Big Journalism’s observation that the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” column rewrote an column to make it much kinder to the Obama administration has been getting some attention. The column looked at the administration’s defense of its reams of new regulations, originally finding it quite bogus (“three Pinocchios”). Then the column was rewritten to remove the most cutting observations and downgrades it to the lowest rating (“one Pinocchios”). (Via Instapundit.)
Among the facts that were deleted in the rewrite is this one: When comparing the number of pages of regulations between the Bush and Obama administration, “that number doesn’t clarify whose rules have a larger negative impact.”
Obviously, the number of pages of rules gives only a very rough estimate of their impact. (Moreover, other deleted facts called into question whether even the page count comparison was accurate.) The cost-benefit analysis is much more telling.
As it happens, the Economist had an article (subscription required) last month about the questionable calculations that the Obama administration has been making to improve its cost-benefit justification. It turns out that when the administration quotes the benefits of its regulation, almost none of the claimed benefit is the direct result of the regulation:
IN DECEMBER Barack Obama trumpeted a new standard for mercury emissions from power plants. The rule, he boasted, would prevent thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks and asthma cases. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reckoned these benefits were worth up to $90 billion a year, far above their $10 billion-a-year cost. Mr Obama took a swipe at past administrations for not implementing this “common-sense, cost-effective standard”.
A casual listener would have assumed that all these benefits came from reduced mercury. In fact, reduced mercury explained none of the purported future reduction in deaths, heart attacks and asthma, and less than 0.01% of the monetary benefits.
Less than one-hundredth of one percent of the claimed monetary benefits, and no health benefits at all!
So how does the administration get from zero to $90 billion? In two ways. The first is “co-benefits”: the incidental benefit that happens to take place as a secondary effect of the regulation:
Instead, almost all the benefits came from concomitant reductions in a pollutant that was not the principal target of the rule: namely, fine particles.
So the entire benefit of the mercury reduction rules comes from the incidental reduction of an entirely different pollutant that might also take place when the rules went into effect. Clearly:
If reducing fine particles is so beneficial, it would surely be more transparent and efficient to target them directly.
The Economist goes on to note that the administration’s calculation of the benefit of reducing fine particles is completely speculative.
The second way that the administration conjures regulatory benefits out of thin air is “private benefits”:
Economists typically justify regulation when private market participants . . . generate costs—such as pollution—that the rest of society has to bear. But fuel and energy-efficiency regulations are now being justified not by such social benefits, but by private benefits like reduced spending on fuel and electricity. Private benefits have long been used in cost-benefit analysis but Ms Dudley’s data show that, like co-benefits, their importance has grown dramatically under Mr Obama.
They are helping us by making us spend our own money more wisely than we otherwise would. (Thanks guys!) As the Economist observes:
The values placed on such private benefits are highly suspect. If consumers were really better off with more efficient cars or appliances, they would buy them without a prod from government. The fact that they don’t means they put little value on money saved in the future, or simply prefer other features more.
In short, the entire benefit of Obama’s regulations are either dubious secondary benefits or unwanted private benefits.
Argentina must be nearing its final descent into fascism with this development: The Argentine government has banned all foreign books.
The pretext is that foreign books are unsafe, because their ink might contain high quantities of lead. You can still bring a book into Argentina if you can prove its ink is sufficiently low in lead. This is totally reasonable, because all books come with a certificate of low-lead ink, just in case you might want to bring them into a Peronist banana republic.
The New York Times celebrates a murder-suicide. After 55 years of marriage, Adrienne Snelling came down with Alzheimer’s, and five years later her husband killer her, and then himself. The New York Times thinks that’s just great.
There’s no better weather-vane for liberal opinion than the New York Times. That’s the sort of people that President Obama will hire (if he gets the chance) to make life-and-death medical decisions for our elderly: ones who believe that sick, old people are better off dead. But at least they will never be called death panels.
MSNBC’s Karen Finney blames the Trayvon Martin shooting on Charles and David Koch. How? Well, the Kochs were responsible for Florida’s new self-defense law, and the new law was responsible for the shooting.
Neither of these statements is true. The second is absurd, but lies in the realm of (offensive) opinion. The first, however, is simply incorrect, as Koch Industries explains:
Because we saw this dishonest story line developing and were concerned other extremists would pick it up, we put out a public statement the day before Ms. Finney’s rant explaining that this story line was totally false and irresponsible. First, Koch has had no involvement in this legislation. We have had no discussions with anyone at ALEC, the legislative policy group at issue, about the matter either. In fact, the only lobbying on firearms issues we have ever undertaken in Florida was in opposition to the National Rifle Association’s support for a bill that mandated employers must allow employees to bring firearms onto company property.
MSNBC is making stuff up from whole cloth in order to blame a troubling incident on two people who had nothing whatsoever to do with it. If you believe anything you see on MSNBC, you’re a sucker.
“For years, American manufacturers have faced one of the highest tax rates in the world. We want to reduce that by over 20%. We want to drop the rate, particularly, for high-tech manufacturers like you, Mr. President, even further than the 20%,” Vice President Joe Biden said at a manufacturing plant in Davenport, Iowa this week.
“We want to create a global minimum tax, because American taxpayers shouldn’t be providing a larger subsidy for investing abroad than investing at home,” Biden said at a campaign event.
Biden didn’t explain who exactly would be the global taxing authority, but I don’t think we would like the answer.
Obamacare has lost $17 trillion in the two years since it was enacted: The federal government’s unfunded liabilities for health care have grown (in current dollars, if I’m reading it right) from $65 trillion to $82 trillion.
The US GDP is about $14.6 trillion. So Obamacare has lost, in just two years, more than a full year of the entire productive capacity of the United States of America.
In 2009, during the height of the debate over Obamacare, the law’s architect, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, was all over the op-ed pages, talking about how the bill would reduce the cost of health insurance. “What we know for sure,” he told Ezra Klein, “is that [the bill] will lower the cost of buying non-group health insurance.” His words were trumpeted by the law’s advocates, and were critical to persuading skittish Democrats to vote for the bill.
But “for sure” isn’t so sure as you might think:
As states began the process of considering whether or not to set up the insurance exchanges mandated by the new health law, several retained Gruber as a consultant. In at least three cases . . . Gruber reported that premiums in the individual market would increase, not decrease, as a result of Obamacare.
In Wisconsin, Gruber reported that people purchasing insurance for themselves on the individual market would see, on average, premium increases of 30 percent by 2016, relative to what would have happened in the absence of Obamacare. In Minnesota, the law would increase premiums by 29 percent over the same period. Colorado was the least worst off, with premiums under the law rising by only 19 percent.
The problem (or a problem anyway) with Gruber’s original model is it didn’t account for guaranteed-issue (you can’t turn anyone away) and community rating (you can’t charge expensive customers (enough) more). Which is to say, it didn’t account for either of the central features of Obamacare!
So why did anyone take it seriously in the first place? Because they wanted to believe.
I believe the fashionable term for this is epistemic closure:
That the law is constitutional is best illustrated by the fact that—until recently—the Obama administration expended almost no energy defending it.
This is not what we call a logical argument.
It’s clear from the last three days that the defenders of Obamacare never actually bothered to devote any thought to legal arguments in defense of Obamacare. They really did believe it was self-evident. I don’t know whether to be relieved or appalled that they actually believed their own nonsense.
In December 2009, the idea that the Constitution limits the power of the federal government was scoffworthy to Nancy Pelosi:
CNSNews.com: “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?
Pelosi: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”
CNSNews.com: “Yes, yes I am.”
Pelosi then shook her head before taking a question from another reporter. Her press spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, then told CNSNews.com that asking the speaker of the House where the Constitution authorized Congress to mandated that individual Americans buy health insurance as not a “serious question.”
“You can put this on the record,” said Elshami. “That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question.”
After oral arguments before the Supreme Court, everyone understands now; it was and is a serious question. It’s just that the Democrats are not a serious party.
Mohammed Merah, the terrorist who murdered seven people at a Jewish center in Toulouse, France, was captured in Afghanistan in 2010. Unfortunately, we weren’t sending anyone to Guantanamo any more, so instead we handed him over to France, who promptly released him:
Merah was grabbed by Afghan security forces in Kandahar and turned over to the US Army. The United States “put him on the first plane to France,’’ Molins said.
Pentagon spokesman Lt Col. Todd Breasseale said: “The Kandahari police picked him up a matter of years ago. They detained him. The mechanics by which he was returned to France, we are continuing to investigate.”
Someone, though, was smart enough to report the 23-year-old Algerian-born French citizen to the Department of Homeland Security, which added his name to the “no fly’’ list.
Upon his return to France, he was interviewed by intelligence officials, who released him.
Setting terrorists free rather than detaining them has real-world consequences. Imagine that.
Answer: Unlikely. Eric Holder’s Justice Department has made it clear that it will never enforce the law against the interests of the Democratic Party. If they will drop the voter intimidation case against the Black Panthers after the case was already won, they certainly won’t bring charges for this.
The Supreme Court seems to believe that the individual mandate is not a tax. So unless they adopt the notion that it is simultaneously a tax and not a tax, that’s one defense of Obamacare dispensed with.
When Paul Krugman attacked John Hinderaker with characteristic dishonesty, but uncharacteristically including a link, Hinderaker updated the page with a best-of list of Krugman’s lies and incivility. Nicely played.
POSTSCRIPT: Of course, the lesson Krugman likely learned from this is to return to his usual practice of not including links.
The agents who ran the Gunwalker debacle were even stupider that we previously were aware:
The prime suspect in the botched gun trafficking investigation known as “Fast and Furious” — Manuel Acosta — was taken into custody and might have been stopped from trafficking weapons to Mexico’s killer drug cartel early on. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) let him go, according to new documents obtained by CBS News.
He was supposed to cooperate with the ATF, but — as anyone with an ounce of sense would predict — he disappeared as soon as he was released:
Instead of pursuing charges, Agent MacAllister asked Acosta if he’d be willing to cooperate with federal agents. He agreed and was released. Apparently, the promised cooperation never materialized. The report notes that 17 days after Acosta was let loose, he still had “not initiated any contact with Special Agent MacAllister.”
And here’s the best part:
Before releasing Acosta, MacAllister wrote her contact information on a $10 bill at Acosta’s request, gave it to him, then warned him “not to participate in any illegal activity unless under her direction.”
That’s just awesome: (1) they warn a criminal — as they release him — to stop committing crimes, (2) but they say they might need to direct him to commit some more crimes.
When the press published a story about Malia Obama’s spring break in Mexico, the White House asked them to pull the story. Amazingly, the press agreed to do so. Politico even pulled a story about how the media was pulling stories (it’s back now).
I can understand the Obama family wanting the press to leave Malia alone (although the idea that it’s a security risk seems like a crock). I have much more trouble understanding why the press would go along with pulling an accurate story that was already published. Do they ever do such things?
Conservatives on Twitter today quickly hijacked the #ILikeObamacare hashtag, which had been launched by President Barack Obama’s campaign to highlight supporters of the Democrats’ signature health care reform law.
The Twitter hashtag was the most popular in the world Friday afternoon, but not for reasons the Obama campaign wanted.
I signed up for Twitter today just so I could join in the fun. A few of my contributions:
#ILikeObamacare because I never believed Obama’s promise that I could keep my health care anyway.
#ILikeObamacare because 39% public support is plenty to rewrite the social contract.
#ILikeObamacare because not enough elderly are being abused in America. bit.ly/Ag3qst
A Virginia middle school teacher recently forced his students to support President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign by conducting opposition research in class against the Republican presidential candidates.
The 8th grade students, who attend Liberty Middle School in Fairfax County, were required to seek out the vulnerabilities of Republican presidential hopefuls and forward them to the Obama campaign. . .
No similar assignment was given to research Obama’s history, identify his weaknesses or pass them along to the Republican candidates.
I think Allahpundit is right, that the Obama campaign has plenty of opposition research staff already, and doesn’t need any help from a class of middle schoolers. But as political indoctrination, this is outrageous.
Jon Corzine, former Democratic senator and then governor of New Jersey, personally directed the theft of $200 million to cover MF Global’s debts:
Jon S. Corzine, MF Global Holding Ltd. (MFGLQ)’s chief executive officer, gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in a brokerage account with JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), according to a memo written by congressional investigators.
Edith O’Brien, a treasurer for the firm, said in an e-mail quoted in the memo that the transfer was “Per JC’s direct instructions,” according to a copy of the memo obtained by Bloomberg News. The e-mail, dated Oct. 28, was sent three days before the company collapsed, the memo says.
The Supreme Court has issued an important decision in Sackett v. EPA. Justice Alito explains the issue:
The position taken in this case by the Federal Government—a position that the Court now squarely rejects—would have put the property rights of ordinary Americans entirely at the mercy of Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) employees.
The reach of the Clean Water Act is notoriously unclear. Any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year is in danger of being classified by EPA employees as wetlands covered by the Act, and according to the Federal Government, if property owners begin to construct a home on a lot that the agency thinks possesses the requisite wetness, the property owners are at the agency’s mercy. The EPA may issue a compliance order demanding that the owners cease construction, engage in expensive remedial measures, and abandon any use of the property. If the owners do not do the EPA’s bidding, they may be fined up to $75,000 per day ($37,500 for violating the Act and another $37,500 for violating the compliance order). And if the owners want their day in court to show that their lot does not include covered wetlands, well, as a practical matter, that is just too bad. Until the EPA sues them, they are blocked from access to the courts, and the EPA may wait as long as it wants before deciding to sue. By that time, the potential fines may easily have reached the millions. In a nation that values due process, not to mention private property, such treatment is unthinkable.
In short: When the Sacketts claimed that their property was not a wetland (and they have a strong argument on the merits), the EPA refused to give them a hearing, and also refused to sue them, and tried to deny them access to the courts on the pretense that their decision wasn’t final yet.
Just to be clear, this administration — which thinks that every terrorist picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan deserves his day in court — thinks that property owners should have no access to the courts when the EPA prohibits them from using their property. (And yes: the Solicitor General’s office submitted the government brief, so that was literally the Obama administration’s position.)
The Supreme Court didn’t buy it, and ruled 9-0 against the administration.
POSTSCRIPT: This is the second time this year already in which the administration has taken an outrageous position and received a 9-0 rebuke from the Court. In January the administration failed to convince the Court that that the government should be able to dictate ministers to churches.
We have subsidized oil companies for a century. We want to encourage production of oil and gas, and make sure that wherever we’ve got American resources, we are tapping into them. But they don’t need an additional incentive when gas is $3.75 a gallon, when oil is $1.20 a barrel, $1.25 a barrel. They don’t need additional incentives. They are doing fine.
(That’s the White House transcript.)
Oil (Brent Crude) is currently trading at $125.10. Obama is off by two orders of magnitude! Good thing those cowboys that understand the oil industry are out of office.
A federal court in Washington state has ruled that Washington’s law that requires all pharmacists to dispense the drug Plan B (an abortifacient) violates the First Amendment.
Existing case law says that a law that burdens religious freedom can still be constitutional, but only if it is generally applicable and neutral to religion (or if it satisfies strict scrutiny, which almost nothing does). It’s not so in this case:
The court determined that the regulations are not neutral for purposes of deference under Employment Division v. Smith. Rather, they “are riddled with exemptions for secular conduct, but contain no such exemptions for identical religiously-motivated conduct” and thus amount to an “impermissible religious gerrymander.”
Likewise, the regulations are not “generally applicable” but rather “have been selectively enforced, in two ways”: First, the rule that pharmacies timely deliver all lawful medications has been enforced only against the plaintiff pharmacy and only for failure to deliver plan B. Second, the rules haven’t been enforced against the state’s numerous Catholic-affiliated pharmacies, which also refuse to stock or dispense Plan B.
The Obama administration has issued a new rule that will require public pools to install equipment costing between eight and twenty thousand dollars. This will likely force many pools to close.
Why would they do this? Don’t public pools serve poorer people, who Democrats are supposed to like?
The answer is we are seeing, once again, the Democratic party’s hierarchy of causes at work. The poor are on the very bottom rung of the ladder. They get attention only when it doesn’t conflict with any of the Democrats’ more favored constituencies. In this case, the new rule is a windfall for trial lawyers:
The Obama DOJ has said it will not be enforcing the new guidelines right away. That means no fines from the government, for now.
But the ADA also empowered citizens to sue businesses that are not in compliance with DOJ guidelines. The result will be a huge payday for enterprising trial lawyers everywhere.
“The enforcement is going to be by litigation,” said Kevin Maher, senior vice president of governmental affairs for the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “A lot of drive-by lawsuits against business by law firms that are set up file to file spurious ADA claims.”
These firms “often file lawsuits against every business in the community. A lot of times they are not even looking for businesses to comply with the ADA, they are just looking for a quick cash settlement to go away,” Maher explained.
Note that the administration admits it has no plans to enforce the regulation itself. It’s purely for the lawyers. That’s the kind of service you get when you raise $45 million for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
This American Life has retracted its story on abuse of workers at a factory in China that assembles Apple products:
The public radio show This American Life has retracted an entire storyline told by comedian and self-described Apple fanboy Mike Daisey that aired in early January after Daisey’s translator said he made up significant details of the tale. . .
The China correspondent for the radio show Marketplace, Rob Schmitz, wrote that he decided to track down Daisey’s translator after he found it suspicious for Daisey to ferret out some of the worst labor abuses reporters have been hunting for years in a six-day trip to the site. Translator Cathy Lee told Schmitz that she never saw the underaged or poisoned workers, and that she also never saw armed factory guards, which Daisey describes.
As is often the case in this kind of story, the producers failed to uphold their own standards:
So why didn’t This American Life talk to Cathy Lee earlier, before they aired the episode? In a press release, the show says Daisey told them he lost her cell phone number. “At that point, we should’ve killed the story,” show host Ira Glass said in the release.
This should remind us that we cannot rely on the media’s self-proclaimed standards. They will drop those standards in a heartbeat if they stand in the way of a good story.
POSTSCRIPT: The list of Daisey’s lies is pretty impressive, but Daisey is stand by the old “fake but accurate” line:
Daisey, however, stands by his original storyline. “It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity,” Daisey said on his blog. On the show, he struck a more contrite note. “I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard,” Daisey says, according to the press release. “My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it’s not journalism. It’s theater.”
UPDATE: I forgot to add: someone brought up the This American Life piece at a meeting at work, before it was revealed as a fraud. It didn’t take us long to conclude that the story was implausible. A little critical thinking helps, people . . .
James O’Keefe brought down ACORN, exposed PBS’s hatred of the Tea Party movement, found fraud and waste at the Census Bureau, and lately has been showing how easy voter fraud is. To put it mildly, the left doesn’t like him very much.
But that doesn’t give them the right to lie about him. David Shuster and Keith Olbermann, who appear on Al Gore’s no-audience cable channel, described him as a convicted felon who is facing rape charges. Neither allegation is true. O’Keefe is not a convicted felon, and is not facing rape charges, or any other charges for that matter. He was accused of a felony when he brought hidden cameras into Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office, but was exonerated. And what Shuster and Olbermann describe as a rape charge was merely a harassment charge based on an accusation that O’Keefe said mean things on the phone and Internet, and that charge was dismissed for lack of evidence.
O’Keefe is suing for defamation. Defamation charges involving a public figure are awfully hard to prove in court, but since Shuster and Olbermann surely knew the facts when they made their slanders, I think he might have a case.
That brings us to The Atlantic, which (like nearly everyone) has higher journalistic standards than Current TV, but also defamed O’Keefe in reporting on how Shuster and Olbermann defamed O’Keefe. The Atlantic reported that O’Keefe “pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor ‘with the intent to commit a felony'”. It’s not true. In fact, the prosecutors conceded the opposite in court, that he had no intent to commit a felony:
In this case further investigation did not uncover evidence that the defendants intended to commit any felony. . .
The only reason O’Keefe has a criminal record at all is it turns out that it’s illegal to run a hidden camera investigation on federal property. His only mistake was not seeking legal advice before trying to get Landrieu’s staff on camera lying about their phones.
Lately, I keep reading about how Antonin Scalia is going to have to vote to uphold Obamacare because of his concurring opinion in Gonzales v. Raich. (Here’s an example.) This is complete nonsense.
I keep wondering what they hope to gain from floating such an absurd theory. Do they really think that pursuing Scalia’s vote is a winning strategy? Or, more likely, are they setting up a narrative with which to demonize Scalia after oral arguments go poorly? Either way, it’s not a display of confidence.
Remember when President Obama promised that if you like your health insurance, you would get to keep it? That was a lie.
According to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimate (report here, p. 4), 11 million people will lose their health insurance under Obamacare. That’s 7% of all the people who receive their health insurance from their employer.
This is the CBO’s baseline estimate, meaning that the actual number could be much, much worse. The report doesn’t actually seem to give the worst-case number, but it would be over 20 million. Moreover, the worse end is more likely, since the CBO’s numbers are much rosier than the results of business surveys.
POSTSCRIPT: If you’re wondering how to reconcile these numbers with the bottom-line numbers released by the CBO, here’s the deal. The CBO says that, in their baseline, 3 to 5 million fewer people will have employment-based health care. That’s a net figure: 11 million lose it, but others would gain it, leaving 3 to 5 million fewer on net. That sort of calculation makes sense for the CBO, which is tasked with calculating the cost to the government of this monstrosity. But the net figure isn’t right for evaluating how badly Obama has broken his promise that no one who likes his or her health care will lose it.
A similar request was denied by the E.P.A. in August 2010. But Mr. Miller said that the new petition includes a larger consortium of groups, including some made up of hunters, and cites recent research demonstrating that the toxic levels of lead in bullets and shot cause significant poisoning of birds nationwide.
Their last effort foundered on the problem that the EPA is explicitly denied the power to regulate ammunition. Neither the size of their consortium nor their new research addresses that legal prohibition in any way.
“But is the overall goal to get our price —”, asked [Rep. Alan] Nunnelee, who didn’t finish the sentence.
“No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy,” Chu replied.
That, of course, was wholly consistent with Chu’s long-standing position that gas prices ought to be as high here as in Europe. His policies seem to be working:
But now someone has finally reeled Chu in, pointing out that his let-them-eat-cake-alternative-fuels policy is utterly insane, politically speaking. Now Chu has renounced that position.
That’s what he says, anyway, but this is an election year. Don’t you believe a word of it. Once re-elected, that bunch will go back to doing everything they can to drive up gas prices.
In fact, other than Chu’s testimony, is there any reason to believe they have actually stopped trying to drive up prices? Has President Obama reversed his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, or stopped slow-walking drilling permits? Has he opened up the continental shelf to oil exploration? Has he done anything?
Remember when President Obama said that health care nationalization would cost $900 billion over ten years? And remember how they Democrats collected enough accounting gimmicks to get the official cost to $940 billion?
The latest estimate is $1.76 trillion. And that’s with the official ten-year window still containing one free year. Next year when we have the ten-year accounting filled with ten actual years of costs, it will be still higher.
And that’s before the damn thing is even implemented. Once they starting running this monstrosity, that’s when the costs will really start to soar.
Pink slime — that ammonia-treated meat in a bright Pepto-bismol shade — may have been rejected by fast food joints like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King, but is being brought in by the tons for the nation’s school lunch program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is purchasing 7 million pounds of the “slime” for school lunches, The Daily reports. Officially termed “Lean Beef Trimmings,” the product is a ground-up combination of beef scraps, cow connective tissues and other beef trimmings that are treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. It’s then blended into traditional meat products like ground beef and hamburger patties.
“We originally called it soylent pink,” microbiologist Carl Custer, who worked at the Food Safety Inspection Service for 35 years, told The Daily. “We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat.”
What’s interesting here is that a Democratic administration is buying this stuff to serve to kids. That’s called playing against type. (Of course, I don’t believe that Democratic politicians actually care about this stuff, except as a way to accumulate more power for themselves, but usually they put on a good show.)
When you see Democrats acting publicly against their self-proclaimed principles, like nutrition for kids, you know that someone is getting paid off. It’s like when Nancy Pelosi kills a credit card regulation bill. Eventually you’ll find out that she was given a bunch of stock in Visa.
A week ago I remarked at how impressive it was that the Democrats had managed to change the topic from its frontal assault on religious freedom to Rush Limbaugh’s remarks about a contraception activist.
But I’m delighted to see now that the Democrats overplayed their hand. It seems that many Americans — and in particular many women — were not diverted from the subject of religious freedom, or were offended by the Democrats’ blatant opportunism and their willful blindness toward the much-more-common misogyny from the left.
This sort of thing encourages me that America might still be capable of governing itself wisely.
Remember when President Obama pledged that, under health care nationalization, “federal conscience laws would remain in place”?
Like nearly everything else he promised about health care reform, that was a lie, notwithstanding his pose of righteous indignation. It’s a true scoundrel who lies while accusing others of lying.
POSTSCRIPT: In fact, his lies include every single word in the clip. Yes, Obamacare does include a panel empowered to ration health care for senior citizens. And, yes, it does coverillegal immigrants. And, yes, it does fund abortions.
Israel and Hamas are at war yet again. The IDF took out a gang of Palestinian terrorists planning a Mumbai-style attack against Israel, and the Palestinians retaliated with a new rocket barrage against Israeli cities.
The good news, however, is the Iron Dome anti-rocket system is now fully operational, and took out 25 of 27 rockets.
Oh, and it turns out that if Obama decides to bail someone out, he can go right ahead and do it: the bailout starts in May. It seems that we’ve gotten that whole pesky legislative branch out of the way. (Will we hear belly-aching from the left about the “unitary executive” now? Rhetorical question.)
Another blow against freedom of religion in academia, as the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has withdrawn recognition from a Christian student club. It’s excuse: it isn’t really a religious organization.
Unlike Vanderbilt, UNC-Greensboro is obviously a state school, so this isn’t just terrible, it’s illegal.
So the Senate has voted down the effort to undo President Obama’s quite reasonable mandate that all employers have to pay for their employees’ contraception. I was shocked that there was a dispute about this — especially because of “religious objections.” Who knew that was still a thing?
Even worse, when I dug out a copy of the revered Bill of Rights to show someone how it guarantees everyone a right to contraception, I found no mention of that right!
In fact, the Bill of Rights doesn’t guarantee anything people need — not food, shelter or even broadband internet. The only things it mentions are a few nebulous rights of absolutely no market value. It’s rather pointless, really. . .
Obviously, we’re much more sophisticated now. We aren’t like the Founding Fathers, with their primitive fear of government and thunder. We need to update this silly, archaic Bill of Rights, which puts all this emphasis on “freedom” with no mention of the much more important “free stuff.” If we don’t act, other countries will make fun of us for it — and who wants to be tittered at by Belgium?
A federal judge in Maryland has struck down Maryland’s restrictive law governing the right to carry a firearm, which required that applicants show a “good and substantial reason” to be granted a license:
A citizen may not be required to offer a “good and substantial reason” why he should be permitted to exercise his rights. The right‘s existence is all the reason he needs.
The US offered to give Israel advanced weaponry — including bunker-busting bombs and refueling planes — in exchange for Israel’s agreement not to attack Iranian nuclear sites, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported Thursday. President Obama reportedly made the offer during Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week.
Under the proposed deal, Israel would not attack Iran until 2013, after US elections in November this year.
Interesting that Obama feels that an Israeli attack would hurt him at the polls. He must feel that his response would not be well received by the American public, which tells you something about what his response would be.
From Israel’s perspective, the deal could be worth it. All that equipment would make at attack against Iran more effective, provided 2013 isn’t too late. By they need to be sure to get the deal in writing.
Something has gone terribly wrong with California’s legal system if its courts have occasion to hold a trial to determine whether the major pro tem of Compton is “really” Latino or not. That’s a proceeding that would make sense in apartheid South Africa, not in America.
It is deliberately designed to be simple enough for even a child to use unaided . . . And the dose of epinephrine – or adrenaline – dispensed by the EpiPen is so small that, while it is enough to halt allergic reactions, the only likely side effect is a raised heartbeat.
Nevertheless, when the device went on the market a few years ago, US regulators stipulated that it could only be made available on prescription and administered to a specific patient. . . Only around 7 per cent of the people who are at risk of an allergic reaction are now thought to hold EpiPens. . .
Earlier this year a seven-year-old girl in Virginia went into shock when she ate a peanut during a school break. Although the school held EpiPens for other children, it was not allowed to administer one to her, since she was not “named” on any of the prescriptions. Tragically, the child died. And this is not an isolated case: around 1,500 people are thought to die in America each year from similar allergic reactions which could have been reversed with an EpiPen.
This is actually good news. The default (a 74% “haircut”) has been a near certainty for weeks. The only question was whether the International Swaps and Derivatives Association would weasel out of paying off on credit default swaps, and they didn’t.
An amusing display of ignorance, as CNN talking head Soledad O’Brien argues with Breitbart.com editor-in-chief Joel Pollak over the meaning of “critical race theory”:
POLLAK: Derrick Bell is the Jeremiah Wright of academia. He passed away last year, but during his lifetime, he developed a theory called critical race theory, which holds that the civil rights movement was a sham and that white supremacy is the order and it must be overthrown.
O’BRIEN [interrupting]: So, that is a complete misreading. I’ll stop you there for a second then I’m going to let you continue. But that is a complete misreading of critical race theory. As you know that’s an actual theory. You could Google it and some would give you a good definition of it. So that’s not correct. But keep going.
POLLAK: In what way is it a critical misreading? Can you explain to me? Do you know what critical … Explain to your readers critical race theory is.
O’BRIEN: I’m going to ask you to continue on. I’m just going to point out that that is inaccurate. Keep going. Tell me what the bombshell is. I haven’t seen it yet.
POLLAK: Well wait a minute. You’ve made a claim … You’ve made a claim that my characterization of critical race theory as the opposite of Martin Luther King is inaccurate, you’re telling your viewers that but you’re not telling them what it is.
ASIDE: This is in the context of the newly unearthed video showing that a young Barack Obama was an admirer of Derrick Bell.
You have to see the video to appreciate how patronizing O’Brien is being when she tells Pollak he’s wrong. But at the same time, she refuses to say what she thinks critical race theory means, presumably because she doesn’t know (at least not well enough to explain it). She tries to get Pollak to drop the subject, apparently too obtuse to realize that the substance of critical race theory is his central point!
At this point, O’Brien comes up with a definition:
Critical race theory looks into the intersection of race and politics and the law . . .
which looks very much like a paraphrase of the top hit on Google:
So while she is pompously insulting her guest for not knowing what critical race theory is, she needs her staff to Google it and whisper the answer into her earbud.
The epilogue to all this is Pollak is right and O’Brien is wrong, at least according to the very Wikipedia page that she used as her source. O’Brien and Pollak argue for several minutes about whether white supremacy is a key component of critical race theory. O’Brien says no, but her source says:
First, CRT has analyzed the way in which white supremacy and racial power are reproduced over time . . .
POSTSCRIPT: The epilogue to the epilogue is funny too: An edit war is ongoing at Wikipedia as people have been trying to alter the article to conform to O’Brien’s definition.
UPDATE: Tom Maguire finds that the New York Times, which “we can count on . . . to present critical race theory in as gauzy and flattering a focus as possible”, has consistently described critical race theory in terms of white supremacy. On the other hand, I agree with John Hinderaker that the revelation of one more radical in President Obama’s past is unlikely to change many minds about him.
One can’t help but be impressed by the rhetorical jiu-jitsu with which Democrats have turned a debate over religious freedom — should the Catholic church be forced to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients — into a debate over whether Rush Limbaugh was wrong to call a woman who claims to spend $1000 per year on contraception a “slut”.
The answer to the latter question is yes, of course. No one, Limbaugh included, denies this. But the left’s show of sanctimonious indignation is awfully hard to take, given that far worse misogynistic language is routinely tolerated on the left, provided it is directed at appropriate targets. Appropriatetargetsevidentlyinclude Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham, Carrie Prejean, Michele Bachmann, etc., and even the underage daughters of prominent Republicans. Women on the right need to expect this kind of abuse, and, when it happens, today’s self-righteous enforcers of civility will just laugh it off.
Should the Catholic church be forced to conform itself to President Obama’s policy on contraceptives and abortifacients? Of course not. If you pose the question straight, almost no one will say yes. But the Democrats gambled that if they put the issue on the table, they could divert the debate into a winning cultural offensive. I wouldn’t have thought that you could get from “we will force Catholics to violate their consciences” all the way to “Republicans are attacking women”, but they seem to have pulled it off. Impressive.
Venezuela continues to provide an object lesson on socialist management. Last month, Venezuela suffered a devastating oil spill (subscription required):
[On February 4], a pipeline carrying pressurised oil fractured in the state of Monagas. The crude soared 25 metres (82 feet) into the air and flowed for a full day. Anywhere from 40,000-120,000 barrels poured into a river that supplies drinking and irrigation water. Some 550,000 people now lack water at home. . . It may take months to clean the supply.
The spill exemplified the decline of Venezuela’s state oil company after Hugo Chavez fired everyone who knew anything and replaced them with his cronies:
PDVSA has struggled under Mr Chávez. In 2002 its workers went on strike to try to force him from office. In response, he fired 18,000 PDVSA employees, including senior managers. He then stuffed the company with tens of thousands of loyalists from what would later become his United Socialist Party (PSUV).
Since then oil output has stagnated, and accidents are on the rise. According to Eddie Ramírez, one of the sacked managers, the “old” PDVSA averaged less than two accidents per million man-hours. In 2010 there were 9.4 accidents and almost six deaths per million man-hours.
A Daily Caller investigation has found that (unsurprisingly, given what’s happened) the Obama administration and LightSquared are as thick as thieves. A few highlights:
“Before Barack Obama became president, he was personally an investor in SkyTerra [which became LightSquared].”
“[White House personnel director Don] Gips’ personal financial disclosure forms show he had between $250,000 and $500,000 of his personal finances invested in SkyTerra via stock options.”
“It’s unclear what specifically Gips and [incoming FCC director Julius] Genachowski were discussing at that White House meeting; but shortly after that meeting SkyTerra named two members of Obama’s White House transition team to senior leadership positions at the company.”
“Not too long after those Obama-tied hires, lawyers for Falcone’s Harbinger fired off an email that may suggest FCC coordination to approve the sale of SkyTerra to Harbinger outside of what is procedurally acceptable. . . Harbinger’s lawyers seemed to know a month ahead of time that the FCC would approve their proposal.”
POSTSCRIPT: Testimony to the House Subcommittee on Aviation explains why LightSquared’s network would be so damaging to the GPS system. Of particular interest is page 4, which explains why GPS receivers can’t simply filter out interference. (Via Instapundit.)
A decision by [Washington State] Senate Democratic leaders to shut minority Republicans and moderate members of their own party out of the budget-writing process ended in an epic backfire Friday night, as three moderates bolted and threw control of the chamber to the GOP.
Democrats fired back with delaying tactics that initially threatened to keep the Senate in session all night, but it appeared clear that Republicans had the upper hand and would be able to pass a GOP-written budget in the Legislature’s upper chamber. Democrats ultimately acknowledged defeat, and Senate continued to meet late Friday night to pass the bill.
The best part was when Democrats complained that by passing a budget in cooperation with moderate Democrats, the Republicans had spoiled the body’s spirit of bipartisanship. That’s got to be worth at least an honorable mention in any chutzpah competition.
Hacked DC School Board E-Voting Elects Bender President . . .
Within hours of examining the Ruby on Rails software build that constituted the voting system, Halderman’s team discovered a shell injection vulnerability, allowing them to alter an images directory on the compromised server as well as change outputs, and had guessed the admin login for the terminal server (hint: both the name and password were ADMIN).
From there, the team found vulnerabilities in the system controlling the server farm’s security camera’s, which allowed them to time attacks when nobody was around to notice the extra activity. Best of all, the team found a PDF containing authentication codes for every DC voter—you know, the ones voters use to prevent electoral fraud and prove their identities.
With this data, the team was able to change every ballot to a vote, not for any of the actual candidates, but a write-in for a fictional IT entity with Bender edging out Skynet in his political debut. Their control was so complete that even if new ballots were generated, they too would vote Bender.
A Cook County judge today ruled the state’s controversial eavesdropping law unconstitutional. The law makes it a felony offense to make audio recordings of police officers without their consent even when they’re performing their public duties.
Judge Stanley Sacks, who is assigned to the Criminal Courts Building, found the eavesdropping law unconstitutional because it potentially criminalizes “wholly innocent conduct.”
I don’t see any good-faith justification for the law in the first place.
Health care nationalization isn’t due to be implemented until 2014, and its subsidy costs have already risen 30% (that’s $112 billion) in the last year. In other words, they haven’t the foggiest idea how much this thing is going to cost.
Three stories from the past week on the Democrats’ use of the tax machine to attack their political opponents:
Politico reports that Democrats are threatening companies that if they contribute to Republican campaigns they will be punished in the tax code. (Via Hot Air.)
The ACLJ is reporting that the IRS has ordered dozens of Tea Party organizations to produce extensive information on their membership, which has been illegal since 1958.
A federal court has refused to dismiss Z Street’s charge that the IRS “tied its application for tax-exempt status to whether the group’s positions on Israel are ‘contradictory to those of the Administration.'”
Democrats have abandoned our country’s long-standing dedication to the rule of law, and the tax machine is a major battlefront in their effort to undermine it.
The New York Times looks today at what factors go into the scorecards that produce the letter grades that, for about a year, New York City restaurants have been forced to display in their front windows. Some of the rules—you’re not supposed to have rat droppings in the kitchen—are uncontroversial. But others are criticized by chefs and restaurateurs as needlessly costly or even interfering with the quality of food.
One has to do with holding and serving temperatures for foods. Certain foods, like terrines and cheese, should be served at room temperature for the best flavor. But this is either prohibited or, in the case of cheese, subject to onerous requirements . . .
Cheese isn’t the only problem area. Pork is supposed to be cooked to 165 degrees (twenty degrees higher than the USDA guideline!) unless the customer specifically requests otherwise. I’ll save you the trouble of investigating: a 165 degree pork chop is terrible. . .
Restaurants also aren’t allowed to let steaks come up to room temperature before cooking them—which leads to them cooking too heavily on the outside before reaching the desired internal temperature. . .
This is why I happily dine in restaurants that display B grades from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Giving consumers more information is a good idea — provided it’s good information. This clearly isn’t.
A previous version of this article misstated how many of the president’s proposals to reduce the country’s reliance on imported oil were new in his speech on Wednesday. None of them were, not one of them.
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