Good point

December 31, 2011

XKCD on passwords:

I think this is probably an artifact of the days when passwords were a maximum of eight characters. Old habits are hard to break.

(Via Instapundit.)

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“As directed by the president”

December 31, 2011

A flashback to the genesis of the Gunwalker scandal:

The president has directed us to take action to fight these cartels and Attorney General Eric Holder and I [Deputy Attorney General David Ogden] are taking several new and aggressive steps as part of the administration’s comprehensive plan. . .

DOJ’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is increasing its efforts by adding 37 new employees in 3 new offices using $10 million dollars in Recovery Act funds and redeploying 100 personnel to the southwest border in the next 45 days to fortify it’s Project Gunrunner- which is aimed at disrupted arms trafficking between the United States and Mexico.

The announcement obviously didn’t say that those efforts would include trafficking guns to Mexican drug cartels while making no effort to track them. That, they didn’t know yet (probably). But, at the very least, it’s easy to see how it could happen: “Here’s a blank check — go do something!”

(Previous post.)


Good question

December 31, 2011

Why is the Defense Department outsourcing the next-generation Light Air Support program to a Brazilian company with close ties to Iran?


Cooking the books

December 31, 2011

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac understated their exposure to subprime and reduced-documentation mortgages by 90%.  Freddie disclosed $140 billion of their $901 billion exposure; Fannie disclosed just $73.7 billion of their $1.1 trillion exposure.

This might have been good to know as the federal government was deciding to give Fannie and Freddie a blank check.


Government Motors

December 31, 2011

GM forgot to put brakes on some of its cars.


DOJ tolerates perjury, in a good cause

December 29, 2011

PJ Media reports:

A career employee in the Voting Section of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has confessed to committing perjury, sources say. The employee, Stephanie Celandine Gyamfi, reportedly told investigators from the Inspector General’s Office that she perjured herself during an inquiry into Justice Department leaks during the previous administration. Despite the admission, she has not been fired for criminal malfeasance. Indeed, it appears she has not been disciplined in any meaningful way at all. . .

Amazingly, despite Ms. Gyamfi’s admission of committing perjury not once, but three times, she so far has been neither terminated nor disciplined by the Justice Department. In fact, her boss, Voting Section Chief Chris Herren, continues to assign her to the most politically sensitive of matters, including the Department’s review of Texas’s congressional redistricting plan.

Now why on earth would the Justice Department let perjury slide? Wonder no longer:

The genesis of Ms. Gyamfi’s perjury is apparently rooted in political attacks on the Bush Justice Department. Throughout 2005-2007, numerous attorney-client privileged documents, confidential personnel information, and other sensitive legal materials were leaked from inside the Voting Section to the Washington Post and various left-wing blogs.

Now, the Obama administration cannot be held responsible for Gyamfi’s malfeasance, but they should be held responsible for their failure to discipline her. Not only have they let her off scot-free, they have continued to use her in precisely the area in which she has shown she cannot be trusted. And thus they support her actions after-the-fact.

(Via Hot Air.)


The Obama administration, in charts

December 29, 2011

How bad is President Obama’s economic record? Very bad.

(Via Instapundit.)


Seattle’s government goes crazy

December 29, 2011

Seattle’s city council has enacted a ban on plastic bags, despite such a ban having been overwhelmingly defeated by the voters. (Take that, silly voters!)

There’s a lot to hate about this: The government giving the people the finger. Infringement of our personal liberties. The fact that paper bags are no better for the environment than plastic.

But what takes the cake is this: The reusable grocery bags that they are trying to induce people to use carry health risks:

The International Association for Food Protection’s Food Protection Trends published a study in its latest issue revealing that most consumers surveyed never wash their reusable bags between uses, permitting bacteria to grow. The peer-reviewed study, completed by University of Arizona Microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba, found that large numbers of bacteria were found in almost all bags and that coliform bacteria were found in half of those tested. Eight percent of bags contained E. coli.

To quote from the study itself:

A wide variety of coliform bacteria were detected in the bags including Escherichia coli. E. coli
was identified in seven bags (12% of bags tested). . . Many of the bacteria isolated are capable of causing opportunistic infections in humans.

So the Seattle City Council is creating a health risk by infringing our freedom in order to address an unimportant problem in a manner already rejected by the people.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s always interesting to me to see the hierarchy of causes on the left (e.g., multi-culturalism trumps feminism). From this NPR story, downplaying the risks of grocery bags, we see that environmentalism (in its stupidest form) trumps food safety. “Don’t fret” they say, based on interviewing one person who says that having E coli in your grocery bags is probably fine. They don’t usually take that line on matters of food safety, even for threats that — unlike this one — are entirely speculative (for example).


Persecution of Christians spikes

December 29, 2011

The Arab Spring has been just as bad for Christians as we feared.


Patriotic millionaires want higher taxes on other people

December 29, 2011

To be fair, it’s perfectly sensible to say you’re willing to do something provided others do their part too. But then you don’t get to take the rhetorical step of saying “I want my taxes raised.” You don’t want your taxes raised; you want other people’s taxes raised.

ASIDE: On the other hand, if the point is that millionaires somehow have the moral authority to call for tax increases on millionaires, then by the same token, middle class people like the Tea Party have the moral authority to call for middle-class entitlements to be abolished. Heck, I’ll make that trade.

Moreover, I suspect most of these people are being disingenuous. Crony capitalists are all for higher taxes because higher taxes mean more government spending, which puts more money back in their pocket. And others profit from higher taxes in other ways, such as by running tax shelters or (like Warren Buffett) by selling insurance against tax bills.


Reinforcing stereotypes

December 29, 2011

If your aim is to fight Islamic stereotypes, this isn’t the way to do it:

Check out the [Islamic Diversity Center] team page, which describes the individuals on the organization’s staff. . .

That’s right: the men are identified and individually pictured, but for each female staff member there is a photo of a woman wearing a burqa, so that only her eyes are showing. Not only that, it is the same photo in each case; not a picture of the female staff member at all, but a generic image of a woman wearing a burqa.

Somehow I suspect it is going to take a little more effort to dispel those stereotypes.

If you go to the page now, the generic burka-woman has been replaced by a stark “NO PHOTO UPLOADED”.


Solyndra update

December 26, 2011

The Washington Post reports:

Since the failure of [Solyndra], Obama’s entire $80 billion clean-technology program has begun to look like a political liability for an administration about to enter a bruising reelection campaign.

Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal ­e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.

(Previous post.)


Obama self-assesses

December 26, 2011

(Via Power Line.)


Joe Biden: idiot

December 26, 2011

Someone needs to glue this man’s mouth shut:

The White House on Monday defended Vice President Joe Biden for saying that the Taliban isn’t an enemy of the United States despite the years spent fighting the militant Islamic group that gave a home to Al Qaeda and its leader Usama bin Laden while he plotted the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Jay Carney’s attempted defense doesn’t even make sense:

“It’s only regrettable when taken out of context,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the vice president’s remarks in an interview published Monday.

“It is a simple fact that we went into Afghanistan because of the attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. We are there now to ultimately defeat Al Qaeda, to stabilize Afghanistan and stabilize it in part so that Al Qaeda or other terrorists who have as their aim attacks on the United States cannot establish a foothold again in that country,” Carney continued.

This is nonsense. After 9/11, the Taliban was given a choice: side with us or Al Qaeda. They chose Al Qaeda. They are the enemy.

What’s worse, the world is looking for signs as to whether we will stay the course in Afghanistan. This sort of talk doesn’t help; in fact it costs lives. That’s the “context” that matters.


Racketeering

December 26, 2011

This story makes the most sense if one views the American Bar Association as simply a racket:

Two days after being featured in the New York Times article on how the ABA drives up the cost of law schools, Lincoln Memorial University, Duncan School of Law today was informed in this letter that the ABA denied provisional accreditation for the school.

The ABA derives its power from the scarcity of credentialed lawyers. It’s against their interests for it to become easier or cheaper to become a lawyer.

(Via Instapundit.)


Half are under the median!

December 26, 2011

The Associated Press reports on the horrors of income inequality:

Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

That’s right, nearly one-in-two Americans are below the median. How dreadful!

Think I’m being overly glib? I’m not. The Obama administration’s new poverty line really is defined in terms of income quantiles. It’s not literally set at the median; the actual definition is more complicated, but we can expect the two to track each other pretty well. (The actual definition is 150% of the 30th percentile of a particular wealthy population.) The definition was designed to ensure that there will always been plenty of people in poverty, and the AP is playing along.

(Via The New Editor.)

UPDATE: Tom Blumer also takes a critical look at the new poverty line. Oddly, his account of the definition is different in detail than the one I linked, but it’s still quantile based.


Startup commercializes cell-phone tracking

December 26, 2011

A startup company can locate nearly anyone’s mobile phone in North America, given just the phone number. Yikes.


Gunwalker’s legal cousin

December 26, 2011

The Obama administration says that American gun shops are responsible for the escalation of violence in Mexico. We already know that their figures are dishonest. And we already know that they trafficked thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, for reasons that have yet to be explained. But here’s another point to complete the trifecta of malfesance:

Selling weapons to Mexico – where cartel violence is out of control – is controversial because so many guns fall into the wrong hands due to incompetence and corruption. The Mexican military recently reported nearly 9,000 police weapons “missing.”

Yet the U.S. has approved the sale of more guns to Mexico in recent years than ever before through a program called “direct commercial sales.” It’s a program that some say is worse than the highly-criticized “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal, where U.S. agents allowed thousands of weapons to pass from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels. . .

Here’s how it works: A foreign government fills out an application to buy weapons from private gun manufacturers in the U.S. Then the State Department decides whether to approve.

And it did approve 2,476 guns to be sold to Mexico in 2006. In 2009, that number was up nearly 10 times, to 18,709. The State Department has since stopped disclosing numbers of guns it approves, and wouldn’t give CBS News figures for 2010 or 2011.

(Via Hot Air.)

The Obama administration says we need to give up our civil rights in order to keep guns from getting to Mexico, but they are trafficking thousands of guns illegally, and approving tens of thousands for sale legally.

(Previous post.)


Busted

December 26, 2011

During the 2008 presidential campaign, the Obama campaign issued a full denial of stories that unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers hosted a fundraiser for Barack Obama, calling it a “myth propagated by the McCain campaign that’s been debunked”. The media (such as NPR) took their denial at face value.

Now a video has surfaced of Bill Ayers telling a group (it looks like a teacher’s union) in October 2011 that he did indeed host a fundraiser for Obama. One of them (Obama or Ayers) is lying.

Sounds like an opportunity for some enterprising journalist to ask a tough question. (Like that will ever happen.)


LightSquared explained

December 26, 2011

If you’ve been following the LightSquared scandal, you already know that LightSquared’s technology breaks GPS receivers and airplane avionics. What hasn’t been clear (to me at least) is what the technology is actually supposed to do.

Ed Morrissey explains what’s going on:

In fact, LightSquared lobbyists have been pressuring state legislators in Minnesota (where Best Buy has its corporate headquarters) to demand FCC approval through Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, in part by stressing Best Buy’s partnership with LightSquared and the notion that “retail cell phone rates for LightSquared’s partners are expected to drop by 33-50 percent!” That cost savings comes from not having to buy new frequencies, which cost carriers like AT&T and Verizon tens of billions of dollars at auction, which makes the waiver critical to their business plan.

Now it makes sense. LightSquared doesn’t have a new technology. What they have is a business plan: rather than spend a fortune to buy frequencies in the part of the spectrum where they belong, they want to use their political connections to get cheap frequencies elsewhere. They they use the cost savings to undercut their competition.

(Previous post.)


Homeland Security is complete!

December 26, 2011

The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission spends homeland security money on sno-cone machines. I guess that means the homeland must be fully secure now.

(Via Instapundit.)


Obama returns Corzine contributions (not really)

December 26, 2011

Fox News reports:

President Obama’s re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee have returned more than $70,000 in contributions from former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine following the collapse of MF Global, Corzine’s financial firm, officials said Friday.

This is all about optics. The president decided it would look bad to keep campaign contributions from a man whose company stole $1.2 billion (and who personally fought against reforms that would have helped prevent the theft), and that he can afford to spare $70 thousand. However, Corzine’s personal contribution is just a drop in the bucket; Corzine’s real contribution was all the other money he could deliver:

Corzine was among Obama’s top fundraisers, raising at least $500,000 for Obama’s re-election campaign since April, according to records released by the campaign. The former Goldman Sachs chief held a fundraiser for the president last April and was considered a main Obama emissary to Wall Street.

None of that money is getting returned. He can spare $70 thousand, but half a million is another matter. He’s betting no one will pay attention to that. He isn’t even returning the other contributions from MF Global:

One of the Democratic officials said the campaign and DNC would evaluate whether to return donations from other MF Global employees on a case-by-case basis.

Three other top executives at MF Global also gave the maximum.


California tragedy

December 26, 2011

Victor David Hanson’s article on the decline of California’s central valley is absolutely heartbreaking.


More signing statements

December 26, 2011

Still more signing statements from the president who pledged not to use signing statements.

I would be interested to see a comparison of the number of the signing statements (of the we-aren’t-going-to-follow-this-provision variety, not the putting-our-interpretation-on-record variety) coming fr0m President Obama and from President Bush. I suspect that despite his posturing, Obama has put out just as many.


Figures may not sum to 100%

December 22, 2011

In one Russian town, 146% of the electorate voted. In another, 127%.


Why poverty?

December 22, 2011

Walter Williams:

Poverty in Egypt, or anywhere else, is not very difficult to explain. There are three basic causes: People are poor because they cannot produce anything highly valued by others. They can produce things highly valued by others but are hampered or prevented from doing so. Or, they volunteer to be poor.

(Via RightWingNews.)

Still, I think that Milton Friedman’s comment is insightful. Rather than thinking about the causes of poverty, it’s more useful to think about the causes of wealth.


Hezbollah in trouble?

December 22, 2011

Daniel Pipes thinks Hezbollah might be in trouble. Here’s hoping.


Business as usual

December 22, 2011

ProPublica looks at how the California Democratic party scammed the redistricting commission:

In previous years, the party had used its perennial control of California’s state Legislature to draw district maps that protected Democratic incumbents. But in 2010, California voters put redistricting in the hands of a citizens’ commission where decisions would be guided by public testimony and open debate. . .

In the weeks that followed, party leaders came up with a plan. Working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — a national arm of the party that provides money and support to Democratic candidates — members were told to begin “strategizing about potential future district lines,” according to another email.

The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests. When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. . .

California’s Democratic representatives got much of what they wanted. . . Statewide, Democrats had been expected to gain at most a seat or two as a result of redistricting. But an internal party projection says that the Democrats will likely pick up six or seven seats in a state where the party’s voter registrations have grown only marginally.

(Via Instapundit.)


Guilty pleas in voter fraud case

December 22, 2011

Four Democratic officials and operatives have pleaded guilty to a crime that we’re told never, ever happens.

And yes, there’s an ACORN connection.


NTSB dishonest about cell phone accidents

December 22, 2011

The NTSB is upset about cell phone use while driving:

And it was over just like that. It happened so quickly. And, that’s what happened at Gray Summit. Two lives lost in the blink of an eye. And, it’s what happened to more than 3,000 people last year. Lives lost. In the blink of an eye. In the typing of a text. In the push of a send button.

But it’s a lie; that figure counts all distractions, not just phone use. The actual number is less than a third of that, according to the NTSB’s own figures.

ASIDE: Another version of the piece, appearing in the Washington Post, renders the number “thousands of people”. Since the plural implies at least two thousand, that’s also a lie.

Two years ago I took a look at what the research on cell phone use while driving actually says. It was much more nuanced than the media would have us believe.


The $290,000 Chevy

December 22, 2011

Each Chevy Volt sold has been subsidized to the tune of as much as $250k. (Via Althouse.)


The tepid war continues

December 22, 2011

More explosions in Iran.


Huddled masses yearning to breathe free

December 20, 2011

In less than six weeks, 1% of Wisconsin has applied for a permit to carry a handgun. (Via Althouse.)


Pipelines

December 20, 2011

How absurd is the political battle over the Keystone XL pipeline? This map of pipelines in America shows how truly un-unprecedented another pipeline would be:

(Via Small Dead Animals, via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: More maps.


“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

December 20, 2011

Victor Davis Hanson takes on the Obama mythology.


Obama decapitates Bureau of Labor Statistics

December 20, 2011

If you were a corrupt politician, and you thought that your political fortunes were tied to making certain numbers look better, wouldn’t you try to rig them? No I’m not talking about Argentina; I’m talking about the Obama administration’s effort to bring the Bureau of Labor Statistics to heel:

Over the last year, the administration has refused to fill the two top BLS positions. They have yet to nominate anyone to replace outgoing BLS Commissioner Keith Hall, whose term expires in January, and the number two post previously held by Deputy Commissioner Philip Rones has been vacant since last summer. . . BLS career professional and Associate Commissioner John Galvin has been given limited responsibilities to cover some of the deputy duties on an acting basis, but the White House has indicated it has no interest in promoting Galvin to the post of commissioner.

A retired career economist at the U.S. Department of Labor told PJ Media the administration wants to put its own political allies into the bureau, eschewing promotion from within:

Traditionally, the deputy commissioner position has been filled by promotion from within the ranks of experienced BLS career professionals, and when Rones retired from the deputy job last summer, Hall proposed promoting a highly qualified associate commissioner [John Galvin] to the position. The labor secretary and deputy secretary rebuffed that and made it clear that they wanted someone of their choosing from outside the existing career cadre.

The Senate could get involved by exercising its Senate confirmation process for a new commissioner — but the administration has circumvented the process by not nominating anyone. Nominations usually are announced as early as six months before the expiration of a term, but with a few weeks left before Hall leaves office, it is clear no commissioner will be running the bureau through much of 2012.

This has led to speculation that the White House is trying to circumvent the Senate so as to appoint a deputy whose position does not need Senate confirmation, and who would defer to the White House and to politically aggressive Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Of course, this strategy assumes that Americans can be tricked into believing that the economy is improving, which remains to be seen.


A tepid war

December 19, 2011

Michael Ledeen takes a look at the clandestine campaign that someone is waging against Iran. Godspeed.


Smart diplomacy

December 19, 2011

The Obama administration pushed for early elections in Egypt even though they knew they would likely put the Islamists in charge. That worked out great, guys, thanks.

Is there any way we could have played the Arab Spring worse than we have?

(Via Instapundit.)


LightSquared fail

December 19, 2011

Tests have shown that LightSquared is just as dangerous as many people feared:

Philip Falcone’s proposed LightSquared Inc. wireless service caused interference to 75 percent of global-positioning system receivers examined in a U.S. government test, according to a draft summary of results.

(Via Hot Air.)

LightSquared’s response is revealing (“How dare you reveal how dangerous our product is!”):

LightSquared is “outraged by the illegal leak of incomplete government data,” Harriman said in an e-mailed statement. “This breach attempts to draw an inaccurate conclusion to negatively influence the future of LightSquared and narrowly serve the business interests of the GPS industry.”

In fact, it’s worse than that. Not only does LightSquared disrupt GPS, it also disrupts a system that planes use to avoid running into mountains.

If LightSquared weren’t owned by a big Democratic donor, it would be dead in the water. Instead, the White House is pushing to cover all this up.

(Previous post.)


Occupy’s one degree of anti-Semitism

December 19, 2011

The founder of the Occupy Wall Street movement has a history of anti-Semitic writing (more here).

As Pejman Yousefzadeh remarks:

I will only add that since it seemed to be perfectly fair to detractors of the Tea Party to judge the movement by the actions of a few dimwits at rallies, and the presence of a few offensive signs, it should also be perfectly fair to judge the Occupy movement by one of its chief gurus; and the noxious ideas he embraces.


Free speech for me, not for thee

December 19, 2011

Occupy Wall Street protesters shut down a television production because they didn’t like what they were saying:

More than 100 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators stormed the set for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” across from the Manhattan State Supreme Courthouse, shutting down production of an OWS-themed episode.

“We made it so that they could not exploit us and that’s awesome,” said Tammy Schapiro, 29, of Brooklyn.


Ah yes, the fact checkers

December 19, 2011

Because the really cannot be made too often, Mark Hemingway blasts the new fad of “fact-checking” columns, which are anything but. There are lots of examples there, but the ripest one is this:

Smith was quite rightly annoyed with Glenn Kessler, who writes “The Fact Checker” blog on the Washington Post website. (Kessler’s gimmick is rating political statements on a scale of one to four with cutesy Pinocchio-nose graphics.)

On August 17, Kessler wrote an item supporting President Obama’s denial at a town hall in Iowa that Vice President Joe Biden had called Tea Party activists “terrorists” in a meeting with congressional Democrats. . . After supplying a rudimentary summary of what happened, Kessler reached a conclusion that is at once unsure of itself and sharply judgmental. “Frankly, we are dubious that Biden actually said this. And if he did, he was simply echoing what another speaker said, in a private conversation, as opposed to making a public statement.”

Awesome, a “fact-checking” column with zero facts! To paraphrase: “I don’t know if he said it, but if he did say it, I’m quite sure he didn’t mean it.” What a gig! Reporters who actually report news are suckers.

POSTSCRIPT: It may be a cheap shot, but I’m not above noting that Kessler doesn’t know the meaning of “apologist”. Fact-checking indeed.


1920

December 19, 2011

As Daniel Pipes explains, Palestinian nationalism was invented in 1920. When Newt Gingrich cited this historical fact — with his usual tact — a week ago, he was predictably attacked by those whose ideology depends on a long-suffering Palestinian people (and who therefore have done everything they can to ensure that the Palestinian people continue to suffer). But that doesn’t change the historical facts.

POSTSCRIPT: For more uncomfortable history, take a look at the subsequent Palestinian history.


Vaclav Havel, RIP

December 19, 2011

1936-2011.


A glimpse of our future

December 19, 2011

More horrors from the British NHS, the model for national health care.


But reporting is so much work!

December 17, 2011

How many times have we been told that the legacy media is superior to the blogosphere because of the media’s layers of fact-checkers and editors? This week MSNBC and the Washington Post got burned for lifting a story from a leftist blog without making any effort to verify it.

The story was from Americablog (no link; I’m not going to reward their lies with traffic) in which they claimed that Mitt Romney was using an old KKK slogan in his stump speeches. He wasn’t: Romney’s line was “keep America America” (a conservative sentiment), while the KKK’s line was “keep America American”. This is quite clear from their own video.

This level of journalistic malpractice was too much even for the New York Times which ran a short story on the incident:

Don’t just repeat it. Report it.

That’s the lesson this week for MSNBC and for The Washington Post, both of which apologized for repeating a liberal blog’s claim that Mitt Romney had uttered a phrase on the campaign stump that was used in the past by the Ku Klux Klan. . .

MSNBC apparently did not contact the Romney campaign for comment before it briefly reported on Wednesday morning that “you may not hear Mitt Romney say ‘Keep America American’ anymore, because it was a rallying cry for the K.K.K. group.” The anchor credited AMERICAblog; the graphic on the screen read, “Romney’s KKK Slogan?” . . . When executives at MSNBC and NBC News saw that, they were disturbed that the blog’s observation was reported as fact, without any added reporting. . .

The Washington Post also issued an apology on Thursday for factual mistakes in its blog post about the phrase. The correction stated that it “should have contacted the Romney campaign for comment before publication.”

Indeed they should have. Now I really don’t expect any better from MSNBC, but I am disappointed by the Washington Post. They were a liberal but responsible paper not so long ago; now they’re being called on the carpet by the New York Times. It’s sad to see that they’ve fallen so far, so fast.

It goes without saying, of course, that they could only make this mistake in one direction. If they ever picked up a story from the conservative blogosphere (a fanciful prospect in its own right), you can be sure that they would verify every detail before running it.

POSTSCRIPT: The liars at Americablog are somehow still sticking with their story, despite it being clearly a lie. This should be a lesson to anyone who would contemplate cribbing from them again.


Tyranny

December 15, 2011

It was always thus

December 14, 2011

The Boston Herald reports:

Dispirited Occupy member Stephen Campbell, 24, said when asked why he didn’t get arrested, he said he withdrew from the camp early today as the end was clearly in sight. “The Occupy Boston movement as a whole became fascist,” he said, adding he still believes in the Occupy idea but not the organization. “At a general assembly this week we spent four hours trying to evict people rather than focusing on our political causes.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Hey bub, totalitarian parties always turn their attention inward eventually, as Robespierre, Trotsky, and countless others can attest. Fortunately, Occupy Wall Street never had enough discipline to gain any external influence, so they skipped over the reign-of-terror phase and went right to the internal purges.

(Via Transterrestrial Musings.)


Pariahs

December 14, 2011

A scheduled meeting between Congressional Democrats and leaders of Occupy Wall Street was called off when the press got wind of it.


Creepy

December 14, 2011

The Obama campaign is compiling a list of names and email addresses of people who don’t like President Obama. (Via Instapundit.)


The weak horse

December 14, 2011

After 9/11, terrorists all over the world were rebranding themselves as branches of Al Qaeda. Now they’re rebranding themselves as independents.

We are winning.


International Red Cross fights video games

December 14, 2011

The International Red Cross has too much time on its hands:

THE Red Cross is investigating whether 600 million gamers are violating the Hague and Geneva conventions when they kill and blow stuff up for fun.

Delegates at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Crescent raised the concerns over the potential “International Humanitarian Law” violations during a workshop in Geneva.

I would just emphasize that the International Red Cross is a distinct organization from the American Red Cross. The latter is a valuable institution, the former isn’t good for much.

LONG POSTSCRIPT: Glenn Reynolds — where I first saw this story — has pulled back from it, posting a link to what he calls the ICRC response. It says:

[Q.] A few media reported that certain virtual acts performed by characters in video games could amount to serious violations of the law of armed conflict. Is this correct?

[A.] No. Serious violations of the laws of war can only be committed in real-life situations, not in video games.

Sounds pretty reasonable (although note the use of the word “serious”), but this is not a response to the story. It’s from a FAQ dated August 12, 2011. That’s over three months before the conference took place so it cannot address reports of what actually took place at the conference. Moreover, the conference’s daily bulletin issued December 1 reports this:

While the Movement works vigorously to promote international humanitarian law (IHL) worldwide, there is also an audience of approximately 600 million gamers who may be virtually violating IHL. Exactly how video games influence individuals is a hotly debated topic, but for the first time, Movement partners discussed our role and responsibility to take action against violations of IHL in video games. In a side event, participants were asked: “what should we do, and what is the most effective method?” While National Societies shared their experiences and opinions, there is clearly no simple answer. There is, however, an overall consensus and motivation to take action.

From their own report, it seems clear that the article is accurate. The organization’s actual response was appended to the article:

Update: After this story was published, Red Cross International said the organisation would not be discussing the matter any further beyond the initial workshop. . .

“Serious violations of the laws of war can only be committed in real-life situations, not in video games,” Mr Farnoudi told news.com.au.

Okay, I’m glad they’re backing away, but still note the use of the word “serious”. They are evidently sticking to the position that gaming can violate international law, just not in a “serious” way.


Why the stimulus failed

December 14, 2011

A case study of how the stimulus funds were spent:


QFT

December 14, 2011

I fully agree with this sentiment:

I do not love the ambience of Walmarts; by my standards they’re loud, cheerless, and tacky – and that describes a lot of their merchandise and their shoppers, too.

But my esthetic and aspirational standards are those of a comparatively wealthy person even in U.S. terms, let alone world terms. To the people who use Walmart and belong there, Walmart is a tremendous boon that stretches their purchasing power, enabling them to have things that don’t suck.

That’s why I love the idea of Walmart, and will defend it against its enemies.


Tom Friedman, call your office

December 14, 2011

A Chinese town rebels against their tyrants:

For the first time on record, the Chinese Communist party has lost all control, with the population of 20,000 in this southern fishing village now in open revolt.

The last of Wukan’s dozen party officials fled on Monday after thousands of people blocked armed police from retaking the village, standing firm against tear gas and water cannons.
Since then, the police have retreated to a roadblock, some three miles away, in order to prevent food and water from entering. . .

Wukan’s troubles began in September, when the villagers’ collective patience snapped at an attempt to take away their land and sell it to property developers.

“Almost all of our land has been taken away from us since the 1990s but we were relaxed about it before because we made our money from fishing,” said Yang Semao, one of the village elders. “Now, with inflation rising, we realise we should grow more food and that the land has a high value.”

The villagers made the mistake of believing that the government would negotiate in good faith:

In the aftermath, the local government tried to soothe the bruised villagers, asking them to appoint 13 of their own to mediate between the two sides – a move which was praised. . . Last Friday, at 11.45 in the morning, four minibuses without license plates drove into Wukan and a team of men in plain clothes seized five of the village’s 13 representatives from a roadside restaurant.

One of the five later died in police custody.

I wish them well, but without much hope. The Communists can’t afford to let this stand. This won’t end well.

(Via Instapundit.)


EPA strikes gas

December 14, 2011

We can be confident that fracking for shale gas does not contaminate the water table, because shale gas formations are far below the water table. For fracking material to leak into the water table, they would have to leak upward. (A friend of mine who is an anti-fracking activist confirms this, saying that he is more concerned with pollution at the surface.)

In light of this, the EPA’s recent finding that fracking can contaminate water is surprising. That is, it’s surprising until you learn that the EPA drilled its “well” three times as deep as an ordinary water well, all the way down into a natural gas reservoir. That’s only the most serious of several objections to the EPA’s methodology.

The question that presents itself is whether the EPA is being dishonest or simply incompetent. A popular rule of thumb suggests never to blame on malice what can be explained by incompetence, but the incompetence theory tends to break down when all of the errors point in the same direction. Has Obama’s EPA ever made a mistake that understates an environmental threat?

(Via Instapundit.)


Occupy Wall Street: sticking it to the man

December 14, 2011

The New York Daily News reports:

Milk Street Cafe, the restaurant whose business dried up in the face of the Occupy Wall Street barricades, is shutting down. . . Milk Street Cafe’s closure will result in the layoff of 70 workers. That’s on top of the 21 let go in October. . .

When asked whether he would ever open a restaurant in New York again, Epstein responded, “Never.”

Fighting capitalism, one employer at a time.

(Via Instapundit.)


Obama demands patience, finally

December 13, 2011

Investor’s Business Daily writes:

In his “60 Minutes” interview this weekend, Obama claimed the economy is suffering “structural problems that have been building up for two decades.” . . .

“I’ve always believed that this was a long-term project,” Obama told CBS’s Steve Kroft, and that it “was gonna take more than a year. It was gonna take more than two years.”

The problem is that, once upon a time, Obama was saying pretty much the exact opposite. Examples:

Hilarity ensues.

(Via Instapundit.)


The Jooooz cause global warming!!!11

December 13, 2011

If global warming is a looming global catastrophe, then surely it must be the fault of the Jews :

Climate Change Means: Enough Already With What’s Good for the Jews . . .

On the Keystone XL Pipeline, the major Jewish organizations were mostly silent. Only the American Jewish Committee spoke out — in support of the pipeline as “a crucial step in strengthening U.S. energy security.”

In other words: this pipeline would be good for the Jews.

I’m so glad we have the Huffington Post to explain this sort of thing to us. Good grief.

(Via Best of the Web.)


Poverty lie

December 13, 2011

The New York Times opines:

The Times’s Jason DeParle, Robert Gebeloff and Sabrina Tavernise reported recently on Census data showing that 49.1 million Americans are below the poverty line — in general, $24,343 for a family of four. An additional 51 million are in the next category, which they termed “near poor” — with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line. . .

The worst downturn since the Great Depression is only part of the problem. Before that, living standards were already being eroded by stagnating wages and tax and economic policies that favored the wealthy. Conservative politicians and analysts are spouting their usual denial.

Here’s the truth: these figures use the Obama administration’s new “poverty line”, which has nothing to do with actual poverty. Rather than being based on the cost of a basket of goods that families need (and without which they are impoverished), as the traditional poverty line was, the new “poverty line” is defined in terms of other people’s income (in particular, the 30th percentile of a particular population).

The beauty of the new “poverty line” — for liberals — is there will always be millions in “poverty”, no matter how much their lot improves. Not only is the 49.1 million figure not shocking, it’s inevitable. The “near poor”, being 150% of the other meaningless number, is just as meaningless.

With the new “poverty line”, liberals will always have an excuse to demand billions in welfare spending, (funneled through their cronies like ACORN of course). But this depends on the public remaining ignorant that the “poverty line” has nothing to do with poverty and is rigged so that there will always been lots of people in poverty.

Put simply, this only works if the liberals succeed in tricking us. And the New York Times is doing its part.


BBC fakery

December 13, 2011

The Daily Mail reports:

Dramatic footage of a polar bear tending her newborn cubs in the flagship BBC show Frozen Planet was filmed in a Dutch zoo using fake snow. In one of the most engaging moments of its Winter episode, the tiny bears are shown mewling at their mother and nuzzling her for milk.

Eight million viewers were led to believe the scene had been captured by BBC cameramen inside an  underground cave in the brutal sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic wilderness.

(Via Jammie Wearing Fools.)


Detention revisited

December 9, 2011

I week ago I was troubled by reports that the new defense bill would give the president the power to detain US citizens indefinitely if they were supporting various terrorist groups. But almost immediately I read other reports that said that the bill actually did not change the law in this regard. Both reports came from respectable, knowledgeable people, and I was left confused.

Today I read two posts on law blogs that have left me convinced of the latter position, that the bill does not change the law in regard to detention of US citizens. In fact, it seems that the bill contains an amendment that states explicitly that it does not change the law on detention of US citizens.

Robert Chesney explains where the case law currently stands, and it strikes me as pretty reasonable. On foreign battlefields, US citizens can be detained like anyone else. On US soil, probably not. In a foreign theater but outside a battlefield, the law is uncertain, as no test case has yet arisen.

Kenneth Anderson adds that none of these detainees are beyond the reach of legal appeals:

Lastly, I’d add that in virtue of being statutorily prescribed as the court for hearing detainee appeals, the DC Circuit has emerged as something of the US’s de facto national security court; it has been gradually working out the contours and standards of habeas review and all the procedural and evidentiary questions that are implied by that.

I’d rather the rules were instituted by legislation, rather than made up by the courts, but that said, the rules the courts are adopting seem pretty reasonable.


Why?!

December 8, 2011

The biggest question in the Gunwalker scandal is also the simplest: Why? The ATF trafficked thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, making no effort to track them. Why do such a thing?

The administration has refused to answer this simple question. They continue to call it a “botched” operations, as though they accidentally gave criminals the money for weapons, they accidentally let the weapons walk, they accidentally ordered ATF agents not to track the weapons, and when one ATF agent did track the weapons in violation of those orders, they accidentally refused his calls for backup. Moreover, the people responsible for Gunwalker have all been promoted, which is not how one responds to a botch.

No, they sent those weapons to Mexican drug cartels on purpose, and they won’t say why.

In the absence of any explanation, we are left to speculate on our own. Did the administration deliberately channel weapons to Mexican drug cartels in order to bolster the false story that most guns used in Mexican crimes come from the United States, and thereby advance its domestic gun-control agenda?

I don’t want to believe that any American administration, even this one, could be capable of such a thing. But the evidence is mounting.

We learned in July that William Newell, the agent in charge of Fast and Furious, was being pressed for evidence to support a new policy restricting gun sales in border states. (The new policy was later put into effect despite the scandal.) But we didn’t have any information that specifically linked Fast and Furious to the political agenda. Until now.

Last week, the Justice Department handed over documents to Congress detailing the DOJ’s internal deliberation on how to respond to Congress’s demand for information on Gunwalker, and how it happened that nearly everything the DOJ ended up saying in response was false. What caught my eye in those documents was this:

[US Attorney Dennis] Burke wrote, “By the way, what is so offensive about this whole project” of response “is that Grassley’s staff, acting as willing stooges for the Gun Lobby, have attempted to distract from the incredible success in dismantling” Southwest Border “gun trafficking operations” . . .

(ASIDE: Burke’s name has come up in this story before.) By referring to the “Gun Lobby” here, Burke indicates that the administration’s gun-control agenda was a consideration in how it responded to the scandal. This doesn’t prove that Fast and Furious was originally conceived to advance a political agenda, but it does tie it to that political agenda after the fact.

The connection grew much stronger this week, with new documents obtained by CBS News:

On Jan. 4, 2011, as ATF prepared a press conference to announce arrests in Fast and Furious, Newell saw it as “(A)nother time to address Multiple Sale on Long Guns issue.” And a day after the press conference, Chait emailed Newell: “Bill–well done yesterday… (I)n light of our request for Demand letter 3, this case could be a strong supporting factor if we can determine how many multiple sales of long guns occurred during the course of this case.”

These emails make it clear that the gun-control agenda was part of Fast and Furious. Was there any other purpose to Fast and Furious? It’s high time the administration gave us an answer.

(Previous post.)


Crony capitalism

December 8, 2011

This is interesting:

A former MF Global employee accused former president William J. Clinton of collecting $50,000 per month through his Teneo advisory firm in the months before the brokerage careened towards its Halloween filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Teneo was hired by MF Global’s former CEO Jon S. Corzine to improve his image and to enhance his connections with Clinton’s political family.


9th Circuit bans logging

December 8, 2011

In a bizarre new ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed decades of precedent and ruled that rainwater is an industrial pollutant, if it ever runs through a pipe or culvert. The case arose from an lawsuit pertaining to culverts that carry water off logging roads.

If the ruling stands (it probably will not) it will require that loggers obtain permits to use any forest road, which will essentially ban the logging industry for a decade:

The U.S. Forest Service reports there are about 378,000 road miles in our national forests and that it will need about 400,000 permits. By the most conservative estimate, adding in state and private forests nearly doubles that number. Other estimates place the total well into the millions. Simply obtaining the Forest Service’s permits will take 10 years.


“I simply do not know where the money is”

December 8, 2011

That’s Jon Corzine, Democrat, former US Senator and governor of New Jersey, testifying that he has no idea where the $1.2 billion stolen from his firm might have gone.

Kevin Williamson adds:

Anybody remember that this Wall Street Democrat used to sit on the Senate committees on banking and the budget?

Question: Why should we believe that the motives of people in (cough, cough) “public service” are different from the motives of people in the for-profit sector? Was Jon Corzine a rapacious self-seeker at Goldman Sachs, then a public-spirited man when he was in the Senate and in New Jersey’s governorship, only to revert to form when he went to MF Global? If you doubt that this is true, and suspect that Jon Corzine was the same guy all along, why would you want to give government more power?

Indeed.


Catholics need not apply

December 8, 2011

The Obama administration is cutting off funding for a program to fight sex-trafficking run by the Catholic Church, despite the independent review board’s recommendation that the program be renewed:

In the case of the trafficking contract, senior political appointees at HHS stepped in to award the new grants to the bishops’ competitors, overriding an independent review board and career staffers who had recommended that the bishops be funded again, according to federal officials and internal HHS documents. . .

The decision not to fund the bishops this time has caused controversy inside HHS. A number of career officials refused to sign documents connected to the grant, feeling that the process was unfair and politicized, individuals familiar with the matter said. Their concerns have been reported to the HHS inspector general’s office.

HHS policies spell out that career officials usually oversee grant competitions and select the winners, giving priority consideration to the review board’s judgment. The policies do not prohibit political appointees from getting involved, though current and former employees said it is unusual, especially for high-level officials.

There is little doubt about why the political staff overruled the independent review board. The politicals made it clear from the outset that Catholics would not be considered:

This spring, as the contract approached its expiration, HHS political appointees became involved in reshaping the request for proposals, adding a “strong preference” for applicants offering referrals for family planning and the “full range” of “gynecological and obstetric care.’’

That the review board selected the Catholic organization anyway, despite the “strong preference” for anyone else, indicates how superior their application must have been to the others. But the Obama administration decided that fighting sex trafficking was a lower priority than advancing its abortion agenda.


Today’s least-surprising scientific discovery

December 5, 2011

Yes, Virginia, policy uncertainty does suppress economic growth.


US ambassador attacks Israel

December 5, 2011

President Obama’s ambassador to Belgium says that Muslim anti-Semitism is Israel’s fault:

“There is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and indeed sometimes an all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East,” Gutman told the group, according to a transcript of his remarks published in the European Jewish Press.

I’ve heard many leftists make this sort of argument, and, as always, the historical illiteracy is appalling. This has the casual relationship precisely backwards. The conflict between Israel and its surrounding enemies exists precisely because of Middle Eastern Arabs’ long-standing refusal to live alongside Jews.


Secret rules

December 5, 2011

The essence of the rule of law is that everyone knows what the rules are and can make decisions accordingly. It is antithetical to the rule of law that the government would have secret rules, rules that are not disclosed but that the country is answerable to nonetheless.

The Chicago machine is infamous for its contempt for the rule of law, so it’s not too surprising that, if you put the Chicago machine in charge of the federal government, you would get the same contempt at the federal level.

Two examples of secret rules from the Obama administration recently came to light:

One is out of the Justice Department, in which the voting section draws up its own redistricting plans to promote minority representation. The Justice Department rejects plans that don’t look enough like their own, but they won’t come out and reveal their plan.

The other is out of the Department of Education, in which the online colleges were audited using a new accounting rule that had never been disclosed to them.

Note that both instances advance the administration’s political interests. In the former case, the administration wants as many minority representatives as possible. In the latter case, the administration wants to hurt on-line schools (traditional schools were not judged using the new secret rule).

Holding back this sort of Chicago politics is exactly what the rule of law is for.


Solyndra not out of the trough yet

December 5, 2011

Could this administration be more brazen?

Hundreds of workers who were laid off by the bankrupt solar firm that received $528 million in taxpayer support are eligible for additional federal aid, the Labor Department has ruled.

The potential benefits for laid-off Solyndra workers would fall under a program known as “trade adjustment assistance.” The taxpayer-backed benefits are supposed to help workers who lost their jobs presumably because production was shifted overseas.

In a Nov. 18 decision, the Labor Department ruled that former Solyndra employees meet the criteria. Echoing an argument that has been made for months by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other Obama administration officials, the department determined that Solyndra’s workers were hurt by foreign competition.

Solyndra’s workers were not hurt by foreign competition. On the contrary, they briefly had a job that should never have existed at all, if not for federal largess. They all knew it. And now they’ll get more federal largess.

(Previous post.)


Casus belli

December 5, 2011

Iran trained Al Qaeda on how to bomb embassies. (Via Instapundit.)

POSTSCRIPT: It will be good to remember this whenever some superficially knowledgeable nitwit claims that Sunni Al Qaeda could never collaborate with Shia Iran.


Death panels

December 5, 2011

More euthanasia at the British NHS, the model for nationalized health care that Democrats would like to see established in the United States:

Tens of thousands of patients with terminal illnesses are being placed on a “death pathway”, almost double the number just two years ago, a study published today shows.

Health service guidance states that doctors should discuss with relations whether or not their loved one is placed on the scheme which allows medical staff to withdraw fluid and drugs in a patient’s final days. In many cases this is not happening, an audit has found. As many as 2,500 families were not told that their loved ones had been put on the so-called Liverpool Care Pathway, the study disclosed. In one hospital trust, doctors had conversations with fewer than half of families about the care of their loved one.

And just to be clear, these aren’t necessarily patients who will pass away without a little push:

In addition to the withdrawal of fluid and medication, patients can be placed on sedation until they pass away. This can mean they are not fed and provided with water and has led to accusations that it hastens death. . .

Concerns about the pathway were raised first in The Daily Telegraph in 2009 when experts warned that in some cases patients have been put on the pathway only to recover when their families intervened, leading to questions over how people are judged to be in their “last hours and days”.

The title is irresistible, but it’s actually overly glib to call these death panels. With an actual “death panel”, there would be a panel that would issue a ruling openly. One could protest and possibly appeal. Here there’s no panel; just medical bureaucrats who decide in secret that some patients should be put to death.

And this is not an isolated incident. Two months ago the NHS was caught issuing do-not-resuscitate orders without permission. Worse than that, the government had uncovered the practice first, and hushed it up.

This is our future, if the Democrats have their way.

(Via Power Line.)


Obama writing off Pennsylvania?

December 5, 2011

That’s the buzz today. It sounds like suicide to me, but I’m all for it. . .


Debtors’ prison returns

December 3, 2011

Courts are reviving the practice of jailing people for unpaid debts have discovered ways to get around long-standing case law that bars the process. I suspect that if someone looked into how this has happened, they would find that lobbyists for collection agencies have played an important role.


Obama abandons the white working class

December 3, 2011

This is interesting:

For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.

What right-wing publication produced this story? The New York Times.


Not Gingrich please

December 3, 2011

A good example of why I don’t trust Newt Gingrich. (And read to the end so you don’t miss the health care connection.)

(Via Instapundit.)


Gunwalker update

December 3, 2011

A few updates in the Gunwalker scandal:

  • The Justice Department has taken its cover-up to a new level, deciding to seal all the records pertaining to Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder. (Via Instapundit.)
  • A new theory has been floated suggesting that an FBI informant is implicated in Terry’s murder. This would help explain why the FBI denies the existence of a third gun in Terry’s murder despite convincing evidence to the contrary. According to the theory, the FBI’s informant was carrying the third gun, so the FBI has covered it up to protect the informant.
  • All of the managers of Operation Fast and Furious have been promoted, while most of the whistleblowers have been demoted.

I have to add, this third point is an outrage. The Justice Department has said that no one important was aware of Gunwalker. This is almost certainly a lie, but even if true, the DOJ’s leadership is certainly responsible for what they did after the scandal broke. What they did was reward the perpetrators. They have endorsed the operation after-the-fact.

(Previous post.)


End the war on salt!

December 3, 2011

Despite mounting evidence that salt is not unhealthy, the FDA is pushing a new effort to crack down on salt consumption.

The fact is, different people need different amounts of salt. Some people would benefit from cutting back salt consumption, but others would be harmed. I happen to be in the latter category. I’ve already suffered on occasion when well-meaning nutrition busybodies have sought to limit my salt intake and I do not want to see these petty tyrants take their misguided program nationwide.

(Previous post.)


Shut up, they explained

December 3, 2011

The Richmond Tea Party paid $8,500 to use the same park that Occupy Wall Street has been using for weeks, paying nothing. So the Tea Party asked for a refund. Richmond’s response? An audit:

Tea party activists in Richmond, Va., watched as liberal Occupy Wall Street protesters paid nothing to use the same park that conservatives paid $8,500 to use for three of its “tax day” rallies. So the tea partyers pushed the issue by demanding a full refund of their fees.

Instead of a check, the Richmond Tea Party received a letter from the city saying it may have failed to pay taxes on ticket and food sales – and it should immediately prepare for an audit.

The city denies allegations that the audit warning was some kind of political retaliation or harassment.


Astroturf Wall Street

December 3, 2011

The New Yorker has a full piece on how the Occupy Wall Street Movement was astroturfed. Of course, those who have been paying attention have known this for some time, but the fact that it’s in the pages of the New Yorker means the bubble has truly burst on this execrable movement.

(Via Big Journalism.)

POSTSCRIPT: It seems that I never linked Jon Stewart’s piece on Occupy Wall Street, which was the first sign that the left was turning on Occupy Wall Street.


Obama wants power to detain US citizens indefinitely

December 1, 2011

(Important update appended.)

The defense bill before the Senate has a very troubling provision: it allows the president to detain indefinitely any person who supports Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces”. The provision does not specify how the determination is made, and it provides no exemption for US citizens arrested on US soil.

According to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) (video here, cue to 4:43:02), an earlier version of the bill specifically excluded US citizens. That provision was removed at the behest of the Obama administration.

Let’s please not have any more nonsense about this president’s great concern for civil liberties. (UPDATE: There’s still plenty of instances of this president’s disdain for civil liberties, but this isn’t an example of it.)

POSTSCRIPT: There’s plenty of blame for Republicans as well. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) proposed an amendment that would have striken the provision. It was voted down 60-38, with most Democrats voting yea (but not enough) and most Republicans voting no.

UPDATE: I’m confused now. Andrew McCarthy writes that the president has had the power to detain US citizens as enemy combatants at least since World War 2:

In 1942, American citizen combatant Hans Haupt was captured by the FBI inside the U.S. and ordered detained as an enemy combatant by FDR. In 2002, American citizen combatant Jose Padilla was captured by the FBI inside the U.S. and ordered detained as an enemy combatant by Bush 43. . . As the Haupt and Padilla examples demonstrate, the president already has authority (in the ongoing war, under the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF)), to detain American citizens as enemy combatants.

This isn’t consistent with what David Kopel wrote, and I’m not sure who’s right.

Further muddying the waters are two amendments (at least, I think they’re two different amendments), each of which purportedly do what Kopel says the bill does without any amendments. One is by Sessions (1274), and the other by McCain and Levin (couldn’t find a number for that one). McCarthy was talking about the latter; the former was the subject of this statement by Rand Paul. I couldn’t find text for either amendment.

UPDATE (12/9): Mea culpa. I’m now convinced to the opposite view, that the bill does not change the law, and that existing law is pretty reasonable. More here.


Imagine no unions; it’s easy if you try

December 1, 2011

One of my college economics professors expounded the theory that labor unions actually improve the efficiency of unionized businesses. Despite the fact that union monopoly power leads to featherbedding, she argued that unions create such esprit de corps within the workforce that the net result is positive. Yes, she actually said that. (Later she left the university to join the Clinton administration.)

A strike at Heathrow Airport gives us the opportunity to see which effect dominates:

Heathrow has never been more efficient!
Passengers’ glee as border agency strike SPEEDS UP passport control

Passengers who had been warned of lengthy delays at Heathrow due to striking workers today said border controls were ‘better than usual’.

As Border Agency bosses were forced to take on regular airport workers to man passport control, delighted passengers said queues had been shorter than normal. The situation was echoed at Dover too as passengers faced apparently normal travel conditions with ferry services ‘running well and to time’ this morning.

Looks like the featherbedding effect not only dominates the esprit de corps effect, it also dominates any effect of the training and experience of the usual staff. It will be a pity if the strike ever ends.

POSTSCRIPT: Q: How many university workers does it take to change a light bulb? A: Three.

No punchline; that’s just how many it takes. You’re not allowed to change it yourself, either; that’s union work.


Boeing case ends in a muddle

December 1, 2011

The union on whose charges the NLRB based its horrible Boeing decision has dropped those charges. This is surely good news for Boeing in the short run; it is free to build its new plant in South Carolina. But I agree with Mario Loyola that this is a bad thing for our country (and for Boeing, in the long run).

We needed to strike down definitively the notion that the NLRB could tell businesses where to invest. That didn’t happen. We will certainly see this tactic again now, and until it happens, the possibility of a baseless lawsuit will hang over every business that considers investing in a right-to-work state.


Our lawless government

December 1, 2011

The NLRB broke the law by coordinating its defense of its horrible Boeing decision (more on this in the next post) with the NLRB’s general counsel. Briefly:

Because the NLRB has within itself all of the governing powers our Founding Fathers believed should be separated (legislative, executive and judicial), its creators also wrote rules making it illegal for board employees who perform different functions from communicating with each other under certain circumstances.

If those protections don’t work any more, let’s abolish the board.


Why we fight

December 1, 2011

Ann Coulter explains why Republicans are so resolutely opposed to tax hikes.


Corruption

December 1, 2011

One of the revelations from Peter Schweizer’s new book on Congressional insider trading is former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) cleaning up on malfeasance regards a credit card regulation bill:

Nancy Pelosi apparently bought $1 million to $5 million of Visa stock in one of the most sought-after and profitable initial public offerings (IPO) in American history, thwarted serious credit card reform for two years, and then watched her investment skyrocket 203%. . .

According to Schweizer, corporations that wish to build congressional allies will sometimes hand-pick members of Congress to receive IPOs. Pelosi received her Visa IPO almost two weeks after a potentially damaging piece of legislation for Visa, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act, had been introduced in the House. If passed, the bill would have cut into Visa’s profits substantially. . .

The Credit Card Fair Fee Act was exactly the kind of bill one would think then-Speaker Pelosi would have backed. “She had been outspoken about antitrust problems posed by insurance, oil, and pharmaceutical companies,” Schweizer notes, “and she was vocal about the need for controlling interest rates individual banks charged to use their credit cards.” . . .

Still, with at least ten percent of the Pelosi family’s entire stock portfolio invested in a single stock, Nancy Pelosi clearly had a vested interest in ensuring that Visa’s profits were protected. . . Pelosi saw to it that the bill never made it to the House floor. . .

Pelosi also blocked a second credit-card bill from reaching the house floor. Finally:

Pelosi eventually supported something called the Credit Card Reform Act. Curiously, the all-important interchange fees went untouched by that legislation. . . The bill’s other measures would not affect Visa but rather its client banks.

This is naked corruption, but, alas, it’s perfectly legal. And Pelosi is hardly alone.

Now Democrats are trying to fire back, alleging similiar by Speaker John Boehner. Now, I’m sure there are examples of similar corruption on the Republican side — Republican congressmen aren’t angels either. But for Boehner, all they have is this:

Schweizer and “60 Minutes” claim that during the 2009 debate over healthcare reform, Boehner bought health insurance stocks in the days before Congress conclusively nixed the “public option” — a government-run insurance option that could have siphoned off business from insurance companies.

If they think this is a relevant counter, they don’t even understand the scandal. There are two different reasons why Pelosi’s Visa actions are corrupt:

  1. Pelosi took actions to favor her own personal interests in opposition to her usual politics. (To wit: ordinarily she certainly would have supported the credit card regulation bill.)
  2. Pelosi benefited from information not available to the general public. (To wit: she knew that the credit card regulation bill would fail.)

Neither of these are the case with John Boehner. He would have opposed the public option regardless of his personal interests — it was opposed by every single Republican. And neither is there any evidence that he benefited from inside information.

Returning to the general scandal, Congress cannot be expected to police itself. If any evidence were required, the fact that a leading “reform” bill is fake would provide it. So what should be done?

Schweizer’s solution is to throw them all out and start over. Not a bad start, but even if it were accomplished, why would the next class of Congressmen be any less corrupt?

Instead, what we need to do is remove Congress’s power. Then they couldn’t use their power to serve their own interests, and they wouldn’t have insider information on which to trade.

In fact, the Founding Fathers envisioned exactly this scheme. They knew that politicians would be corrupt, and sought to set up a system in which political corruption would do the least harm. Alas, their system has been broken for years. It’s time to fix it.

(Via Instapundit.)


Smart diplomacy

December 1, 2011

President Obama refers to the “English embassy”.