Narrative fail

January 30, 2012

Well this will complicate the Obama campaign’s efforts to vilify Bain Capital:

Jeffrey Zients will serve as President Obama’s new acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), but the president’s decision might undercut attacks on Republican Mitt Romney’s career as a venture capitalist, because Zients and Romney are both alumni of Bain & Company. . .

The White House emphasized Zients’ “twenty years as a CEO, management consultant, and entrepreneur” when announcing his promotion, but did not mention that Zients’ used to work with Bain & Company.

(Via the Corner.)


New York free to evict churches

January 30, 2012

The news for religious freedom out of the Supreme Court isn’t all good, though. The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal filed by a Bronx church that meets in a public school against a decision by the Board of Education to evict it. (The Board said that it was protecting the minds of “impressionable youth”!)

The church seemed to be on good legal grounds, since the courts have found that if a public facilities decides to rent out its space, it cannot discriminate as to who may do so. The Alliance Defense Fund found the Court’s decision not to take the case “befuddling“.


Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC

January 30, 2012

Earlier this month religious people of every stripe scored a major victory against the Obama administration when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC. It’s quite astonishing what the administration was trying to pull, even from that bunch: they asserted that the government has the power to dictate to a church who its ministers will be.

The case involved a woman, Cheryl Perich, who was hired as a “called teacher” at the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church. The position carried the official title of “Minister of Religion, Commissioned.” Perich became ill and was unable to begin work on schedule. Part way through the year, Perich reported for work, but the church disputed whether she was really ready to return to work. At this point, according to the church, Perich behaved badly and was dismissed.

Perich filed a claim with the EEOC, which agreed with her and filed suit. The lower court ruled in favor of the church, finding that the ministerial exception prevented the case from going forward. The exception, which is grounded in the First Amendment, says that the government cannot regulate a church’s choice of ministers. However, the court of appeals vacated the decision, finding that the position of “called teacher” is not really a minister.

The appeals court’s position that some church ministers weren’t really ministers was troubling, but then the Obama administration dramatically raised the stakes. The Justice Department filed a brief arguing that there should be no ministerial exception at all! (This position was even more radical than the one taken in the atheists’ brief.)

Instead, the DOJ argued that churches must rely on the same freedom of association that protects all Americans. Freedom of association has been shown to be a porous “freedom” offering very little protection, which is precisely what the administration intended.

The Supreme Court rejected the administration’s radical contention 9-0, observing:

Their position, however, is hard to square with the text of the First Amendment itself, which gives special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations. The Court cannot accept the remarkable view that the Religion Clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization’s freedom to select its own ministers.

The court also found that Perich was a minister covered by the ministerial exception.

A more brazen attempt to undermine the First Amendment can hardly be imagined. Let’s please not have any more nonsense about this president’s respect for civil liberties. He is quite the opposite.

(Via Bench Memos.)

UPDATE: It should be obvious that giving the government any foot in the door in regard to churches’ choice of ministers is inimical to religious freedom. In case it isn’t, this article explains how even anti-discrimination law could be leveraged into a substantial burden on religious freedom.


Late homework

January 24, 2012

The White House has announced that it will again fail to deliver a budget by the first Monday in February, as required by law. This will be the third time during the four years of the Obama administration.

The Democrat-controlled Senate, of course, has not been able to produce a budget in years.


White House directed Solyndra delay

January 23, 2012

Remember how the Department of Energy asked Solyndra to delay announcing layoffs until after the midterm elections? Newly released documents show that the White House was involved in that request:

  1. 10/25/2010 — Solyndra CEO writes to the DoE that he will announce worker layoffs on 10/28.
  2. 10/27/2010 — In the White House, climate change adviser Zichal sent out an e-mail to Obama adviser Browner and several other officials warning of a layoff announcement in very specific terms — “200 of their 1200 workers” — and added, “No es bueno,” which is Spanish for “not good.”
  3. 10/28/2010 — No announcement comes forth from Solyndra on layoffs.
  4. 10/30/2010 — Solyndra investor explains that the DoE “push[ed] very hard” for a delay on the announcement until November 3rd, the day after the election, even remarking that the DoE “oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.”

(Previous post.)


The decline of civilization

January 23, 2012

One of the major indicators of the decline of our civilization is our failure to favor law-abiding citizens over criminals. In one of the most egregious cases you’ll see, police in Swampscott, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston) arrested a man who stopped an armed thief who broke into his truck.

This isn’t even a gun-rights case. The hero in this case was unarmed, and disabled a criminal carrying a knife and a billy club. Nevertheless, the police charged the hero with a felony, and only after considerable media pressure was applied did the DA agree not to prosecute. Even then the DA pointedly refused to say that the police had acted incorrectly.

The message is clear: no one is to stand in the way of criminals plying their trade.

(Via Instapundit.)


Why the stimulus

January 23, 2012

A “sensitive and confidential” briefing document written by Larry Summers, head of President Obama’s economic team, in 2008 and leaked to the New Yorker recently, confirms what the president’s critics have said all along. The purpose of the Obama stimulus plan was to implement Obama’s domestic agenda, and it was known to be dangerously over-large:

The short-run economic imperative was to identify as many campaign promises or high priority items that would spend out quickly and be inherently temporary. . .

It is important to recognize that we can only generate about $225 billion of actual spending on priority investments over next two years, and this is after making what some might argue are optimistic assumptions about the scale of investments in areas like Health IT that are feasible over this period. . .

Closing the gap between what the campaign proposed and the estimates of the campaign offsets would require scaling back proposals by about $100 billion annually or adding new offsets totaling the same. Even this, however, would leave an average deficit over the next decade that would be worse than any post-World War II decade. This would be entirely unsustainable and could cause serious economic problems in the both the short run and the long run. . .

The stimulus package is a key tool for advancing clean energy goals and fulfilling a number of campaign commitments.

(Via Instapundit.)


Conflict of interest

January 23, 2012

Richard Griffin, one of President Obama’s illegal recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, where is supposed to be a neutral arbiter between labor and business (ha ha!), will be on a union’s payroll while serving on the board.


Basic journalism

January 23, 2012

Dear Washington Post, quotation marks are for direct quotes, not paraphrases.


Oh, geez

January 20, 2012

Solyndra wants to pay bonuses.


OPEN

January 20, 2012

Content creators have a legitimate interest in protecting their property. With the break-the-internet bills hopefully going to defeat, is there another, better way to do it?

ASIDE: Some have said that Hollywood and its ilk are liberal institutions and we should let them swing in the wind. I despise that bunch as much as anyone, and yes, I know that that is exactly how the Democratic party operates, but I don’t think we should stoop to that kind of Chicago-style politics. The right thing to do is the right thing to do, even if it benefits Hollywood.

Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) OPEN bill might be right way to do it. I can’t speak to all the details, but the basic concept seems workable: Rather than censor the Internet, OPEN would go after the finances that make piracy profitable.

What makes this attractive to me is that is puts the solution in the same space as the problem. The Internet is not broken; it is a tool for transmitting data and it works well. Content piracy is a financial problem and the solution should be situated in that space.

And if Hollywood isn’t satisfied with that, they can swing in the wind.


Idiocy

January 20, 2012

Fox News reports:

A Utah school district decided not to select a cougar as the mascot of a new high school partly because school officials and some parents believed the word is disrespectful to women. . .

In pop culture, the term “cougar” refers to a sexually aggressive middle-aged woman who attracts younger men. However, the cougar is also a large mountain cat — that also happens to be the mascot for Brigham Young University — along with three other Utah high schools.

I think this is good. Kids need to be clearly taught the idiocy of political correctness. I’m glad the Canyons School District is stepping up.


Right abandons SOPA/PIPA, left doesn’t

January 19, 2012

Yesterday’s online protests against the break-the-internet bills are moving Republicans into opposition, but not Democrats.

Interesting. There’s lots of things this could mean, none of them favorable to Democrats. The easiest explanation is Democrats don’t give a rat’s behind what the people think.


Bolivia legalizes lynching

January 19, 2012

When you put socialists in charge, due process goes out the window (subscription required):

The new constitution drawn up by Mr Morales’s party and approved in 2009 has legalised traditional justice dispensed by village elders. Community justice can sometimes resemble legalised lynching, featuring stoning, strangulation or burning with petrol. The police do not keep separate records of these acts. Carlos Valverde, an investigative journalist, chronicled 16 such killings in 2009 and 13 in the first half of 2010, including the kidnap, torture and murder of four policemen.


Rationing kills

January 19, 2012

When the government decides who gets health care, people die:

A 23-year-old died of cervical cancer because doctors said she was too young for a smear test, her devastated family have claimed. Mercedes Curnow, from Cornwall, first went to her GP at 20 years old but her mother says her symptoms were ‘ignored’ because of her age. . .

Government legislation was changed in 2003 to mean regular smear tests are only given to women aged over 25, where previously all women over 20 were given the tests.

Whatever you do, don’t call our new health care rationing board a “death panel”, that would alarmist. . .

(Via Instapundit.)


Alice in Obamaland

January 19, 2012

A few weeks ago (yes, I’m still catching up), the very interesting story broke of the White House’s extravagant 2009 Halloween party. The White House was decorated in Alice-in-Wonderland style by director Tim Burton and the party was attended by Jonny Depp in character as the Mad Hatter. One participant came wearing the original Chewbacca costume!

Realizing how bad this looked, the White House hushed up the event, and asked the press not to report it, claims a new book on the first couple:

“White House officials were so nervous about how a splashy, Hollywood-esque party would look to jobless Americans — or their representatives in Congress, who would soon vote on health care — that the event was not discussed publicly and Burton’s and Depp’s contributions went unacknowledged,” the book says.

The fascinating thing is that the press went along with it!

This isn’t a White House scandal (although it is curious that neither Burton nor Depp appears on the White House visitor logs), but it’s a first-rate media failure scandal. How much were the White House press corps in the tank for President Obama? So much that they would agree not to report a story that made Obama look bad.

What’s amusing about this story is how it was the White House that persuaded me that it’s true. The official White House blog attacked a straw man, saying that the party wasn’t a secret. That’s beside the point; no one is saying that the fact that a party was held was a secret. What was kept quiet was the extravagance of the party. On that subject the blog weighed in as well:

The author attempts to paint the fact that some involved in the film attended and were not singled out in previews of the event as an attempt to hide their involvement — this was a large event, word of their involvement was certain to be reported, and indeed it was.

Oh, it was reported? That would change things, but let’s not take the White House’s word for it; let’s follow the link to the Politico story (archived here):

The official White House social media releases and the reporter pool dispatches from the party do not mention either Burton or Depp, but the Depp fan site JohnnyDeppNews.com reported that the actor was in attendance with Burton. And the Nashville Tennessean also reported that both Depp and Burton were at the White House for the party.

Seriously? JonnyDeppNews.com and the Nashville Tennessean?! That doesn’t refute the story, it confirms it. The White House pool (and Politico, for that matter) didn’t say anything. The only reporting they can find was in a Depp fan site and some local paper no one’s ever heard of. Very well, I will happily concede that neither JonnyDeppNews.com nor the Nashville Tennessean seem to be in the tank for Obama. For the rest of the media, and especially the weasels in the White House press corps, the charge remains.


Dodd-Frank delenda est

January 19, 2012

A reminder of why Dodd-Frank is so bad, and why it has nothing whatsoever to do with consumer protection:

The CFPB is a constitutional affront, the crowning achievement of this White House’s mantra of never letting a crisis go to waste.

The agency has the power to regulate any practices it deems “unfair” — primarily the practices of institutions and businesses that had nothing whatsoever to do with the financial crisis.

Indeed, it has blank-check power to write the rules it wants to enforce. Worse, it cannot be reined in by Congress, because Dodd-Frank gave it a self-funding mechanism. It can simply take up to 12 percent of the Federal Reserve’s operating expenses to do whatever it wants. The power of Congress is ultimately the power of the purse. But in their finite wisdom, Democratic lawmakers gelded themselves. They also insulated the rogue agency from the courts, requiring that judges defer to the CFPB’s legal theories.

It’s pretty clearly an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power, although you can’t count on the Supreme Court enforcing the Constitution any more.


Save the Internet

January 18, 2012

As everyone already knows, countless web sites around the Internet are going black today to protest the break-the-internet bills, SOPA in the House and Protect IP in the Senate.

I’m not going black, because the bill is supposed to be dead in the House. But I’ve thought that before (remember when we thought we’d killed health care nationalization?), so I called my Congressman anyway. You should too.


Chutzpah

January 18, 2012

Argentina, which launched a war of aggression in 1982 and lost it, says that Britain should seek a peaceful solution:

Argentina’s foreign minister Héctor Timerman said: “Instead of convening its National Security Council, Great Britain should call Ban Ki-moon and accept the multiple resolutions of the [UN] organisation urging a dialogue on the Malvinas [Falklands] question to reach a peaceful solution.”


I love Stephen Harper

January 17, 2012

The CBC reports:

Any decision on developments such as the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline should be left to Canadians, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says. . .

“But just because certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America, I don’t think that’s part of what our review process is all about.”

Via Instapundit, who adds: “Funny, the usual suspects aren’t denouncing ‘Yankee imperialism’ here.”


Good news

January 17, 2012

The House is killing its break-the-Internet bill. I think this is Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) doing. Good for him.

The Senate’s bill is still alive, but I think this indicates that it has no future in the House.


Facebook jumps the shark

January 17, 2012

Facebook is sharing all its users’ private status updates and messages with Politico, an on-line publication focusing on politics. This is supposed to be okay, because all that material will be reviewed only by computers, not by people.

Personally, I would find that reassurance un-reassuring, even if I believed it, which I’m not sure I do. But it doesn’t really affect me, because I already recognize that nothing I put on Facebook is private.

(Via Althouse.)


Wrong is easy, correction is hard

January 17, 2012

At Media Myth Alert:

The Washington Post offered online readers a dramatic example of “whiplash journalism” yesterday, reporting that the goal of U.S. sanctions against Iran was to topple the regime in Tehran then rolling back that stunning report.

Left thoroughly unclear was how the Post got the story so utterly wrong in the first place.


Physician, heal thyself

January 17, 2012

A recent blog post at the Washington Post accused the military of dishonesty:

Consider the Army’s dogged initial insistence that Pat Tillman was not, in fact, killed by “friendly fire;” the fabrication of the story of Jessica Lynch; and the recent embellishment by the Marine Corps of their medal winner’s story. This is lying to the people the military is meant to protect, and who pay for it. It is absolutely, completely, unacceptable. Yet it now has become common.

That’s strong stuff, and it fails to allow for human fallibility, exacerbated by the fog of war.

But in regard to Jessica Lynch, it’s not even factual. As W. Joseph Campbell explains, the Jessica Lynch story was fabricated, not by the military, but by the Washington Post. That’s right, the very same publication using the incident to besmirch the military.

(Via Instapundit.)


The recess appointments

January 17, 2012

Some thoughts on President Obama’s recess appointments, now two weeks old:

  • Clearly it’s appallingly hypocritical, even by the low standards of Congress, for Democrats now to oppose a tactic they invented just a few years ago to frustrate President Bush’s recess appointments.
  • I think that Jonah Goldberg is right that Obama did this in order to try to pick a fight, for political purposes, and that Republicans are smart not to take the bait. And indeed, they don’t have to. There are plenty of other parties that have standing to challenge this appointments in court.
  • In regard to the “Consumer Protection” agency, they will certainly win too, because the law is clear. Regardless of the legitimacy of the Cordray appointment itself, the law makes clear that Cordray will have no power until he is confirmed by the Senate, which still hasn’t happened (and now probably never will).
  • John Elwood makes the case that the appointments are valid, because otherwise the Congress would have the power to frustrate the President’s constitutional authority. But I find John Yoo and Richard Epstein’s analyses more convincing. Both of them point out that President Obama is arrogating the authority to decide for Congress whether Congress’s session is a real one. To the contrary, the Constitution always grants each branch of government the power to make such decisions itself. (Epstein goes further and challenges the entire power of recess appointments as it is now used, but I don’t think we need to reach that.)
  • The President’s claim that the Senate was not really in session because it didn’t do any work is particularly problematic because it actually did do some work during the session in question. This seems to make the White House’s position entirely untenable.
  • Making the White House’s position even more absurd is the fact that just two years ago the Justice Department wrote an opinion acknowledging that the Senate could block recess appointments with pro forma sessions. (The letter was written by Elena Kagan, now a Supreme Court justice.) The White House sought and obtained a new opinion just two days before the recess appointments.

Good news

January 15, 2012

Congress seems to be backing off its break-the-Internet bills.


Iron Lady

January 15, 2012

I like this:


Working the denominator, not the numerator

January 13, 2012

Here’s why the unemployment rate is falling:

(Via Instapundit.)


Passwords and self-incrimination

January 13, 2012

An interesting legal battle is ongoing over whether a person can be forced to reveal a computer password, or whether she is protected from doing so by the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.

Under existing case law, the latter position seems stronger to me. The controlling case seems to be Doe v. United States. At issue in Doe was whether someone could be forced to sign a consent directive allowing foreign banks to disclose some information the government wanted. The court’s opinion wrote:

We do not disagree with the dissent that “[t]he expression of the contents of an individual’s mind” is testimonial communication for purposes of the Fifth Amendment. . . We simply disagree with the dissent’s conclusion that the execution of the consent directive at issue here forced petitioner to express the contents of his mind. In our view, such compulsion is more like “be[ing] forced to surrender a key to a strongbox containing incriminating documents,” than it is like “be[ing] compelled to reveal the combination to [petitioner’s] wall safe.”

The analogy to a safe’s combination came from the dissent, which said:

A defendant can be compelled to produce material evidence that is incriminating. . .But can he be compelled to use his mind to assist the prosecution in convicting him of a crime? I think not. He may in some cases be forced to surrender a key to a strongbox containing incriminating documents, but I do not believe he can be compelled to reveal the combination to his wall safe — by word or deed.

So the question is whether a password is material evidence like a strongbox key, or the contents of a mind like a safe’s combination. I think it’s clearly the latter.

(Via Instapundit.)


Love that Justice Department

January 13, 2012

The DEA helped a Colombian drug lord smuggle cocaine and launder money:

U.S drug enforcement agents secretly helped a Colombian cocaine supplier launder millions of dollars in drug proceeds so they could infiltrate cartels working through the Mexico border, it has been revealed. . .

They carried out wire transfers for tens of thousands of dollars, smuggled millions in bulk cash and even escorted a shipment of cocaine through Ecuador, Dallas and finally Madrid.

This isn’t the first time either. With all of its effort spent assisting criminals, one wonders if Federal law enforcement has any time for actual law enforcement.

(Via Instapundit.)


Hey, what could go wrong?

January 13, 2012

We shouldn’t be negotiating with the Taliban at all. They aren’t going to turn into something we can live with, and it sends a very bad message. But if we are going to negotiate with the Taliban, we ought to be doing it from a position of strength. We are the United States of America and they are a bunch of guerrillas hiding in caves.

Unfortunately, the Taliban has figured out that if they play hard to get, we will plead with them to negotiate. Even to the point of releasing high-level Taliban from Guantanamo:

The US has agreed in principle to release high-ranking Taliban officials from Guantánamo Bay in return for the Afghan insurgents’ agreement to open a political office for peace negotiations in Qatar, the Guardian has learned.

What kind of message does it send when we will release the Taliban’s leaders just for opening an office in Qatar? And what will those terrorists do once they’ve been released?


Games get better

January 13, 2012

Cracked writes that video games are getting much better (warning: adult language):

Gamers tend to complain a lot about the state of modern gaming. . . But then I stopped and realized: We have all of these amazing, fantastic, borderline magical creations in our hands that, in many ways, dwarf all the wildest predictions of yesteryear — and we’ve got the [temerity] to stand around and [complain] that they’re taking too long to load. . .


DOJ diverts settlement money to ACORN

January 13, 2012

Utterly shameless:

The untold story of the Obama Administration’s widely reported, $335 million discrimination settlement with Countrywide Financial Corporation is that, under a secret Justice Department program, a chunk of the money won’t go to the “victims” but rather leftist groups not connected to the lawsuit.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will determine which “qualified organizations” get leftover settlement cash and Democrat-tied groups like the scandal-plagued Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the open-borders National Council of La Raza (NCLR) stand to get large sums based on the hastily arranged deal which got court approval in just a few days.

(Via Instapundit.)


Perspective

January 13, 2012

CNN’s morality:

GOOD NEWS: CNN finally finds someone it can call evil.

Bad news? It’s not CastroSaddamYasser Arafat“Hezbollah’s giants,” Kim Jong-Il, or his son. It’s a conservative journalist.

POSTSCRIPT: I hadn’t seen CNN’s puff piece on Kim Jong-un before. It’s egregious even by CNN’s low standards.


What has capitalism wrought?

January 13, 2012

Victor Davis Hanson writes on how technology (developed by capitalists) has equalized society far more than the class warriors ever have.


AP vows more bias

January 13, 2012

A leaked Associated Press memo explains how they will change their ways:

AP wins when news breaks, but after an hour or two we’re often replaced by a piece of content from someone else who has executed something more thoughtful or more innovative. . . More than ever, we need to infuse that sensibility into our daily process of news and planning.

Journalism With Voice. We’re going to be pushing hard on journalism with voice, with context, with more interpretation. This does not mean that we’re sacrificing any of our deep commitment to unbiased, fair journalism. It does not mean that we’re venturing into opinion, either. It does mean that we need to be looking for ways to be more distinctive and stand out in the field — something our customers need and want. The why and the how of the news are as crucial as the who, what, when and where.

This is exactly the opposite of what they should do. We need more straight reporting, not more “journalism with voice”.

Also, I always think its amusing (but sad) when these people can immunize themselves by giving lip service to their “commitment to unbiased, fair journalism”. The fact is they are creating new channels through which reporters can transmit their bias, and that’s how those new channels will be used, whether they admit it or not.

(Via Instapundit.)


The lives of others

January 13, 2012

Newark, New Jersey has instituted a program offering cash to people to inform on their neighbors who own guns.

Late in the ad (over a minute in) they drop the work “illegal” into the mix, but probably for legal cover, because it’s only after making it very clear they are trying to stop all guns:

There are a small group of people in our City that think they can walk around with guns. It is unacceptable.

(Via Instapundit.)


Love those bureaucrats

January 13, 2012

The FAA halted a program (Operation Migration) that used ultra-light planes to help whooping cranes migrate. Is there anything the government won’t screw up, given the chance?

(Via Instapundit.)


Smart people need not apply

January 13, 2012

The city of New London, Connecticut, has won a lawsuit over a discrimination claim filed by an applicant to the police force who wasn’t hired because he scored too high on an intelligence test.

As a matter of law, I think this is right. Smart people are not a protected class under discrimination law. On the other hand, it seems indefensible as public policy. Of course this is the same city that won the right to use imminent domain to condemn a neighborhood in order to turn it into a garbage dump, so stupidity must reign supreme there.

However, in a related item, the EEOC has ruled that employers may not require a high-school diploma without showing a business necessity. So it seems that (according to the Obama administration) uneducated  people are a protected class.


Indoctrination

January 13, 2012

A Virginia school district is defending a program in which 8-year-olds sang a song supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement. They actually make the risible assertion that the professional “facilitator” had nothing to do with the song’s content, which the facilitator’s (leftist) organization eventually admitted wasn’t true.


No decency

January 13, 2012

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, chairwoman of the DNC, took the anniversary of the Tucson shootings as an opportunity to revive the calumny that conservative rhetoric was somehow responsible for the crime. That is contemptible in its own right, but it also takes an astonishing amount of chutzpah, given this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, or this. Over the last year, the left has shown how truly un-“civil” it is.

But then Wasserman-Schultz exposed her rigged standards in a surprisingly obvious way, telling RNC chair Reince Priebus that his remark — taking her to task for her own contemptible remarks — is the sort of incivility she was talking about. So accusing people of responsibility for murder is civil, but criticizing her for it is uncivil (and, by extension, somehow contributes to murder). What a disgrace.


Skycrane

January 4, 2012

NASA’s scheme (subscription required) for getting its next Mars rover to the surface sounds awfully complicated, but it sure will be cool if it works:

Curiosity’s size makes getting it safely onto the Martian surface tricky. Previous rovers have deployed parachutes to slow their descents, and have then crashed into the ground using airbags to cushion their impacts. Curiosity is too massive for that approach to work. Instead, NASA hopes to deposit it on Mars using a contraption it has dubbed a skycrane.

As with the other rovers, Curiosity’s mother ship will rely on heat shields and air-resistance, and then on a parachute, to slow its arrival. But at an altitude of 1.6km a specially designed descent stage bearing the rover will drop away from this vehicle. The descent stage has eight rocket motors on its corners. These will slow its fall to a relatively sedate 0.75 metres a second. When it is about 20 metres above the surface, the rover will be lowered from it on wires and deposited gently onto the Martian landscape. The cables will then be cut with explosives, the descent stage will fly off and crash land elsewhere, and Curiosity will begin its mission.


Don’t trust the New York Times

January 4, 2012

Completing today’s trifecta of New York Times dishonesty, there’s this incident, in which the NYT lied to its readers about its own actions:

The New York Times thought it was sending an email to a few hundred people who had recently canceled subscriptions, offering them a 50 percent discount for 16 weeks to lure them back. Instead, Wednesday’s offer went to 8.6 million email addresses of people who had given them to the Times.

That was the first mistake. The second came when the Times tweeted this: “If you received an email today about canceling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It’s not from us.”

But the Times did send the original email, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said.

(Via Instapundit.)


The NYT’s bogus gun-crime figures

January 4, 2012

The New York Times wants you to believe that holders of firearms permits are dangerous:

The New York Times examined the permit program in North Carolina, one of a dwindling number of states where the identities of permit holders remain public. The review, encompassing the last five years, offers a rare, detailed look at how a liberalized concealed weapons law has played out in one state. And while it does not provide answers, it does raise questions.

More than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, excluding traffic-related crimes, over the five-year period, The Times found when it compared databases of recent criminal court cases and licensees. While the figure represents a small percentage of those with permits, more than 200 were convicted of felonies, including at least 10 who committed murder or manslaughter.

Here’s the hint that the NYT is trying to deceive you: these are all absolute numbers. What matters is the crime rate, and how it compares to the general population. They don’t say. But Robert VerBruggen does:

Fortunately, state-level murder data are easy to find. North Carolina has a statewide murder rate of about 5 per 100,000. Even without counting manslaughter, that’s 25 murders committed per 100,000 North Carolinians every five years. There are about 230,000 valid concealed-carry permits in North Carolina, so by pure chance, you’d expect these folks to be responsible for nearly 60 murders over five years. And yet only ten of them committed murder or manslaughter.

So the murder rate among permit holders is a sixth of that among the general population. The NYT knows this — you can’t tell me that at no time in their investigation did it occur to them to perform this simple calculation — but they chose not to share the fact with their readers. They want you to believe the opposite.

If you trust content from the New York Times, you’re a sucker.

POSTSCRIPT: VerBruggen’s calculation is good, but here’s one that’s even better: The crime rate among members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Mike Bloomberg’s anti-gun astroturf group) is at least 45 times higher than among Florida’s permit holders. (Via Instapundit.)


Reporting at the New York Times

January 4, 2012

The New York Times, reporting last month on Israel’s release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an abducted Israeli soldier, wanted to emphasize how the released prisoners were innocent of any real crime:

Sarah Abu Sneineh came with her family to greet her grandson Izzedine Abu Sneineh, who was arrested three years ago at age 15 for throwing stones and hanging Palestinian flags from telephone poles.

Oops:

Correction: December 21, 2011 . . .

And the article misstated Israeli charges against one of the freed prisoners, Izzedine Abu Sneineh, who had been arrested three years ago at age 15. Israel had accused him of weapons training, attempted murder and possession of explosives — not throwing stones and hanging Palestinian flags from telephone poles.

John Hinderaker explains how this sort of “mistake” happens:

It is not hard to see what happened here. The Times article is by Ethan Bronner, and it also credits two individuals whom I take to be stringers: Khaled Abu Aker in Ramallah, and Fares Akram in Gaza. Since the incident described here was in Ramallah, the information presumably came from Khaled Abu Aker, a Palestinian journalist. Further, he interviewed Sneineh’s grandmother, and it seems safe to assume that she was the source of the misinformation about the charges against her grandson. Israeli officials could have supplied the real facts, but evidently no one asked them.

This is how reporting works at the NYT, I guess. Just talk to one side — the side you like — and report what they say. Don’t let the other side spoil the narrative.

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, it was only a few days before this that the NYT was calling out the Washington Post for doing the same thing:

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 [blah blah blah] . . . The [Post’s] correction stated that it “should have contacted the Romney campaign for comment before publication.”


Ron Paul has no plan to reform entitlements

January 4, 2012

I’ve never been a fan of Ron Paul: His foreign policy is irresponsible and disqualifying. His domestic objectives are impractical. (“Shut them all down” is fine for a gadfly to shout from the outside, but it’s not a realistic legislative agenda. We need a real plan to downsize the government, and he doesn’t seem to have one.) I don’t share his obsession with the gold standard. And then there’s the troubling material in his newsletters.

But even as a non-fan, I still found this dismaying:

He turns out to have no plan to reform Medicare and Social Security, other than cutting defense spending to make more room for them in the budget.

He wants to slash defense spending in order to prop up entitlements (which won’t work anyway). Yikes.


QFT

January 4, 2012

Glenn Reynolds observes:

WHEN LEAKS ARE GOOD: When they harm the war on terror even though they uncover nothing illegal.

WHEN LEAKS ARE BAD: When they expose wrongdoing by Democrats.


Panel pans California rail plan

January 4, 2012

Fox News reports:

A state-appointed panel said Tuesday that California’s plan to build a high-speed rail system in the state is not financially feasible and should be placed on hold. The report by the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group said the state should not authorize $2.7 billion in bonds to build the initial section of the system.

I’m sure the project will go ahead nonetheless. High-speed rail proponents are impervious to reason.

POSTSCRIPT: This seems like an appropriate time to remind everyone of the biggest problem with high-speed rail, bigger than the billions in wasted money. America has the world’s best rail system already, and high-speed rail could ruin it.

UPDATE: Sure enough:

Brown’s office signaled that the governor isn’t likely to be swayed by the panel’s findings. “It does not appear to add any arguments that are new or compelling enough to suggest a change in course,” said Gil Duran, Brown’s press secretary.

(Via Hot Air.)


The trouble with technocrats

January 4, 2012

One problem with technocracy is it’s so hard to distinguish from kleptocracy:

In May 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to a podium in the Capitol to introduce a half-dozen economic experts she had convened for a meeting on how to jump-start the economy. . . What Pelosi did not mention is that one of the men in the group was her son’s boss and a partner with her husband in more than a half-dozen investments, including one that generated more than $100,000 in income for the Speaker’s family last year.


Holder: People are only upset about Gunwalker because I’m black

January 4, 2012

Eric Holder says that all the criticism of the Gunwalker scandal is because he is black:

“This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” he said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”

Really, Mr. Holder? Really?! The ATF trafficks thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, makes no effort to track them, and won’t explain why. The Justice Department promotes the perpetrators, and punishes the whistleblowers, and obstructs the Congressional investigation. The US Attorney spits in the face of the victims. Holder himself can’t keep his story straight. And the only possible reason for someone to be upset is because Eric Holder is black?!

No, the person bringing race into this is you, Mr. Holder.

(Previous post.) (Via Ed Morrissey.)


Making stuff up

January 4, 2012

The legacy media is running a story claiming that Rick Santorum, taking questions at a campaign event, said “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” The story apparently began with NPR.

The first thing I want to note is there is nothing inherently offensive in this statement (unless you are so liberal that you’re offended by the idea of not redistributing wealth). What might make this offensive would be if he had brought it up outside the context of inter-racial redistribution of wealth, in which case it could be race-baiting. That’s the allegation in this case.

But he never said it. Here’s the video:

He said “I don’t want to make [unintelligible] people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” It’s not clear to me what he did say; I’m getting “lah”. Tommy Christopher renders it “mmbligh”. Ed Morrissey renders it “lives”. But one thing he clearly did not say is “black” — there is no K sound.

The story gets muddier with an interview Santorum gave to CBS News. They asked him about the statement, but they didn’t play the context. So what is Santorum to answer?

  • He can’t explain why he said it, because he doesn’t remember saying it, because he didn’t say it.
  • He can’t deny it and tell them what he did say, because he doesn’t know, because they didn’t play him the context.
  • He can’t deny it and tell them he would never say such a thing, because (as above) there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s only wrong in context, and they didn’t play him the context.

So in this situation, all he can do is say something like what he said “I’ve seen that quote, I haven’t seen the context in which that was made”. He then guessed (incorrectly) at what the context might have been:

Yesterday I talked for example about a movie called . . . ‘Waiting for Superman,’ which was about black children and so I don’t know whether it was in response and I was talking about that.

NPR acted shabbily by putting words in Santorum’s mouth; if you can’t tell, don’t guess. (Although perhaps the reporter really did hear “black”, which — being completely out of context — would tell us a lot more about him than about Santorum.) CBS acted shabbily by ambushing him with the question and not giving him the information to answer. Santorum made a political blunder by guessing.

But worst is where the blogospheric left took the story from there:

There had originally been some confusion about whether Santorum actually said the word “black,” which he appeared to clear up in the CBS interview by acknowledging that was in fact the statement he made.

That’s simply a lie. Santorum did not confirm making the statement.

Finally, I can’t help but observe how disingenuous it is for the left to pretend shock and amazement at race baiting (which, at the risk of repeating myself, Santorum didn’t do), when their response to every single criticism of this administration is to accuse the critics of racism (for example).


What’s the word for undoing a “reset”?

January 2, 2012

The essence of the Obama administration’s “reset” of relations with Russia is this: Before the reset, Russia aggressively fought against western interests, we opposed them, and relations were bad. After the reset, Russia aggressively fights against western interests, we don’t oppose them, and everybody smiles. That’s great, if the smiles are what matter, as opposed to the substance.

Case in point, sanctions against Iran have been starting to bite, and so Russia is trying to get them lifted. Their justification? They have proof, proof!, that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

“We have verified data showing that there is no reliable evidence for the existence of a military component” in Iran’s nuclear programme, said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. . .

“Sanctions have gone way too far. They heavily outweigh what is being done in the sphere of talks. We must push harder on the negotiating track.”

(Via the Corner.)


Muslim Brotherhood to scrap peace treaty

January 2, 2012

As expected, the Muslim Brotherhood has announced plans to scrap Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. They plan to do it with a shrewd gimmick:

The Muslim Brotherhood comes up with a neat trick to break the peace treaty with Israel without formally doing so. Egypt’s next likely ruling party says it simply will hold a plebiscite and let the people do it.

I would like to hear what all those people in the liberal intelligentsia who said the Muslim Brotherhood was moderate and non-violent have to say for themselves now. I wish it were true, but wishing never makes it so.

(Via the Corner.)


Gunwalker update

January 2, 2012

More quotations from administration and ATF officials tying Gunwalker to the administration’s domestic gun-control agenda have surfaced:

There is no evidence the administration initially considered using the operation to justify stronger gun laws. But as the investigation dragged on, and Washington saw more and more weapons from U.S. gun stores show up at Mexican crime scenes, at least some officials saw a political argument developing to support their legislative agenda.

In March 2010, Holder’s Chief of Staff Gary Grindler attended a detailed briefing on Fast and Furious in Washington. In handwritten notes, Grindler wrote the words “long rifle,” “multiple sale” and “need regulation” in the margin of a briefing paper.

On July 14, 2010, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Assistant Director Mark Chait asked then-ATF Phoenix Special Agent in Charge Bill Newell “if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long-gun multiple sales.”

On Jan. 4, 2011, Newell apparently saw the opportunity to publicly push for the new gun regulation. The Fast and Furious news conference provides “another time to address multiple sale on long guns issue,” he wrote Chait.

A day after that news conference, Chait replied in an email: “Bill — well done yesterday … in 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.”

The “demand letter” would require border-state gun stores to report buyers who try to purchase multiple rifles or long guns in a one-week period.

Two months earlier, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke had an email exchange with his counterpart in Washington state, Jenny Durkan. Burke informed her of the Fast and Furious case and its use of straw buyers to deliver guns to Mexico that “have been directly traced to murders of elected officials in Mexico City by the cartels.”

Durkan wrote back: “Let me know when you have time to talk. I want to discuss our approach in enforcing gun sale laws at (gun stores) and gun shows.”

Some of these quotes are new; some we knew already.

As the article points out, this doesn’t mean that Fast and Furious was conceived as a scheme to promote domestic gun control (although the administration has yet to offer any alternative explanation consistent with the facts), but at the very least they did decide to exploit it that way after the fact.

(Previous post.)


Propaganda

January 2, 2012

New York state’s tax department propagandizes on behalf of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D, of course).


Argentina circles the bowl

January 2, 2012

Yeah, this’ll help:

Argentina has temporarily blocked sales of certain electronics including Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry in order to stabilize the country’s ailing economy, while suggesting that companies must build plants in the country to resume sales. The decision by the Argentinian government claims that the selective consumer electronics ban is meant to slow rising inflation and correct the disparity between the pesos and U.S. dollar. . .

If someone were to look, I think they’d find a Kircher ally who benefits financially from this. At least, I hope so. It’s actually more frightening if they are actually telling the truth; if they really think that banning smartphone sales will help their economy. Who is going to invest in Argentine manufacturing under these circumstances?

POSTSCRIPT: Vodkapundit’s link is no good any more (the article’s been replaced by a full page of ads); you can find the article here.