July 14, 2011

Republicans have prevailed in the Minnesota budget battle. I think Dayton (the Democratic governor) was hurt by the fact that he deliberately made the shutdown as painful as he could to the public (e.g., making it impossible to buy beer) while he deemed his own personal chef and housekeeper to be essential state employees.


Desperation

July 13, 2011

Political types always like to accuse their opponents of desperation while brushing off their opponent’s attacks. It’s a time-honored (if “honored” is the right word) rhetorical device that usually has no connection to whether the opponent is really desperate or not.

But this really does smack of desperation. Talking Points Memo, a leftist web site, breathlessly reports that Paul Ryan (R-WI) was spotted drinking expensive wine at a Washington restaurant. This, apparently, is a scandal, somehow.

Ryan spent his own money, of course. This isn’t like Nancy Pelosi spending millions of taxpayer money on travel (and non-travel) in a big military plane, including a hundred thousand dollars on food and alcohol. Or any number of other magnificent wastes of taxpayer money one could mention. This is a case of people spending their own money on the product of their choice.

POSTSCRIPT: Ryan’s “accuser” (if that’s the right word), apparently surprised that her nosiness attracted critical attention, doesn’t want to be part of this story any more.


Panetta links Iraq War to the fight against al Qaeda

July 13, 2011

So reports the Washington Post:

“The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked,” he told troops at Camp Victory, the largest U.S. military outpost in Baghdad. “And 3,000 Americans — 3,000 not just Americans, 3,000 human beings, innocent human beings — got killed because of al-Qaeda. And we’ve been fighting as a result of that.”

He’s right, of course, but it’s interesting that he would say so, since the denial of any connection between Iraq and the global war on terror has been an article of faith among the left.

(Via Althouse.)

UPDATE: There’s a media failure angle to this story as well. The Post claims:

His statement echoed comments made by Bush and his administration, which tried to tie then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. But it put Panetta at odds with Obama, the 9/11 Commission and other independent experts, who have said that al-Qaeda lacked a presence in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

I don’t care about what Obama and “other independent experts” say, but this is wrong as regards the 9/11 Commission, as Aaron Worthing notes. Moreover, even if (counterfactually) al Qaeda did lack a presence in Iraq before 2003, it wouldn’t change the fact that Iraq was a state supporter of terrorism. There are, after all, terrorists other than al Qaeda.

There’s also this:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday appeared to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq as part of the war against al-Qaeda, an argument controversially made by the Bush administration but refuted by President Obama and many Democrats.

As an Althouse reader points out, “refute” means “disprove”, not merely “contradict”. The Post has since changed “refuted” to “rebutted” (without noting a correction). That’s still a little too strong; usually “rebut” means the same as “refute”. But I suppose “rebuttal” is often used in politics for any counter-statement, whether or not it really rebuts or even addresses the statement.


Stimulus cost $278k per job

July 13, 2011

A new report from the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors found that the Democratic stimulus package created or saved (ha ha) 2.4 million jobs. A simple calculation then arrives at a figure of $278 thousand dollars spent per job. (And that’s if we take the whole “created or saved” nonsense seriously; otherwise the figure would be must less rosy.)

The White House says it disputes the report, but it doesn’t really. That is, they acknowledge the estimate, but say that dividing the money spent by the jobs created or saved (ha ha) isn’t the right calculation to make. Just looking at the number of jobs underestimates the true value of the stimulus.

This is a telling argument. The Obama administration knows that it cannot justify its signature program on the basis on employment — despite that being the sole basis on which the program was sold to us — so it is moving the goalposts.

Still, is there merit to the argument? We spent $666 billion; surely we have something to show for it? No doubt we do, but it’s hard to know how much, and the White House did not offer a figure. Moreover, we should remember that a lot of the money really was wasted (e.g., on expensive signs), or was not just wasted but actually counterproductive (e.g., cash for clunkers).


Gunwalker scandal expands

July 13, 2011

If this report from Examiner.com is accurate (and, given what we’ve learned about the Gunwalker scandal, I have no reason to disbelieve it), it wasn’t just the Phoenix ATF that was trafficking guns to Mexican drug cartels. The Tampa ATF was walking guns to Honduras, from whence they were then sent on to Mexican drug cartels.

The isn’t just another outrage in the burgeoning scandal. This shows that the Gunwalker strategy was not merely one ATF office gone horribly wrong, it was a national strategy. The Examiner.com report also adds that the Tampa ATF decided to conceal their actions from the Congressional investigation:

There are emails in existence where [Tampa ATF director Virginia] O’Brien has advised those involved that Tampa does not have to report their walked guns because Tampa FD is not a part of Southwest Border or Project Gunrunner.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has granted the ATF the top item on its wish list:

The Obama administration on Monday granted new powers to federal regulators fighting gun traffickers on the violence-plagued Mexican border. Issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the new rules require border-state gun dealers to report bulk purchases of assault weapons made by individual buyers over short spans of time — a tool requested in December by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

This is astonishing. In this ongoing scandal, in which the ATF has shown its inability to carry out its duties legally or responsibly, the ATF is not being served with the indictments it deserves, but is instead being granted new powers! One might even get the idea that the DOJ doesn’t take this scandal seriously. . .

For now the ATF’s new powers are good only in the Mexican border states, but you know it’s only a matter of time until they take them nationwide.

(Via the Corner and Instapundit.)

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, is this even legal? Can the DOJ and ATF really impose new burdens on gun merchants without an act of Congress?

(Previous post.)


Obama promises “massive job-killing tax increases” if re-elected

July 13, 2011

Yes, he really said that:

So, when you hear folks saying “Well, the president shouldn’t want massive job-killing tax increases when the economy is this weak.” Nobody’s looking to raise taxes right now. We’re talking about potentially 2013 and the out years.


Identifying the problem

July 13, 2011

Take a look at this chart. Then tell me whether we have a revenue problem or a spending problem.

(Via Hot Air.)


Lies, damn lies, and Paul Krugman

July 13, 2011

Paul Krugman now says the problem with the stimulus is we had the wrong sort of stimulus:

So what happened to the stimulus? Much of it consisted of tax cuts, not spending. Most of the rest consisted either of aid to distressed families or aid to hard-pressed state and local governments. This aid may have mitigated the slump, but it wasn’t the kind of job-creation program we could and should have had. This isn’t 20-20 hindsight: some of us warned from the beginning that tax cuts would be ineffective and that the proposed spending was woefully inadequate. And so it proved.

(Emphasis mine.)

In Krugman’s recollection, he warned us from the beginning. Fortunately, we have a better record than Krugman’s reported recollection. In February 2009 he was quite positive about the stimulus that he now says he always said was the wrong sort:

Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out.

Back then, aid to state governments (which he now says he warned against) was “among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan.” The only problem was that we didn’t send nearly enough of it.

It will be interesting to see how Krugman goes about squaring the circle. I anticipate endless hilarity along the lines of his efforts to justify his notorious divide-by-ten error.

(Via Kaus Files.)


Seeking to reinflate the bubble

July 13, 2011

The Obama administration is looking to resume the same policies that brought us the housing bubble, the housing crash, and the recession:

In what could be a repeat of the easy-lending cycle that led to the housing crisis, the Justice Department has asked several banks to relax their mortgage underwriting standards and approve loans for minorities with poor credit as part of a new crackdown on alleged discrimination, according to court documents reviewed by IBD.

Prosecutions have already generated more than $20 million in loan set-asides and other subsidies from banks that have settled out of court rather than battle the federal government and risk being branded racist. An additional 60 banks are under investigation, a DOJ spokeswoman says.

Compare this with Bill Clinton’s interventionist housing policies that caused the housing bubble in the first place, and see if you can see any difference.


The Nation blows CIA counter-terror operation

July 12, 2011

The most surreal aspect of the Plame-Novak-Armitage psuedo-scandal was the spectacle of watching liberal journalists pretend to be outraged by the idea that someone would leak the identity of a covert CIA operative to the press.

Leading the outrage was The Nation, which (according to The Nation) was the first publication to argue that the leak of Valerie Plame’s name was a crime:

Four and a half years ago, after reading the Robert Novak column that outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA operative specializing in counter-proliferation work, I wrote an article in this space noting that this particular leak from Bush administration officials might have been a violation of a federal law . . . and (perhaps worse) might have harmed national security by exposing anti-WMD operations. That piece was the first to identify the leak as a possible White House crime. . .

The leak came from the State Department, not the White House, but never mind that. The point is that The Nation was oh-so-concerned about damage to our national security caused by exposing a covert CIA desk-jockey.

Of course, they were full of it. They didn’t care about harming covert operations, they just wanted a bludgeon to use against the Bush administration. In fact, they like to expose covert operations, as they showed today:

Nestled in a back corner of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport is a sprawling walled compound run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Set on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the facility looks like a small gated community, with more than a dozen buildings behind large protective walls and secured by guard towers at each of its four corners. . . At the facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted “combat” operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.

The Nation published the exact location of a CIA counter-terror operation in Somalia! And that tells you all you need to know about The Nation’s vaunted concern for national security.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Hmm

July 8, 2011

There’s an interesting wrinkle in the Obama administration’s decision to hold and interrogate Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame (a Somali with ties to al Qaeda) for two months on a US Navy ship. It sounds as though the president should have sought legal advice first:

There is one rule that the White House and the Defense Department seem to have overlooked in this inconvenient instance. It is the rule that flatly forbids holding prisoners captured in war in any locale other than “on land”—a rule with a history that stems from the American Revolution itself, when rebellious Americans caught by the British were interned in the death-dealing conditions of British prison ships hulking in New York harbor.

While the healthy conditions of the U.S.S Boxer might seem the exception that a situational rule should permit, the norm in the Third Geneva Convention is absolute on its face—namely, as Article 22 states, “prisoners of war may be interned only in premises located on land.” President Obama could now be ready to admit that al Qaeda combatants are not, as such, fully privileged prisoners of war, but rather unlawful combatants. Nonetheless, the avoidance of incarceration at sea is part of the fundamental protections of Geneva, rather than its privileges.

(Via Instapundit.)


Now there’s a plan

July 8, 2011

William Jacobson offers President Obama’s Catch-22:

The only way for Obama to stimulate the enormous private sector job growth needed to ensure Obama’s reelection is for Obama to announce he is not running for reelection, which would unleash a wave of investment and economic activity not seen since the Great Depression.


Obama’s oil release

July 8, 2011

I’ve been meaning to comment on President Obama’s decision two weeks ago to release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. There is simply no way to understand it other than as a political decision. The reserve has been tapped by presidential order twice before: for 17 million barrels in 1991, on the eve of war in the Persian Gulf (ASIDE: that was in addition to a 4-million-barrel test sale in 1990, which some commentators combine with the 1991 sale), and for 21 million barrels in 2005, in response to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf of Mexico oil industry.

Obama tapped the reserve for 30 million, the largest release ever, and without any current emergency. He cited Libya as the motivating emergency, but the Libyan campaign had been going on for months and oil markets had already adjusted. In fact, oil prices had fallen more than 16% during the preceding two weeks. No, the only emergency is Obama’s own flagging re-election prospects.

ASIDE: Obama was so eager to see the oil released that he waived the Jones Act to allow foreign ships to carry the oil. Recall that he would not wave the Jones Act to allow foreign ships to help clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but he would allow them to carry oil for sale when his own job was on the line. Priorities.

Obama has also gotten a lesson in economics. We hold oil in the reserve to prevent disruptions in the event of a brief crisis. We don’t have nearly enough oil to affect oil prices over any extended period of time. And that is being borne out in the oil market: crude oil prices have now climbed higher than they were before the release was announced. There was no long-lasting effect on oil prices, but we’re holding 30 million fewer barrels in the event of a real emergency.

POSTSCRIPT: I’ve assumed that the release was for purely political reasons, but it’s possible that I’m insufficiently cynical. Some oil traders suspect that insider trading was involved.


Internal or investigation, pick one

July 8, 2011

Bob Owens writes that the DOJ’s Inspector General can’t be trusted to investigate the Gunwalker scandal: Cynthia Schnedar is temporary and inexperienced (having been acting IG just since January), and her office has multiple conflicts of interest.

I would add that we learned last year that the DOJ IG isn’t even statutorily independent, much less practically independent. The former IG pointed out that, unlike most federal IGs, the DOJ IG answers to the Attorney General. He was explaining why he could not investigate the Black Panther scandal without Eric Holder’s approval.

(Previous post.)


Shakedown?

July 8, 2011

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hit up Koch Industries for campaign contributions! The company responded:

Dear Senator Murray:

For many months now, your colleagues in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee leadership have engaged in a series of disparagements and ad hominem attacks about us, apparently as part of a concerted political and fundraising strategy. Just recently, Senator Reid wrote in a DSCC fundraising letter that Republicans are trying to “force through their extreme agenda faster than you can say ‘Koch Brothers.’”

So you can imagine my chagrin when I got a letter from you on June 17 asking us to make five-figure contributions to the DSCC. You followed that up with a voicemail* indicating that, if we contributed heavily enough, we would garner an invitation to join you and other Democratic leaders at a retreat in Kiawah Island this September.

Was Murray offering to lay off Koch Industries if they contributed to the Democrats, or was she just being stupid? This is Patty Murray we’re talking about, so either explanation is possible.

UPDATE: The DSCC’s response has to be seen to be believed.


Dozens of Gunwalker guns turn up in Phoenix

July 8, 2011

The Gunwalker scandal keeps getting worse:

The ABC15 Investigators have linked an additional 43 weapons recovered during a Phoenix traffic stop to the controversial Fast and Furious ATF case.

According to court paperwork, Phoenix Drug Enforcement Administration agents discovered the guns in mid-April. They pulled over a vehicle near 83rd Avenue and Interstate 10, near the Phoenix and Tolleson border.

The Washington Examiner describes the culprits as illegal immigrants, which is accurate, in that four of the five were in the United States illegally, but incidental I think. A better description would be Mexican drug traffickers.

POSTSCRIPT: Kudos to ABC’s Phoenix affiliate for doing some real journalism here. If the authorities ran down the serial numbers too, they didn’t tell anyone of the connection.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Making stuff up

July 7, 2011

Kids sometime play a game called telephone (at least, that’s what we called it when I was a kid), in which a story is passed from person to person, and what comes out is very different from what went in. I was reminded of that when Reuters managed to turn Jon Kyl’s (R-AZ) statement that “we’re not talking about increasing taxes” into a concession for a $150 billion tax hike.

You know, if Reuters were to say that water is wet, you might want to wait for confirmation.


The Education of Barack Obama

July 7, 2011

The Washington Times reports:

The Obama administration, which refuses to send terrorism suspects to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, on Wednesday defended its decision to interrogate a detainee for two months aboard a U.S. Navy ship, outside the reach of American law.

“He was detained lawfully, under the law of war, aboard a Navy ship until his transfer to the U.S. for prosecution,” presidential spokesman Jay Carney said.

It’s easy to preen on the campaign trail, but things look different when you’re responsible for our nation’s safety. He would do better to admit he was wrong, rather than going through contortions to do his off-shore interrogations somewhere other than Guantanamo, but I don’t think he has it in him.


House to vote on light bulbs

July 7, 2011

Politico reports that the House might hold a vote to repeal the light bulb ban within days. Not everyone is happy:

Environmental groups and others have mounted an opposition campaign to the Republican legislation. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Alliance to Save Energy and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association are running advertisements in Capitol Hill newspapers touting the light bulb efficiency law.

“Phasing in energy efficient light bulbs means more choices and more savings and that’s good for families, the country and the environment,” the ads say.

“More choices”, by banning choices? Orwell would be proud.

But, in a way, I hope they do fight this. This could be a very effective wedge issue for Republicans. Once people are forced into buying CFLs, which are crappy, toxic, and expensive, and which don’t last anywhere near as long as claimed, they will be pissed. Still, I’d rather just have light bulbs.

POSTSCRIPT: Politico tries to work in their slant here:

Republicans have cast the 2007 law as a “light bulb ban,” even though the language doesn’t explicitly ban incandescent bulbs.

Those dishonest Republicans, calling it a “ban” when all the law actually does is make it impossible to get them. They’re not banned, you just can’t get them. . .

UPDATE: Well, it’s the Democratic light bulb ban now.


Cause and effect

July 7, 2011

What happens when President Obama threatens tax hikes on companies that buy private jets? Companies pull back from their plans to buy private jets:

Much has been made of President Barack Obama’s repeated demonizing of corporate jets and the people who fly on them in his June 29th press conference.

While pundits and politicians haggle over whether alterations in the depreciation schedule of corporate jets will actually have an impact on the deficit, those in the general aviation trenches are furious.

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPO) President Craig Fuller told The Daily Caller that Obama’s comments have cast a pall over the industry, causing many who were considering buying a plane to back away from making a purchase.

While Obama is playing politics, real people are hurt. And, of course, no tax will be paid on those planes that aren’t sold. He’s managed to hurt tax revenues slightly through his demagoguery alone, without raising a penny of additional taxes.

But that’s okay. It’s an issue of “fairness“.

(Via Instapundit.)


Smart diplomacy

July 6, 2011

The US ambassador to the United Kingdom skipped an official event commemorating President Reagan:

What could the Ambassador to England have on his schedule that is more important than attending a celebration and commemoration of a US president? Isn’t this, in part, part of the job? When a foreign country goes out of its way to honor your country, doesn’t that give you a unique leverage that should be capitalized on? Doesn’t it follow that the only way to capitalize on it is to actually be there?

From all reports, Susman was not sick, stricken with illness or involved in a really intense game of Farmville. He simply didn’t show up, as the representative of the United States, to an event honoring one of the greatest presidents in US history.

Glenn Reynolds adds:

A political hack, he acted in accordance with his nature — politically. He couldn’t imagine that this could matter to anyone serious. In that he showed the narrow worldview and lack of imagination that characterizes the Obama Administration’s diplomacy.

That sounds right to me. Susman got the job by being one of Barack Obama’s top fundraisers.


Raise taxes? Not without a balanced budget.

July 6, 2011

Stephen Hayward’s post at Power Line offering a “conservative case for higher taxes” has gotten some attention. Hayward says that the effort (if indeed there has been an effort) to control the growth of government by starving it of revenue has failed. That point, I’ll have to concede.

But he goes on to say that a more effective way to control the growth of government is to make sure people feel its cost by presenting them with the bill. That is, by raising taxes.

I agree that people should feel the cost of the government. But I really think Hayward is making an argument not for raising taxes, but for a balanced budget requirement. Currently taxes are spending are entirely uncoupled, and tax hikes in isolation will do nothing to correct that.


Another NYT lie

July 6, 2011

Ed Whelan generally demolished the New York Times’s recent editorial attacking the Supreme Court, but I want to focus on one point in particular:

The editorial states (emphasis added):

Among the court’s 82 rulings this term, 16 were 5-to-4 decisions. Of those, 10 were split along ideological lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy supplying the fifth conservative vote.

The hyperlink (not available in the print edition, of course) instructs the reader, “See p. 11, SCOTUSblog Stat Pack.” Any reader who follows the link will discover that 14 of the 16 decisions “were split along ideological lines,” with Kennedy supplying the fifth liberal vote in four of the cases. But the NYT instead gives the false impression that the conservative side won all the 5-4 cases decided “along ideological lines.”

I suppose that “gives the false impression” is the polite way to put it. I call it lying.


Ezell v. Chicago

July 6, 2011

There was a big victory for gun rights today as the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction against City of Chicago’s cynical anti-gun law, adopted after McDonald, in which they require range training to own a gun but at the same time banned all public gun ranges in the city.

The decision did not throw out the law, as that was not yet at issue, but the opinion makes it virtually impossible for the law to stand. The court ruled that the First Amendment provides the right model in which to consider Second Amendment cases, and that gun laws covered by the Second Amendment should be considered with a level of scrutiny higher than intermediate scrutiny, “if not quite ‘strict scrutiny.'”

And there’s this:

This reasoning assumes that the harm to a constitutional right is measured by the extent to which it can be exercised in another jurisdiction. That’s a profoundly mistaken assumption. In the First Amendment context, the Supreme Court long ago made it clear that “ ‘one is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate places abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place.’” . . . The same principle applies here. It’s hard to imagine anyone suggesting that Chicago may prohibit the exercise of a free‐speech or religious‐liberty right within its borders on the rationale that those rights may be freely enjoyed in the suburbs. That sort of argument should be no less unimaginable in the Second Amendment context.

UPDATE: David Kopel summarizes:

The Seventh Circuit’s decision in Ezell v. Chicago is a tremendously important case for Second Amendment doctrine. The key rules from Ezell: use originalism from both 1791 and 1868 to determine if an activity is within the scope of the Second Amendment right. If it is, apply First Amendment doctrine, and make the standard of review more stringent when the activity is closer to the core of the right, and when the government is prohibiting rather than regulating. Generally speaking, when looking for guidance, look to Eugene Volokh.


Cover-up

July 6, 2011

Today brought major developments to the Gunwalker scandal. Kenneth Melson, the acting director of ATF, testified before the Congressional investigation. Melson gave new details on the Department of Justice’s efforts to cover-up the scandal:

Melson provided detailed information and documents to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department. But that information was not given to Congress by then-Acting Deputy Attorney General James Cole. In fact, “Melson was not allowed to communicate to Congress” and “Justice Department officials directed [ATF’s senior leadership] not to respond and took full control of replying to briefing and document requests from Congress.” According to the letter Issa and Grassley sent to Holder, it was “two days after [Melson] told [Cole] about serious issues involving lack of information sharing” that the Wall Street Journal suddenly reported that Melson was about to be ousted by the Obama administration.

Melson also directly contradicted claims made by the Justice Department:

Contrary to the Justice Department’s denials, according to Melson, ATF agents specifically witnessed transfers of weapons from straw purchasers to third parties without taking any further action.

Also, in the second major development, an email came to light showing that knowledge of the Fast and Furious operation went quite high, including Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer, and the heads of the FBI and DEA.

(Previous post.)


Obama votes present on Boeing

July 1, 2011

President Obama ordinarily has no problem inserting himself into legal disputes (even as minor as a Cambridge disorderly conduct arrest) or even launching them, but when it comes to the NLRB’s astonishing and unprecedented effort to dictate where Boeing can build a new plant, he suddenly deems it inappropriate to get involved:

Essentially, the NLRB made a finding that Boeing had not followed the law in making a decision to move a plant. And it’s an independent agency. It’s going before a judge. So I don’t want to get into the details of the case. I don’t know all the facts. That’s going to be up to a judge to decide.

If he wanted to know, he could be briefed on the facts in two minutes. And since when does he care about getting the facts first anyway? This means one thing: he is for the NLRB’s action but doesn’t want to take the political heat.

Moreover, this report seems extremely plausible in light of Obama’s response to this question. The NLRB’s Boeing action isn’t an outlier, but the leading edge of a new agenda.


$150 million is a small price to pay to hurt people, I guess

July 1, 2011

California’s new anti-Amazon law is a perfect example of modern leftist legislation: it hurts individuals, costs the sate $150 million in income tax revenue, and collects $0 in additional sales taxes. It’s lose-lose-lose. But it’s an issue of “fairness”!


Wisconsin budget saves schools

July 1, 2011

Teachers unions have the conceit that their interests are somehow equated to the interests of children and their education. After saying it for decades, perhaps they even believe it. In fact, the two interests are very often at odds with one another.

The purpose of teachers’ unions is primarily to advance the interests of the teachers’ unions themselves, and secondarily to advance the interests of the teachers (specifically, the teachers in the union). Education is a tertiary consideration, at best.

It’s hard to find a better example than what is going on in Wisconsin:

“This is a disaster,” said Mark Miller, the Wisconsin Senate Democratic leader, in February after Republican Gov. Scott Walker proposed a budget bill that would curtail the collective bargaining powers of some public employees. Miller predicted catastrophe if the bill were to become law — a charge repeated thousands of times by his fellow Democrats, union officials, and protesters in the streets.
Now the bill is law, and we have some very early evidence of how it is working. And for one beleaguered Wisconsin school district, it’s a godsend, not a disaster.

The Kaukauna School District, in the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin near Appleton, has about 4,200 students and about 400 employees. It has struggled in recent times and this year faced a deficit of $400,000. But after the law went into effect, at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, school officials put in place new policies they estimate will turn that $400,000 deficit into a $1.5 million surplus. And it’s all because of the very provisions that union leaders predicted would be disastrous. . .

In the past, Kaukauna’s agreement with the teachers union required the school district to purchase health insurance coverage from something called WEA Trust — a company created by the Wisconsin teachers union. “It was in the collective bargaining agreement that we could only negotiate with them,” says Arnoldussen. “Well, you know what happens when you can only negotiate with one vendor.” This year, WEA Trust told Kaukauna that it would face a significant increase in premiums.

Now, the collective bargaining agreement is gone, and the school district is free to shop around for coverage. And all of a sudden, WEA Trust has changed its position. “With these changes, the schools could go out for bids, and lo and behold, WEA Trust said, ‘We can match the lowest bid,'” says Republican state Rep. Jim Steineke, who represents the area and supports the Walker changes. At least for the moment, Kaukauna is staying with WEA Trust, but saving substantial amounts of money.

Then there are work rules. “In the collective bargaining agreement, high school teachers only had to teach five periods a day, out of seven,” says Arnoldussen. “Now, they’re going to teach six.” In addition, the collective bargaining agreement specified that teachers had to be in the school 37 1/2 hours a week. Now, it will be 40 hours.

The changes mean Kaukauna can reduce the size of its classes — from 31 students to 26 students in high school and from 26 students to 23 students in elementary school. In addition, there will be more teacher time for one-on-one sessions with troubled students. Those changes would not have been possible without the much-maligned changes in collective bargaining.


Democrats whitewash Gunwalker

July 1, 2011

The Democrats have released their minority report on the Gunwalker scandal. They say the lesson of the ATF’s insane project is that we need more gun control in the United States. If we’re going to tighten any gun control laws because of this, how about making it a crime for federal agents to traffic guns to Mexican drug cartels?! Just a thought.

The Democrats’ position that the lesson of Gunwalker is the need for more gun control (rather than, say, that the ATF shouldn’t traffic guns to Mexican drug cartels) certainly won’t do anything to quiet the suspicions of many that the real purpose of the “Fast and Furious” operation was political, to provide a pretext for more gun control.

POSTSCRIPT: They also reiterate the 90% lie (in which gun control advocates claim that 90% of Mexican crime guns come from US gun shops when the real number is less than 8%).

(Previous post.)


Greenspan: Fed stimulus failed

July 1, 2011

CNBC reports:

The Federal Reserve’s massive stimulus program had little impact on the U.S. economy besides weakening the dollar and helping U.S. exports, Federal Reserve Governor Alan Greenspan told CNBC Thursday.

In a blunt critique of his successor, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Greenspan said the $2 trillion in quantative easing over the past two years had done little to loosen credit and boost the economy.

“There is no evidence that huge inflow of money into the system basically worked,” Greenspan said in a live interview.

“It obviously had some effect on the exchange rate and the exchange rate was a critical issue in export expansion,” he said. “Aside from that, I am ill-aware of anything that really worked. Not only QE2 but QE1.”

(Via Instapundit.)