Ignorance is bliss

May 29, 2013

ramirez-fetch

Remember, to Obama, ignorance is not a failing. It’s policy.

(Via Hot Air.)

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Holder to investigate himself

May 29, 2013

Sometimes it’s hard to believe Barack Obama’s audacity:

President Obama announced Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder would launch a review into the Justice Department’s (DOJ) targeting of journalists who report on classified information.

I’m looking forward to Eric Holder’s searing report on the misconduct of Eric Holder. . .

(Previous post.)


Obama fine with being kept in the dark

May 28, 2013

In the Obama administration, the say-nothing-during-ongoing-investigation excuse has metastasized into a learn-nothing-during-ongoing-investigation. The White House says that President Obama was perfectly happy to be kept in the dark about the severe misconduct taking place in his administration.

(Previous post.)


IG delayed IRS report

May 28, 2013

The Inspector General is supposed to report “particularly flagrant problem” to Congress within seven days. Doing so would have exposed the IRS scandal during the 2012 election campaign, but instead the IG delayed the report for months.

The IG admits that he delayed the report because he was concerned it would be used politically:

Inspector General J. Russell George told Issa’s panel he withheld the information because he feared lawmakers would leak it to the public.

Recall that conservatives had been complaining for years, and for years the IRS and the liberal media were dismissing their complaints as entirely unfounded. Yeah, I’d say that the revelation that the Tea Party’s allegations were 100% true might have become public, and indeed it should have.

It’s not the IG’s job to ignore statutory deadlines because of the possible political consequences. That’s misconduct all its own.

POSTSCRIPT: This also further demolishes the absurd notion that it could be in any way improper to answer questions while an investigation is ongoing. When the investigation can be stalled indefinitely for practically no reason at all (e.g., “I was studying for and then taking a final.”), this is plainly just an excuse to avoid answering questions forever.

(Previous post.)


The evil empire gets its mojo back

May 28, 2013

Microsoft wants to charge you admission to your own living room:

Microsoft has filed for a Kinect-related patent, and it’s a doozy of an application. The abstract describes a camera-based system that would monitor the number of viewers in a room and check to see if the number of occupants exceeded a certain threshold set by the content provider. If there are too many warm bodies present, the device owner would be prompted to purchase a license for a greater number of viewers.

Wow. Microsoft must have felt insecure in its position as technology’s evil empire.

It remains to be seen whether this “functionality” will be implemented in the next Xbox. Microsoft would be running the risk of a major consumer backlash if they did.

Would that backlash really happen? I’d like to think so, but I’ve found it very hard to predict which actions will result in a consumer revolt and which won’t. Consumers put up with all kinds of intentionally crippled products (DVD players that won’t do their bidding, always-online software, etc.) but then get outraged by things that seem more minor to me (ISPs throttling back people who run high-volume servers over residential lines), so I don’t know where they would land here.

(Via Instapundit.)


DOJ spied on NYT

May 27, 2013

It wasn’t just the AP and Fox News, the Justice Department spied on the New York Times too.

It will be interesting to see how the NYT responds. Will they roll over for Obama even when his administration attacks them personally? I wouldn’t bet against it.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


Stingers for Al Qaeda?

May 27, 2013

One persistent question regarding the Benghazi debacle is what Ambassador Chris Stevens was doing in Benghazi in the first place. Now whistleblowers have stepped forward to answer the question, and their story, if true, is extremely troubling:

Stevens’ mission in Benghazi, they will say, was to buy back Stinger missiles from al-Qaeda groups issued to them by the State Department, not by the CIA. Such a mission would usually be a CIA effort, but the intelligence agency had opposed the idea because of the high risk involved in arming “insurgents” with powerful weapons that endanger civilian aircraft.

I hope this isn’t true. Most obviously because I hope Al Qaeda doesn’t have Stingers, but also because I hate the idea that our government could be this naive, even with Obama in office. I supported overthrowing Qaddafi, but certainly not giving high-tech weapons to Islamist militias with ties to Al Qaeda.

(Previous post.)


Holder approved warrant application

May 27, 2013

Eric Holder personally signed off on the warrant application naming Fox News reporter James Rosen as a criminal accomplice:

The Justice Department pledged Friday [to] review its policies relating to the seizure of information from journalists after acknowledging that a controversial search warrant for a  Fox News reporter’s private emails  was approved “at the highest levels” of the Justice Department, including “discussions” with Attorney General  Eric Holder.

A second report confirms that Holder’s approval was not pro forma, he took part in the discussions. (This is significant, because Holder has already used the excuse that he can’t read every memo that crosses his desk.)

Not only does this put Holder hip-deep in the journalist surveillance scandal, it also seems to make him a perjurer:

In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. This is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.

That testimony was given under oath, since the House has wisely suspended its “no oath” courtesy for Cabinet secretaries in Holder’s case.

Moreover, if Holder tries to weasel out by claiming that he never actually intended to prosecute Rosen, then he made false claims on the warrant application:

If that’s their defense, they knowingly lied to the judge who would, hopefully, reject the request if they admitted it was just a fishing expedition for information.

But that might be the best stance to take, since the warrant application was already filled with false claims:

Moreover, the affidavit asserts that the “targets” of the investigation (including Rosen) were a risk to “mask their identity and activity, flee or otherwise obstruct this investigation.” It is highly questionable whether Holder believed any of that to be true. (Really, he imagined a Fox News reporter would flee the country? He thought Rosen would don a disguise?)

The good news is that, although Holder could end up disbarred, he’s very unlikely to face prosecution for his perjury; his own Justice Department would have to approve such a prosecution. If there were ever any doubt at all as to whether that could happen, they’ve already removed it.

(Previous post.)


Scapegoating CIA, take two

May 27, 2013

When the sub-scandal over the Obama administration’s bogus Benghazi talking points erupted, the White House initially attempted to scapegoat the CIA, saying that the talking points were prepared by the intelligence community. This turned out to be a complete and utter lie.

Now the new line is that the Benghazi talking points where David Petraeus’s fault, because his office prepared the first draft (ASIDE: In CIA people are responsible for what their offices do? Interesting.), which contained too much information. How exactly that excuses the State Department for insisting on talking points filled with lies is beyond me. In the end, Petraeus wanted to scuttle the talking points but was overruled.

Pathetic.

POSTSCRIPT: The story is unsourced, but clearly comes from the White House, since the White House is the only group it portrays in an entirely positive light. One thing it says in particular:

The only government entity that did not object to the detailed talking points produced with Petraeus’s input was the White House, which played the role of mediator in the bureaucratic fight that at various points included the CIA’s top lawyer and the agency’s deputy director expressing opposition to what the director wanted.

Oh my. In fact, we don’t know anything about the role the White House played in the corruption of the talking points. The publicly released emails don’t contain any input from the White House until after the draft was already filled with misinformation. This might mean that they didn’t object, or it might mean that the White House’s early emails were not among the ones released.

But what we do know is that in the White House’s “mediator” role it ultimately sided with the State Department and the bogus talking points. And we know that the White House was concerned with the “messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression.” Of course, the “hardened mis-impression” they wanted to avoid was actually the truth.

(Previous post.) (Via Power Line.)


Benghazi liar promoted

May 24, 2013

In keeping with the Obama administration policy of promoting everyone (e.g., GunwalkerIRS) responsible for wrongdoing, Victoria Nuland, who pushed for the falsification of the Benghazi talking points (and who said she was too “dumb” to explain to explain their shifting stories), is now being promoted to Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs.

The position requires Senate confirmation, which should be entertaining.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Mission accomplished

May 24, 2013

obama-mission-accomplished

President Obama wants to declare victory in the war on terror:

I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing.

The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old. The Afghan war is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. . .

So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.

Although it’s hardly an original observation, Obama is right that we don’t want to be on a war footing forever. But aspirations are not realities.

After years of relative quiet, terror is on the rise again. There was the Benghazi attack last September, the Boston bombing last month, and a machete attack in London the very same day as Obama’s speech.

If Obama wants to end the war on terror, he should win it, not just declare it over. More on Obama’s folly here.

FOOTNOTE: I’m not sure the original source of the Obama Photoshop; I got it from here.


Obamacare exchange to operate in secret

May 24, 2013

The people who decide what health plans are available to Californians and at what price, will get to do all their work in secret.

A California law that created an agency to oversee national health care reforms granted it broad authority to conceal spending on the contractors that will perform most of its functions, potentially shielding the public from seeing how hundreds of millions of dollars are spent. . .

In setting up the California exchange, lawmakers gave it the authority to keep all contracts private for a year and the amounts paid secret indefinitely. . . Other exchange records that are allowed to be kept secret include those that reveal recommendations, research, strategy of the board or its staff, or those that provide instructions, advice or training to employees. Minutes of the board meetings also are exempt from disclosure.

Let’s just call them the politburo.


Winning bidders?!

May 24, 2013

The one aspect of Obamacare that I thought wasn’t terrible was the idea of exchanges: marketplaces that would make it easy to comparison-shop for health care plans. I was wrong:

Covered California, the state agency implementing the federal Affordable Care Act, is announcing the winning bidders and proposed rates Thursday for its insurance exchange, where as many as 5 million residents are expected to shop for coverage next year.

Winning bidders? WTF?!

It turns out, Obamacare exchanges aren’t marketplaces at all! In a marketplace, anyone could offer their product. Here, health insurers bid to get their plans on the exchange. You aren’t allowed to offer less coverage than the standard plan, and if you offer more, you lose to lower bidders. Thus, every plan on the exchange is essentially the same, at essentially the same price.

Consequently, three big insurers that used to have a small portion of the individual market are pulling out entirely:

UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest private insurer, Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp. are sitting out the first year of Covered California, the state’s insurance exchange and a key testing ground nationally for a massive coverage expansion under the federal healthcare law. . . Together, in 2011, those three big insurers had 7% of California’s individual health insurance market, according to Citigroup research.

Thus, the exchanges are reducing the array of choices available to individual shoppers, the opposite of what Democrats told us, but exactly what one would have expected had one known how this disaster actually works.

Nevertheless, California officials are putting brave face on the mess:

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, declined to comment on specific companies ahead of Thursday’s announcement. But he rejected any criticism that diminished competition could lead to higher premiums and fewer choices.

“There will be plenty of price competition for California consumers,” Lee said in an interview Wednesday. “They will be benefiting from robust competition.”

Fools. They never, ever learn.


Obamacare encourages worthless health insurance

May 24, 2013

Obamacare is going to ensure that everyone gets good health insurance, right? Okay, that’s a joke, but it’s even worse than we thought:

Employers are increasingly recognizing they may be able to avoid certain penalties under the federal health law by offering very limited plans that can lack key benefits such as hospital coverage.

Benefits advisers and insurance brokers—bucking a commonly held expectation that the law would broadly enrich benefits—are pitching these low-benefit plans around the country. They cover minimal requirements such as preventive services, but often little more. Some of the plans wouldn’t cover surgery, X-rays or prenatal care at all. . .

Federal officials say this type of plan, in concept, would appear to qualify as acceptable minimum coverage under the law, and let most employers avoid an across-the-workforce $2,000-per-worker penalty for firms that offer nothing.

It seems that while Democrats were putting first-dollar coverage for checkups into the mandatory health plan, they forgot the actual insurance part. (As the New York Post puts it, it’s like auto insurance that covers six oil changes per year, but has no coverage for collisions.)

Interestingly, the part of Obamacare that requires actual insurance coverage is mandatory for individuals and small businesses, but not for large ones:

A close reading of the rules makes it clear that those mandates affect only plans sponsored by insurers that are sold to small businesses and individuals, federal officials confirm. . . Larger employers, generally with more than 50 workers, need cover only preventive services, without a lifetime or annual dollar-value limit, in order to avoid the across-the-workforce penalty.

So Democrats gave a break to big businesses that they refused to individuals and small businesses. (ASIDE: Note that when Democrats profess their love of small business, they don’t mean it.)

In fact, only 19% of Americans with private insurance get it individually or from a small business. Thus few people are actually covered by the Obamacare mandates, are those who are covered are the ones who can least afford it.

It’s important to note that some companies switching to the “skinny”, Obamacare-approved, non-insurance health plan previously offered actual health insurance:

San Antonio-based Bill Miller Bar-B-Q, a 4,200-worker chain, will replace its own mini-med with a new, skinny plan in July and will aim to price the plan at less than $50 a month, about the same as the current policy.

Of course, mini-med plans aren’t great, but at least they offer some worthwhile coverage. Obamacare is forcing their replacement by plans with no insurance component at all.

The liberals who think they can control people’s actions, despite being warned of the law of unintended consequences, continue to be surprised by it:

“We wouldn’t have anticipated that there’d be demand for these types of band-aid plans in 2014,” said Robert Kocher, a former White House health adviser who helped shepherd the law. “Our expectation was that employers would offer high quality insurance.”

Fools. They never, ever learn.

(Via Ricochet.)


Benghazi suspects identified, but no action

May 24, 2013

After the 9/11 Benghazi attack, President Obama promised justice would be done:

“We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act,” President Barack Obama said. “And make no mistake, justice will be done.”

But that was just an election-year promise. As is the case every single time one of our diplomatic missions is attacked, they were strong words for public consumption, intended to be forgotten when public attention moved on.

Now the attackers have been identified, but the administration is taking no action:

The U.S. has identified five men who might be responsible for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year, and has enough evidence to justify seizing them by military force as suspected terrorists, officials say. But there isn’t enough proof to try them in a U.S. civilian court as the Obama administration prefers. The men remain at large while the FBI gathers evidence.

Obama’s faces a dilemma of his own making. His official position is that terrorism is a law enforcement matter, so if he captures these guys, he has to try them in civilian court, where he won’t have enough legally admissible evidence to convict. The way he really prosecutes the war is with drones; they allow him quietly to attack the enemy while keeping his hypocrisy off the front page. But in this case apparently they don’t want to use a drone strike either. Thus:

U.S. officials say the FBI has proof that the five men were either at the scene of the first attack or somehow involved because of intercepts of at least one of them bragging about taking part. Some of the men have also been in contact with a network of well-known regional Jihadists, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

The U.S. has decided that the evidence it has now would be enough for a military operation to seize the men for questioning, but not enough for a civilian arrest or a drone strike against them, the officials said.

Grabbing them up for interrogation would expose Obama’s hypocrisy, and we can’t do anything else, so the men remain at large. So much for the pledge that justice will be done.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Lerner’s history of religious persecution

May 24, 2013

Lois Lerner, the woman at the center of the IRS scandal, had a history of grossly inappropriate political  and religious inquisitions in her previous job at the FEC. She ran a 6-1/2 year investigation/persecution of the Christian Coalition, that cost her target over hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs. She required 81 depositions, responses to nearly 2000 legal documents, and production of hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, many of which had to be found, by hand, in uncatalogued government warehouses. All of her massive fishing expedition produced nothing; in the end the Christian Coalition was cleared of any wrongdoing. But, as they say, the process itself is the punishment.

Most striking about the investigation was its inquisition into private religious activities, even going so far as to demand to know the contents of individuals’ prayers, a repetition of which we have seen in the current scandal.

In short, this woman should never have been in a position of public trust at all, much less a sensitive position such as head of tax-exempt organizations.

Looking back, the IRS press release announcing Lerner’s appointment is ironic:

“Lois is an integral part of the EO team and has successfully increased the IRS presence in the exempt community,” said Steven T. Miller, Commissioner of the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, of which EO is a part. “Her integrity, skills and judgment are exceptional and will allow us to continue to provide improved service and enhanced enforcement of the tax laws.”

Increased the IRS presence in the exempt community? I’d say she has. Integrity and judgment? Not so much.

But, snark aside, this release points at another deeper problem: Why should the IRS be aiming to increase its presence in the first place? The IRS is a massive parasitical agency. At best it may be necessary, but it should always be trying to minimize its presence, not enhance it.

(Previous post.)


IRS misconduct never stopped

May 24, 2013

One of the lines used to minimize the IRS scandal is that all the IRS’s misconduct is in the past. It’s not. The IRS was continuing to stall Tea Party applications as recently as this month.

UPDATE: Lois Lerner signed letters harassing Tea Party applicants in March 2012, long after the policy supposedly ended.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


End the war on salt!

May 23, 2013

Another blow to the war on salt:

In a report that undercuts years of public health warnings, a prestigious group convened by the government says there is no good reason based on health outcomes for many Americans to drive their sodium consumption down to the very low levels recommended in national dietary guidelines.

To save you the trouble of scrolling back through my archives, here’s the story on the war against salt: People are not all the same. Some people need more salt, some people need less. However, a small number of the people who need less salt can suffer serious health effects from having too much, more serious than the detrimental effects on people at the other end of the spectrum having too little.

Thus, the epidemiologists decided that if they were going to have a one-size-fits-all health policy (not having one never seems to have occurred to them), they should err on the side of less salt. But, having decided on the policy, they needed to punch up the rhetoric to make it effective, so they told everyone that they should cut salt nearly to zero, whether or not that was true for them as individuals. Thus, they “made a commitment to salt education that goes way beyond the scientific facts.”

(Previous post.) (Via Tom Maguire.)


IRS harasses adoptive families

May 23, 2013

An astonishing 69% of all adoptive family claiming the adoption tax credit were audited by the IRS.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Freedom of Information is partisan now

May 22, 2013

The Democratic Party says that filing Freedom of Information Act requests is purely partisan.

I think what he means is the Obama administration is never going to respond to them, so there’s no reason to bother filing them other than to make the president look bad.


Opacity

May 22, 2013

President Obama says his administration is the most transparent in history. That’s an astonishing claim, since by most measures his administration is among the least transparent in history:

  • When his White House learns of wrongdoing in his administration, it employs one basic principle: don’t tell anyone, especially the president.
  • His administration has prosecuted more people for leaks under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined.
  • Under his administration, denials of Freedom of Information Act requests went up 50% in the very first year.
  • In a test by Bloomberg news, only one out of twenty cabinet-level departments answered an FOIA request within the time required by law. Only six responded at all. More broadly, only eight of 57 government agencies answered within the time required by law. About half never responded at all.
  • Those that did not respond at all include the IRS (special scrutiny for administration critics), Justice (journalist surveillance), State (Benghazi), UN Ambassador (Benghazi), HHS (illegal fundraising), ATF (Gunwalker), and Energy (Solyndra).

Yeah, that’s plausible

May 22, 2013

Doug Shulman, former commissioner of the IRS, visited the White House 118 times over two years. When asked why he made so many visits, the only one he says he can remember is the Easter Egg Roll.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


IRS investigated targeting of conservatives, said nothing

May 22, 2013

The Treasury IG’s investigation of the IRS scandal wasn’t the first investigation. The IRS conducted an internal investigation a year earlier, but hushed up the results:

Rep. Darrel Issa, the committee’s chairman, said that the committee learned just yesterday that the IRS completed its own investigation a year before a Treasury Department Inspector General report was completed.

But despite the IRS recognizing in May 2012 that its employees were treating right-wing groups differently from other organizations, Issa said, IRS personnel withheld those conclusions from legislators.

‘Just yesterday the committee interviewed Holly Paz, the director of exempt organizations, rulings and agreements, division of the IRS,’ Issa said. ‘While a tremendous amount of attention is centered about the Inspector General’s report, or investigation, the committee has learned from Ms. Paz that she in fact participated in an IRS internal investigation that concluded in May of 2012 – May 3 of 2012 – and found essentially the same thing that Mr. George found more than a year later.’

Ah yes, the internal investigation, friend of corrupt bureaucrats everywhere.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”) (Via Ace of Spades.)


In the scandals, we may be over-personal and under-ideological

May 22, 2013

Power Line’s Paul Mirengoff thinks that Republicans are taking the wrong line on the IRS scandal. He thinks that it’s a mistake to try to tie the scandal to President Obama; the idea that Obama fostered a
“culture of intimidation” won’t fly. I think he’s wrong about whether Obama can be blamed; as I’ve written before, Obama’s cavalier attitude toward misconduct, his lack of action on credible allegations, and his proven record of protecting wrongdoers in his administration create a perfect environment for these things to happen. Mirengoff might be right that it won’t fly, although each new revelation makes that narrative more believable.

But I think Mirengoff is right that we should not focus so much on Obama. We should be less personal, and more ideological. The real point to the IRS scandal and reporter surveillance scandal is that government cannot be trusted to use its immense power properly.

The line we should be taking on these scandals is they prove that the federal government’s power must be pared back. Unfortunately, far from it, we are dramatically increasing the reach of the federal government instead. We need to elect officials who will halt the growth of government power, and decrease it instead.

Crooked administrations come and go, but government misconduct is never-ending.


White House lies about Benghazi memos

May 22, 2013

In the days leading up to the Benghazi hearings (before all the other scandals broke out), there was a rather uninteresting dispute between Jake Tapper (CNN), and Stephen Hayes (The Weekly Standard) and Jonathan Karl (ABC) over the Obama administration’s Benghazi memos.

Hayes and Karl reported — accurately — that the State Department had considerable influence in the rewriting of the Benghazi talking points to remove the terror attack and insert a non-existent protest in its place. Indeed, they appear to have been the primary drivers of the rewrite. This contradicted essentially every aspect of the story the White House put out as to how those talking points were developed.

However, Hayes and Karl did not have access to the actual memos. They each worked from notes taken by Congressional investigators who saw the memos but were not allowed to make copies. Thus, they did not have verbatim quotes. Karl was not originally clear on this point.

Someone then leaked a cherry-picked memo to Tapper, who reported that it differed a little bit from the paraphrase in Karl’s reporting. In particular, Karl’s paraphrase read:

We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.

The italicized portion was not present in the actual memo. For this, Tapper reported “White House email contradicts Benghazi leaks” and the left thundered about the email being “doctored”.

ASIDE: To further muddy the waters, Tapper made some mistakes in his reporting of Hayes reporting.

But, as it turns out, Tapper got taken. When the full (or fuller, anyway) email chain was released, giving the context, it substantiated Hayes’s and Karl’s reporting in nearly its entirety, save only Karl’s lack of clarity on the language being a paraphrase. Although Rhodes didn’t use those words, the context makes clear the State Department’s “equities” were the ones under discussion.

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler summarizes this way:

Note the correct version is missing a direct reference to the State Department. CNN, which had only obtained the single e-mail, used strong words in its report about its competitor, ABC: “Whoever provided those accounts seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.”

When the White House last week released all of its e-mails, it became clear that Rhodes was responding at the tail end of a series of e-mail exchanges that largely discussed the State Department concerns.

In other words, the summary would have been fairly close if the commas had been removed and replaced with brackets: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities [including those of the State Department] and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”

(Emphasis mine.)

With the context present, it’s quite obvious that the leaker deliberately gave Tapper the wrong impression by carefully selecting one memo to leak. The leaker even masked out the string of replies that typically appears at the end of an email. Had the replies been present, the very next few lines (after the email headers) would have been:

Given the DOJ equities and States desire to run some traps, safe to assume we can hold on this until tomorrow?

I don’t know what it means to “run some traps”, but even in the absence of the rest of the chain, this alone would have made it clear that State was involved.

While this talk of “doctoring” remained the province of fevered left-wing blogs, I wasn’t very interested. But now it has become part of the White House’s official spin:

I think one of the problems that there’s so much controversy here is because one of the e-mails was doctored by a Republican source and given to the media to falsely smear the president.

The White House wants to distract from the fact that they outright lied about the development of the talking points. But with this White House, the distractions from their lies are just more lies. As we’ve seen, the emails were not doctored, and the reporting on them was accurate in every significant particular.

Kessler gives White House mouthpiece Dan Pfeiffer three pinocchios:

It has long been part of the Washington game for officials to discredit a news story by playing up errors in a relatively small part of it. Pfeiffer gives the impression that GOP operatives deliberately tried to “smear the president” with false, doctored e-mails.

But the reporters involved have indicated they were told by their sources that these were summaries, taken from notes of e-mails that could not be kept. . . Despite Pfeiffer’s claim of political skullduggery, we see little evidence that much was at play here besides imprecise wordsmithing or editing errors by journalists.

(Previous post.) (Via the Corner.)


Did DOJ spy on Attkisson too?

May 22, 2013

Now that we know that the DOJ’s press surveillance was not an isolated incident — DOJ spied on both the Associated Press and Fox News — it’s a sure bet that they spied on other news outlets as well. So who are they? I’m sure every journalist in every newsroom (except Chris Matthews, natch) is wondering if he or she was targeted.

One is CBS’s investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has done exemplary reporting on both Gunwalker and Benghazi. Attkisson says her computers have been compromised both at work and at home. She isn’t pointing any fingers yet, but obviously, she has reason to be suspicious. (Here’s an interview of Attkisson discussing the matter.)

White House officials have “screamed” and “cussed” at Attkisson for her reporting in the past, and they have even pressured CBS to fire her. They have every reason to want to burn her sources, and have shown they have no qualms about doing so.

For what it’s worth, which ain’t much, the DOJ denies responsibility. Sort of. We’ve learned that we need to parse these denials very carefully. The DOJ spokesman says “to our knowledge”, which means only that he hasn’t been told. But we’ve already learned how this administration operates: no one is ever told anything so everyone can deny everything.

(Previous post.)


IRS scandal was managed in Washington

May 22, 2013

We’ve known for days that the IRS was lying when it claimed that its misconduct took place exclusively in Cincinnati. Now we learn that officials in Washington not only were involved, they actually managed the effort:

From the outset, Internal Revenue Service lawyers based in Washington, D.C., provided important guidance on the handling of tea-party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, according to both IRS sources and the inspector general’s report released in mid May.

Officials in the Technical Unit of the IRS’s Rulings and Agreements office played an integral role in determining how the targeted applications were treated, provided general guidelines to Cincinnati case workers, briefed other agency employees on the status of the special cases, and reviewed all those intrusive requests demanding “more information” from tea-party groups. At times, the Technical Unit lawyers seemed to exercise tight control over these applications, creating both a backlog in application processing and frustration among Cincinnati agents waiting for direction.

An IRS employee who asked not to be identified tells National Review Online that all members of the agency’s Technical Unit are based in Washington, D.C. A current list of Technical Unit managers provided by another IRS employee shows that all such managers are based at the agency’s headquarters on Constitution Avenue in the District of Columbia, and the IRS confirmed, in a testy exchange with National Review Online, that the Technical Unit is “based in Washington.”

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


DOJ spied on Fox as well as AP

May 21, 2013

It wasn’t only the Associated Press that the Justice Department was spying on, they also spied on James Rosen, a reporter with Fox News:

When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.

They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.

Unlike the AP case, DOJ wasn’t only digging for information, they actually named Rosen as a criminal co-conspirator. Glenn Greenwald (a liberal, one hastens to point out, but a consistent defender of the Freedom of the Press) gives the administration both barrels:

What makes this revelation particularly disturbing is that the DOJ, in order to get this search warrant, insisted that not only Kim, but also Rosen – the journalist – committed serious crimes. The DOJ specifically argued that by encouraging his source to disclose classified information – something investigative journalists do every day – Rosen himself broke the law. . .

Under US law, it is not illegal to publish classified information. That fact, along with the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedoms, is what has prevented the US government from ever prosecuting journalists for reporting on what the US government does in secret. This newfound theory of the Obama DOJ – that a journalist can be guilty of crimes for “soliciting” the disclosure of classified information – is a means for circumventing those safeguards and criminalizing the act of investigative journalism itself.

And it wasn’t just Rosen either. The DOJ spied on two other Fox News personnel as well, another reporter and a producer.

UPDATE: At least five different phones at Fox News, and the phone of James Rosen’s parents.

(Previous post.)


The Benghazi cover-up

May 21, 2013

I missed this revelation in last week’s Benghazi hearings:

Gregory Hicks was the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli during the September 11, 2012 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. On Wednesday, he told the House Government Oversight Committee that the State Department went out of its way to keep Hicks from communicating with Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Oversight Committee staff without a State Department lawyer. . .

“I was instructed not to allow the RSO, the acting Deputy Chief of Mission, and myself to be interviewed by Congressman Chaffetz,” Hicks told Rep. Jim Jordan (R–OH).

It should be needless to say, this was unusual:

 “Have you ever had anyone tell you, ‘Don’t talk with the people from Congress coming to find out what’s at play?'”

“Never,” Hicks responded. He said that it was the first time such an incident ever occurred.

(Previous post.)


Heh

May 21, 2013

As Peter Ingemi puts it, nothing says “this was just rogue agents in Cincinnati” like the top IRS official taking the Fifth.

UPDATE: Or, at Glenn Reynolds puts it: “The Obama administration finally finds a constitutional amendment it can get behind.”

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


IRS lies

May 21, 2013

I don’t think this breaks any new news, but it’s a good summary.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Chief of Staff informed regarding IRS misconduct

May 21, 2013

President Obama’s wall of ignorance is unravelling.

We knew already that the White House Counsel was informed of the IRS’s misconduct, but (we’re told) did not tell the president. To explain this, we’ve been told that it is somehow unethical for the White House Counsel to reveal the information to the president. I’ve never heard of a legal principle that would keep the president’s lawyer from disclosing to the president, legal matters relevant to the president. Indeed, that sounds like the opposite of the White House Counsel’s job. But suppose we grant that one.

We know now that other top administration officials were informed, including the White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough. This is no different, in practice, than notifying the president himself. The Chief of Staff is the most powerful figure in the US government after the president. He runs the administration, controls access to the president, is present at all key meetings, and (what is most significant here) ensures that the president is kept informed of all matters of importance.

If McDonough didn’t inform Obama, it’s because he judged that Obama wouldn’t want to be informed. Making that judgement is his job, for which he was hand-picked by Obama.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Read all IRS remarks with a jaundiced eye

May 21, 2013

Politico has a good story summarizing the White House’s changing story regarding the IRS scandal to date. I want to focus on just one point, which I hadn’t seen before:

Friday, May 10: . . . Outside the White House, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said that he’d first learned of the details of the investigation from news reports. . .

Friday, May 17: Lew, during an interview with Bloomberg News, revealed he’d actually first learned of the inspector general’s investigation in March, adding that he hadn’t been aware of the details of the report until May 10.

Lew’s defenders will doubtless say he was truthful; learning of an investigation isn’t the same as knowing the details. In a narrow sense that may be so, although (a) the same people are invariably much less charitable when it comes to Republicans, and (b) we have only his word for it in any case.

Nevertheless, Lew’s statement seems misleading. He knew that the investigation involved scrutinization of conservative groups. With or without details, he knew the takeaway. But he did nothing, and told no one.

But suppose we give him a pass; this only emphasizes the key point. We are in territory where every statement made by any official must be scrutinized for loopholes (as well as outright lies). When President Obama says “I certainly did not know anything about the IG report,” observe that he is not saying that he knew nothing about the investigation, or the underlying misconduct.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”) (Via Instapundit.)


IRS minders

May 21, 2013

When outsiders visit a totalitarian regime, they are accompanied by minders from the regime, to make sure they don’t see anything they shouldn’t see, or talk to anyone they shouldn’t talk to. Now, journalists visiting the IRS are accompanied by minders too, presumably for the same reason.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Professional paper-pushers excited about Obamacare

May 21, 2013

H&R Block contributed half a million dollars to Kathleen Sebelius’s Obamacare propaganda fund. Megan McArdle explains the significance (in three tweets):

Not surprising; the paperwork will be big business for them. Lower income people terrified of getting audited for EITC, etc are a core part of H&R Block’s business model. Donation suggests that H&R Block expects to get the same sort of boom from people who are terrified they’ve done their Obama paperwork wrong.


Keystone cops

May 21, 2013

This is just swell:

The U.S. Marshals Service lost two former participants in the federal Witness Security Program “identified as known or suspected terrorists,” according to the public summary of an interim Justice Department Inspector General’s report obtained by CNN.

Our own government is hiding terrorists among the American people, and they don’t even keep track of them?

But wait, there’s more:

The government allowed “a small but significant number” of terrorists into America’s witness protection program and then failed to provide the names of some of them for a watch list that’s used to keep dangerous people off airline flights, the Justice Department’s inspector general says.

Oh sure, let them fly. What could go wrong?

(Via Hot Air.)


No, Obama didn’t acknowledge Benghazi was terrorism

May 21, 2013

The Washington Post’s fact-checker calls Barack Obama out for his utterly dishonest claim to have called the Benghazi attack terrorism the day after the attack. It still strikes me as strange to make the claim: If he knew it was terror on September 12, why did he spend the next month saying it wasn’t?

This is a very old story, of course, but it has some currency because Obama is still out there peddling the line this month.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


IG confirms Gunwalker smear strategy

May 20, 2013

Gunwalker, the Obama administration’s biggest scandal of all, has been lying dormant for a while, while we wait for the courts to rule that the House can subpoena documents, but today brings a significant development:

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General published a new report Monday that confirms former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke leaked a document intended to smear Operation Fast and Furious scandal whistleblower John Dodson.

The DOJ IG said it found “Burke’s conduct in disclosing the Dodson memorandum to be inappropriate for a Department employee and wholly unbefitting a U.S. Attorney.” . . .

In addition to Burke’s involvement in leaking the document, emails the IG uncovered show senior officials at the Department of Justice discussed smearing Dodson.

Don’t worry, I’m sure (we’ll be told that) Eric Holder and Barack Obama had no knowledge of this.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


NYT defends IRS misconduct

May 20, 2013

A week ago I noted that the NYT was on record in favor of special IRS scrutiny for Tea Party groups, and wondered if they would rethink that in light of the IRS scandal. Nope: the NYT is still defending the IRS.

On a similar note, this phrase seems not to have appeared in the pages of the NYT: “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.” I guess that might make it harder to defend them.

(Previous post.)


Chutzpah

May 20, 2013

Shorter Dan Pfeiffer: “These scandals are awful. Also, you should stop investigating them.”


Holder lies about contempt citation

May 20, 2013

The Washington Post catches Eric Holder in a lie regarding the contempt citation against him:

The fierce exchanges between Rep. Darrell Issa and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday garnered a lot of attention, but there was also an interesting substantive point that was discussed: Did Ronald C. Machen Jr., the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, make his own decision regarding whether to prosecute Holder for criminal contempt of Congress?

Holder said Machen “made the determination.” What does the evidence show?

The story is a little bit complicated, but here’s the key point:

The decision on whether to empanel a grand jury rested with Machen. But the letter from Cole [indicating that the DOJ would not take action] came even before the House had transmitted the contempt resolution to Machen.

As it happens, this not only smells bad, it’s probably illegal. Under the law, the decision rests with the US Attorney for the District of Columbia, and no one else. But when the DOJ breaks the law, who can take action?

POSTSCRIPT: The Post is willing to forgive Holder because his office later retracted his false statement. My readers can decide for themselves whether subsequently retracting a lie excuses it.

(Previous post.)


Why the IRS scandal is Obama’s fault

May 20, 2013

Barack Obama probably never ordered the IRS to target conservative and Christian tax-exempt applicants, just as Richard Nixon never ordered the Watergate break-in. (Although, as Jonah Goldberg points out, there’s no earthy reason why we should take his word for it.) But, just as Nixon did, Obama created the circumstances in which the misconduct was likely, perhaps even inevitable.

Three must-read columns make the case. Jonah Goldberg observes that, when Tea Party groups began making credible claims that they were being targeted by the IRS, he did nothing. He didn’t even take the minimal step of asking someone to look into it. Against that backdrop, his current profession of outrage over the IRS’s actions are clearly crocodile tears.

Goldberg goes on to recount the very clear signals that he sent, quite deliberately, that his political opponents should be silenced. Kimberly Strassel expands on the point, observing that Obama and his Democrats attacked the people funding opposition to Obama’s rule, and explicitly called for the IRS to scrutinize them.

Rand Simberg adds another key point. The IRS, unsurprisingly, is a very liberal organization, and the division that review tax-exempt applications is even further left. Thus, these people were sent a clear indication by the president and his party who the bad guys are, and they were receptive to that indication.

In such an environment, it was essential to make it clear that partisan bias was unacceptable. However, Barack Obama sent the exact opposite message. He liked to joke about misusing his office (e.g., revenge audits, secret provisions), he called for his supporters to take “revenge” and “punish our enemies“, and he warned his enemies that he was “keeping score“.

To sum up, you have a sharply partisan IRS, unchecked by higher scrutiny, and being told clearly who the enemy is and that persecuting that enemy is morally appropriate. Under such circumstances they would likely want to persecute their party’s enemies. The only remaining necessary element is the ability to do so without facing repercussions.

And, of course, they had that too. We now know that the Obama administration is run on a “see-no-evil, hear-no-evil” basis. White House officials are careful to insulate the president and his key deputies from any knowledge of his administration’s wrongdoing: When the White House was informed of Gunwalker, those informed made sure the information went no higher (or so we are told, anyway). Ditto the IRS scandal. And when the Gunwalker misconduct became public, the White House stonewalled the investigation, and continues to do so to this day.

Furthermore, Obama administration officials are never punished for their misconduct. The persons responsible for Gunwalker were not punished; indeed most were promoted, while the whistleblowers were punished. The same is true in the IRS scandal. The woman in charge of the key IRS office has been promoted to run the IRS’s Obamacare office. The high-profile firing of Steven Miller (the acting IRS commissioner) was bogus. In fact, he had been in the position for just over a week, and was due to step down in less than a month anyway.

In short, people doing Obama’s never-explicitly-ordered bidding are safe from punishment. He has their back. If only the people who defend our country from terrorists were so secure.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Heh

May 20, 2013

The New Yorker:

OBAMA DENIES ROLE IN GOVERNMENT

President Obama used his weekly radio address on Saturday to reassure the American people that he has “played no role whatsoever” in the U.S. government over the past four years.

“Right now, many of you are angry at the government, and no one is angrier than I am,” he said. “Quite frankly, I am glad that I have had no involvement in such an organization.”

The President’s outrage only increased, he said, when he “recently became aware of a part of that government called the Department of Justice.”


They knew

May 20, 2013

Top Treasury officials were aware of the investigation into the IRS office that reviews tax-exempt applications in June 2012:

The inspector general gave Republicans some fodder Friday when he divulged that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel he was auditing the I.R.S.’s screening of politically active groups seeking tax exemptions on June 4, 2012. He told Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly after,” he said. That meant Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.

But Wolin never passed the information on, or so we are asked to believe.

Also, the White House Counsel was notified weeks ago:

The White House’s chief lawyer learned weeks ago that an audit of the Internal Revenue Service likely would show that agency employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups, a senior White House official said Sunday.

But the White House Counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, never passed the information on, or so we are asked to believe.

This, is has become clear, is how the Obama administration operates. Whenever the White House learns of misconduct in its administration, the information never goes to the top. (Or so we are asked to believe.)

POSTSCRIPT: The New York Times’s original headline for this story was “Treasury Knew of I.R.S. Inquiry in 2012, Official Says.” But, when the story began to get a lot of attention from the blogosphere, they changed their headline to “Republicans Expand I.R.S. Inquiry, With Eye on White House.” That’s much better for the narrative; they want the story to be about opportunistic Republicans, not Obama administration malfeasance.

UPDATE: In addition to changing the headline, they took this lead paragraph:

The Treasury Department’s inspector general told senior Treasury officials in June 2012 he was auditing the Internal Revenue Services’s screening of politically active organizations seeking tax exemptions, disclosing for the first time on Friday that Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.

transmogrified it into the paragraph I quoted at the top (gotta make Republicans part of the scandal somehow), and put it at paragraph twelve. Twelve!

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Chief IRS targeter now running Obamacare

May 20, 2013

If you’re enjoying the IRS scandal, just wait until the IRS takes up its role as Obamacare enforcer. I’ve heard a lot of people make that remark since the IRS scandal broke, but it takes on even more currency with this revelation:

The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.

Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.

That’s just great.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


IRS didn’t scrutinize large organizations

May 20, 2013

The Associated Press reveals another pattern in the IRS’s targeting of conservative and Christian organizations:

There’s an irony in the Internal Revenue Service’s crackdown on conservative groups.

The nation’s tax agency has admitted to inappropriately scrutinizing smaller tea party organizations that applied for tax-exempt status, and senior Treasury Department officials were notified in the midst of the 2012 presidential election season that an internal investigation was underway. But the IRS largely maintained a hands-off policy with the much larger, big-budget organizations on the left and right. . .

Why would the IRS leave the big guys alone? I think Ed Morrissey has the explanation: the big guys have the resources to defend themselves.

If you were looking to prevent abuse of the tax code by bogus tax-exempt application, you would start with the biggest applicants, because those are potentially the biggest abusers. On the other hand, if you were looking to suppress as much Tea Party activity as possible, you wouldn’t waste your time on a few well-funded organizations that could fight back, you would concentrate on suppressing the small grassroots organizations that had no recourse. And we know now which route they chose.

(Previous post: “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


IRS OMG

May 17, 2013

“Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”

(Previous post.)


IRS stole 60 million medical records

May 17, 2013

Another IRS scandal:

The Internal Revenue Service stole and improperly accessed 60 million medical records after raiding a California company, according to a legal complaint filed in March with the California superior court for San Diego. Fifteen IRS agents are now facing a class-action lawsuit in the matter.

“In a case involving solely a tax matter involving a former employee of the company, these agents stole more than 60,000,000 medical records of more than 10,000,000 Americans” the complaint, filed by attorney Robert Barnes, alleges. “No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search.”

Soon the IRS won’t have to steal medical records. As the enforcer of Obamacare, they will have many of them already.

(Previous post.)


Gov’t grievance with AP may not have been over public safety

May 17, 2013

The White House says it needed to spy on the Associated Press, because it needed to find out the source of a damaging leak. But the Washington Post looked at the affair and found that the leak wasn’t actually damaging, at least not to national security.

It turns out the AP agreed to hold its story until the danger had passed. What upset the administration so much is the AP refused to hold its story until after the White House had had a chance to brag about the bust:

For five days, reporters at the Associated Press had been sitting on a big scoop about a foiled al-Qaeda plot at the request of CIA officials. Then, in a hastily scheduled Monday morning meeting, the journalists were asked by agency officials to hold off on publishing the story for just one more day.

The CIA officials, who had initially cited national security concerns in an attempt to delay publication, no longer had those worries, according to individuals familiar with the exchange. Instead, the Obama administration was planning to announce the successful counterterrorism operation that Tuesday.

AP balked and proceeded to publish that Monday afternoon.

(Emphasis mine.) The details are quite astonishing. After the AP had sat on the story for five days (and was asked to sit on it for a sixth day), the White House wouldn’t agree to let them have an exclusive for even one hour. The White House would let them have the exclusive for at most five minutes. Understandably, the AP told them to hell with that.

In light of that, the Justice Department’s action doesn’t sound at all like they were investigating a leak that put the public at risk. It sounds much more like retaliation for refusing to play ball.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Non-denial denial

May 17, 2013

Yesterday, President Obama was asked the obvious question about the IRS scandal:

Can you assure the American people that nobody in the White House knew about the agency’s actions before your counsel’s office found out on April 22nd? And when they did find out, do you think that you should have learned about it before you learned about it from news reports, as you said last Friday?

His answer seems very carefully worded:

Let me make sure that I answer your specific question. I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press.

(Emphasis mine.) But he didn’t answer the specific question. The specific question was when he knew about the agency’s misconduct, not when he knew about the investigation, which no one cares about. That careful wording seems significant.

POSTSCRIPT: Obviously he wants people to think that he denied any knowledge, though, and the New York Times is happy to play its part, ending its quotation just before the key wording, and filling it in inaccurately:

President Obama said he “certainly did not know anything about” the targeting of conservative groups by the I.R.S. . .

(Previous post.)


Dems refuse to condemn IRS

May 17, 2013

Senate Democrats have put a hold on Rand Paul’s (R-KT) resolution condemning the IRS for targeting conservatives.

(Previous post.)


IRS admits scandal revelation was staged

May 17, 2013

The IRS now admits that the supposedly extemporaneous revelation of its misconduct was actually staged.

(Previous post.)


IRS misconduct extended to DC and two other offices

May 17, 2013

Despite the IRS’s self-serving claims, their misconduct was not limited to a single office in Cincinnati:

Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups, the documents show.

The Washington Post also found corroboration of the allegation that a special task force was looking at conservative applications:

IRS employees in Cincinnati told conservatives seeking the status of “social welfare” groups that a task force in Washington was overseeing their applications, according to interviews with the activists.

(Previous post.)


Second court invalidates Obama recess appointment

May 16, 2013

In January, the DC Court of Appeals eviscerated the president’s recess appointment power. While we wait for that case to arrive at the Supreme Court, another court has now invalidated President Obama’s most bogus recess appointment, that of Craig Becker to the NLRB. I haven’t had a chance to look at the opinion, so I don’t know yet if they went as far as the DC Court of Appeals in sweeping away the recess appointment power nearly in its entirety.

This is a good occasion to remember that this was a massive unforced error on Obama’s part. He didn’t need to pick this particular fight, and if he hadn’t, the courts would not have had the occasion to look carefully as what the recess appointment power has become. But he wanted a fight, and now he’s been hoisted by his own petard for it.


Administration imposes nationwide speech codes

May 16, 2013

It’s been a big week for news of Obama administration wrongdoing, with four scandals swirling on Capitol Hill, but this oughtn’t get lost in the shuffle: The federal government is ordering that college campuses nationwide institute unconstitutional speech codes:

In a letter sent yesterday to the University of Montana that explicitly states that it is intended as “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country,” the Departments of Justice and Education have mandated a breathtakingly broad definition of sexual harassment that makes virtually every student in the United States a harasser while ignoring the First Amendment. The mandate applies to every college receiving federal funding—virtually every American institution of higher education nationwide, public or private.

The letter states that “sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as ‘any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature’” including “verbal conduct” (that is, speech). It then explicitly states that allegedly harassing expression need not even be offensive to an “objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation”—if the listener takes offense to sexually related speech for any reason, no matter how irrationally or unreasonably, the speaker may be punished.

The second paragraph is the key one: Any speech related to sex that offends anyone is banned, even if is it not reasonable to take offense. And remember that two years ago, the administration ordered that college campuses eliminate due process in sexual harassment complaints.

That’s the First and Fifth amendments, both eliminated on college campuses by the president who once taught Constitutional law.

POSTSCRIPT: The Washington Post is bleating that the IRS scandal and the AP phone records scandal “have challenged Obama’s credibility as a champion of civil liberties”! What? This man is attacking our civil liberties all the bloody time. You just haven’t been paying attention.


Obamcare shakedown

May 16, 2013

It got buried by the IRS’s admission of political targeting, but another scandal erupted last Friday. The Obama administration is worried by Obamacare’s stubborn refusal to become popular, so they want to run propaganda in support of it. Strangely, Republicans refuse to appropriate funds for Obamacare propaganda, and the administration apparently doesn’t want to waste the tens of billions in its Obamacare slush fund.

Instead, we learned Friday, they sent out the execrable HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to shake down health care companies, the very same companies that Sebelius’s agency regulates:

[HHS Spokesman Jason] Young said that Sebelius did not solicit for funds directly from industries that HHS regulates, such as insurance companies and hospitals, but rather asked them to contribute in whatever way they can.

But the industry official who had knowledge of the calls but did not participate directly in them said there was a clear insinuation by the administration that the insurers should give financially to the nonprofits.

Meredith McGehee, policy director for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which researches government ethics issues, said she was troubled by Sebelius’s activities because the secretary seemed to be “using the power of government to compel giving or insinuate that giving is going to be looked at favorably by the government.”

The House of Representatives is opening an investigation. Those guys are going to be busy.

(Via Hot Air.)


I know nothing!

May 16, 2013

Jon Stewart mocks President Obama for never knowing anything about anything.


IRS targeted pro-lifers

May 16, 2013

The Washington Examiner reports:

“In one case, the IRS withheld approval of an application for tax exempt status for Coalition for Life of Iowa. In a phone call to Coalition for Life of Iowa leaders on June 6, 2009, the IRS agent ‘Ms. Richards’ told the group to send a letter to the IRS with the entire board’s signatures stating that, under perjury of the law, they do not picket/protest or organize groups to picket or protest outside of Planned Parenthood,” the Thomas More Society announced today. “Once the IRS received this letter, their application would be approved.”

It’s clear now that pretty much anyone the left hates got targeted.

(Previous post.)


More IRS lies

May 16, 2013

The IRS claims that it was targeting conservatives to cope with a surge of tax-exempt applications. We already knew this is untrue because their strategy for identifying conservatives took more effort, not less; and because an even greater surge of tax-exempt applications for labor groups went unscrutinized.

Now you can add this: When the IRS started targeting conservatives, there was no surge of tax-exempt applications. In fact, it was just the opposite:

Applications for tax exemption from advocacy nonprofits had not yet spiked when the Internal Revenue Service began using what it admits was inappropriate scrutiny of conservative groups in 2010.

In fact, applications were declining, data show.

What was happening in 2010 was the rise of the first small-government populist movement in modern history. Something had to be done.

UPDATE: A bushel of Pinocchios.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


How did the IRS start targeting conservatives?

May 16, 2013

The IRS’s inspector general knows, but he won’t tell us:

What kicked off the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party groups? The Treasury Department’s Inspector General apparently knows but the rest of us cannot. His report on the scandal includes three timelines of events, but in each case, the first item in the timeline has been redacted.

Another reason why we need a truly independent investigation.

(Previous post.)


Worst. Idea. Ever.

May 16, 2013

The Obama administration wants to give technical information on our missile defense to the Russians?!

This isn’t stupid. Stupid doesn’t begin to cover it. Treason is more apt.

The left has always opposed missile defense. Why, I’m not quite sure. They like to say it’s because missile defense can’t work, which they might actually believe but isn’t true. But here you have something quite different. Here you have Obama taking steps to make sure it doesn’t work.

He doesn’t want us to have a missile defense! For heaven’s sake, why?


New Republic defends IRS

May 15, 2013

The New Republic says that the IRS scandal is really the Tea Party’s fault, because . . . Well, honestly I don’t even understand their argument, because it seems as though they are saying that it’s the Tea Party’s fault because they were being paranoid that the IRS might persecute them.

In any case, the New Republic has been defending fascists since the day Herbert Croly founded it, so I suppose we shouldn’t expect any different.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Labor applications outnumbered Tea Party

May 15, 2013

The IRS claims (joined by Journolist lefties) that its enhanced scrutiny of conservative groups was not partisan, but just an ill-advised labor-saving strategy. Pretty much no one believes that anyway, but here’s proof: Tea Party groups were not the largest segment of the increase in tax-exempt applications. Labor groups were:

While IRS officials attributed the agency’s heavy scrutiny on conservative groups to the spike in applications over the past few years, fresh reports and figures are raising questions about whether the agency knowingly applied a double standard.

A highly anticipated watchdog report, released late Tuesday by the inspector general’s office, depicted an even bigger spike in applications for tax-exempt status from a type of group that includes labor organizations. Yet, according to the report, the conservative groups were the ones singled out for special treatment.

“Questions”? More like answers.

(Previous post.)


Sheesh

May 15, 2013

Somehow I think that if it had been the Bush administration spying on the AP, Media Matters might not have sided with the government.

POSTSCRIPT: Media Matters’s embrace of Obama administration talking points is so complete, they’re even adopting the official Obama excuse for all Obama administration wrongdoing as their own. Just as Obama is not responsible for any actions of his administration, Media Matters is not responsible for the positions taken by Media Matters.

UPDATE: “The buck stops at a different part of my website.”

(Previous post.)


IRS did not scrutinize liberals

May 15, 2013

While IRS was targeting Tea Party groups for special scrutiny and intimidation, liberal groups were put on the fast track:

In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked.

That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn’t be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months.

In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows.

As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like “Progress” or “Progressive,” the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.

We pretty much knew this already, but it’s good to have it laid out in black and white.

POSTSCRIPT: Right now, the left is looking frantically for anyone on the left who can claim to have been mistreated by the IRS during the Bush administration. Given how badly the IRS treats everyone, I’m frankly surprised they haven’t located someone already. This makes me wonder if this favoritism goes back years.

UPDATE (5/20): The IRS commissioner confirms (see the video at bottom) that no left-oriented keywords (e.g., “progressive” or “organizing”) were used for targeting.

(Previous post.)


A brief history of IRS intimidation

May 15, 2013

A Wall Street Journal op-ed has a brief history of political targeting by the IRS. The prime offenders were Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy, Nixon, and Clinton. (I suppose Woodrow Wilson didn’t bother with the IRS; he just locked up his opponents for sedition.) It’s interesting that in that group, Nixon is the only one most journalists are able to remember.

There’s also this appalling statistic:

The IRS has usually done an excellent job of stifling investigations of its practices. A 1991 survey of 800 IRS executives and managers by the nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics revealed that three out of four respondents felt entitled to deceive or lie when testifying before a congressional committee.

(Previous post.)


EPA also targeted conservatives

May 15, 2013

It wasn’t only the IRS that gave special scrutiny to conservative organizations; the EPA did it too:

Conservative groups seeking information from the Environmental Protection Agency have been routinely hindered by fees normally waived for media and watchdog groups, while fees for more than 90 percent of requests from green groups were waived, according to requests reviewed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. . . Government agencies are supposed to waive fees for groups disseminating information for public benefit. . .

For 92 percent of requests from green groups, the EPA cooperated by waiving fees for the information. Those requests came from the Natural Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, The Waterkeeper Alliance, Greenpeace, Southern Environmental Law Center and the Center for Biological Diversity. . .

CEI, on the other hand, had its requests denied 93 percent of the time. . . Similarly, requests from conservative groups Judicial Watch and National Center for Public Policy Research were approved half the time, and all requests from Franklin Center and the Institute for Energy Research were denied.

I’m sure the EPA will deny this, just as the IRS did. The House investigators ought to roll this into their inquiry too.

(Previous post.)


Obama administration spied on AP

May 15, 2013

I have to say, I’m laughing my butt off over this:

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

After years of doing their level best to obscure and/or justify the misconduct of the Obama administration, the Associated Press got the Chicago Way treatment themselves. They’re horrified that the Obama administration could do such a thing. It’s almost enough to make one believe in karma.

As in every one of the administration’s dozen scandals, we’re told that no one in a position of authority knew anything about this. Clearly, the word has gone out throughout the administration that you can do anything you want (ship guns to drug cartels, persecute the Tea Party and pro-Israel organizations, manufacture propaganda at government expense, spy on reporters, etc.) provided you just don’t tell your superiors.

The administration says that its investigation of a leak regarding a foiled terrorist plot is important, because it directly compromised national security. Oh my goodness! A leak that compromised national security! It’s hard to imagine something so terrible could ever happen!

In fact, during the Bush administration there was a never-ending war of leaks against the administration, many of them extremely damaging. (Perhaps the worst was in 2006 when the New York Times and others exposed the details of the Treasury Department’s program to track terrorist finances, thereby making it possible for terrorists to move money undetected.) But did the Bush administration ever resort to this kind of spying on the press? Of course not.


IRS misconduct ongoing?

May 14, 2013

The IRS claims they put a stop to the practice of special obstacles for Tea Party groups in 2011, but did they? A letter the IRS sent to the attorney for the Albuquerque Tea Party just last month suggests otherwise.

Also, the letter came from Washington, DC, not from Cincinnati, which is where we’re told all the misconduct took place.

(Previous post.)


Heh

May 14, 2013

Jon Stewart:

I didn’t realize that apologies are sufficient in IRS-related issues!

(Previous post.)


Hmm

May 14, 2013

Is the stonewall beginning?

IRS Won’t Say If It Will Comply With Congressional Demand for All Communications and Names Involved in Discriminating Against Tea Party Groups

The Internal Revenue Service has given no indication to the House Ways and Means Committee about whether it will respond to the committee’s demand, delivered in writing last Friday, that the agency hand over copies of all internal communications containing the words “tea party,” “patriot,” or “conservative” and the names and titles of all IRS officials involved in discriminating against tea party and conservative groups when they submitted applications for tax-exempt status.

IRS spokesmen also did not respond to repeated emailed and telephone inquiries that CNSNews.com made between Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning asking if the IRS intended to comply with the committee’s demand–and if not, why not.

This would be a great time for Congress to have subpoena power.

(Previous post.)


Obama administration asks court to abolish Congress’s subpoena power

May 14, 2013

While three major scandals are exploding in Washington, the Obama administration is asking the courts to abolish Congress’s power to subpoena documents:

A U.S. Justice Department lawyer said on Wednesday that if a judge agreed to consider a Republican bid to get administration documents related to a botched operation against gun-trafficking it would prompt a flood of requests for courts to referee Washington political disputes.

President Barack Obama is resisting a congressional subpoena for documents related to how the administration responded to the revelation of the failed operation known as “Fast and Furious” on the U.S.- Mexican border. . .

Justice Department lawyer Ian Gershengorn told a hearing the matter was best left to the give-and-take of the U.S. government’s two elected branches, the president and Congress, and should not be a matter for the courts. . .

[House of Representatives lawyer Kerry] Kircher told Jackson that if she did not intervene, presidents could withhold documents from Congress at will with no consequence and thwart oversight of government agencies.

Kircher is exactly right. If the House has no recourse to the courts to enforce its subpoenas, then it has no subpoena power. That’s exactly what the Obama administration wants, now more than ever with the IRS scandal blooming. But it wasn’t so long ago that Democrats saw things the other way:

In a decision that now helps Republicans, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled in 2008 that he did have the authority to enforce a subpoena by congressional Democrats in connection with the firing of nine U.S. attorneys.

(ASIDE: It’s funny to recall now what flimsy fare passed for a scandal during the Bush administration, isn’t it?)


Dirty to the top

May 14, 2013

Top IRS officials were aware of the IRS’s misconduct, and covered it up:

On Monday, the IRS said Miller was first informed on May, 3, 2012, that applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups were inappropriately singled out for extra scrutiny. Congress, though, was not told tea party groups were being inappropriately targeted, even after Miller had been briefed on the matter.

At least twice after the briefing, Miller wrote letters to members of Congress to explain the process of reviewing applications for tax-exempt status without disclosing that tea party groups had been targeted. On July 25, 2012, Miller testified before the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, but again did not mention the additional scrutiny — despite being asked about it. . .

None of the agency’s responses to Congress acknowledged that conservative groups had ever been targeted, including a response to Hatch dated Sept. 11, 2012 — four months after Miller had been briefed.

In several letters to members of Congress, Miller went into painstaking detail about how applications for tax-exempt status were screened. But he never mentioned that conservative groups were being targeted, even though people working under him knew as early as June 2011 that tea party groups were being targeted, according to an upcoming report by the agency’s inspector general.

Perjury.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


Bottom line

May 14, 2013

David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, seems to be saying that the IRS scandal is no big deal, because it failed to stop the Tea Party. It’s always about political outcomes with this bunch, isn’t it?

(Previous post.)


IRS targeted pro-Israel groups too

May 14, 2013

It wasn’t just the Tea Party and limited-government groups who were targeted by the IRS, they also targeted pro-Israel groups. One such organization reported being questioned regarding its religious views toward Israel:

“Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel? Describe your organization’s religious belief system towards the land of Israel,” the IRS asked in a letter sent to the religious group, which asked not to be named.

The IRS admitted applying special scrutiny to pro-Israel groups, but that admission was later retracted by the Justice Department. (ASIDE: Note that the IRS is part of the Treasury Department, so this scandal now spans departments.)

Now, pro-Israel groups are very different from Tea Party groups, but they do have one thing in common: The Obama administration is hostile to both.

UPDATE (5/28): More here.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


About that IG investigation

May 14, 2013

In case you had any confidence that the IRS’s internal investigation of the IRS scandal was going to be thorough, don’t. ProPublica, the group (I suppose I should say “a group”, as there are surely more) to whom the IRS leaked confidential information on Tea Party organizations, says they haven’t even been contacted by the Inspector General’s offices.

UPDATE: The IG’s office also appears to be unaware that the IRS targeted pro-Israel groups as well as conservative groups. (At least, IG’s spokesman is.)

(Previous post.)


IRS scandal deepens

May 14, 2013

The IRS’s misconduct in its Tea Party persecution is not limited to targeting them for extra, intrusive scrutiny. They also were illegally leaking information to the press:

The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year. . .

In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public.

Now combine this with the incredibly intrusive demands for information, not only about the applicant organizations, and not only about the organizations’ employees, but about the organizations’ employees’ families, and combine that with an explicit threat to make everything public, and you get a clear picture of what they were trying to do: If they couldn’t intimidate Tea Party groups out of applying for tax-free status, they wanted to damage them by releasing personal information.

Just to be clear, this isn’t speculation. As above, they were already doing this.

Where would they get the idea to do this? As Glenn Reynolds notes, unsealing private records is Obama’s signature move. It’s not exaggerating to say his entire political career was founded on it.

Why would they think they could get away with it? They probably noticed that the Obama administration is very good to its underlings who commit misconduct in (what they view as) a good cause. If you ship thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, you get promoted (while the whisleblowers are punished). If you leak confidential information from the Justice Department in an effort to harm Republicans, and then perjure yourself about it, you get not even a slap on the wrist.

POSTSCRIPT: Now that we know that the IRS is willing to release confidential information to damage the administration’s political opponents, how do you feel about Obamacare giving the IRS access to your health care records?

UPDATE: James Taranto has several more examples of the IRS leaking confidential information.

(Previous post.)


IRS scandal broadens

May 14, 2013

One of the defenses offered by the IRS’s apologists to try to mitigate the scandal is the idea that this was just a few low-level people in an IRS field office, and thus it doesn’t reflect on the IRS as a whole. Not so.

We learned yesterday that the Cincinnati office that did this was the only office that handles this type of request, so if Tea Party groups were to be targeted this way, Cincinnati is that place it would happen. Today we find out that it’s not true anyway:

Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

It could be broader still. Adding a more sinister aspect to the IRS’s malfeasance, there’s this:

An attorney for a Tea Party group that believes the IRS targeted it for special scrutiny while applying for nonprofit status said an IRS analyst told him over a year ago that the agency had a “secret working group” devoted to investigating conservative organizations.

I don’t know what that means. Probably the analyst was just being dramatic, but the House investigation will surely want to question him under oath.

(Previous post.)


No investigation

May 14, 2013

On Sunday, I wrote:

We’ll get a sense pretty soon of whether the White House feels safely distant from this on Monday. If they do, they will announce an independent investigation.  If they don’t, that will be an indication that they are worried this will come back to bite them.

Well, know we know. On Monday the president finally commented, only in response to a direct question and not to announce an independent investigation. He’s sticking with the non-independent one:

The [inspector general] is conducting their investigation and I’m not going to comment prematurely.

Ah yes, the I-can’t-answer-questions-while-the-investigation-is-underway ploy. Mustn’t neglect that!

UPDATE: This came out later in the day, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that he had ordered an FBI investigation to determine whether the Internal Revenue Service broke any laws when it targeted conservative groups for closer scrutiny of their tax-exempt status.

“I have ordered an investigation. … The FBI is coordinating with the Justice Department to see if any laws were broken,” Holder said. “I think as everyone can agree if not criminal, [those actions were] certainly outrageous and unacceptable.”

The FBI is certainly more independent than the IRS inspector general, but it’s no special counsel. One reading of this is that Holder is confident that the scandal won’t come back to the White House. But if that were true, he would appoint a special counsel. He isn’t doing that. Another reading is that he is confident that he can control the investigation.

I actually think a third reading is most likely: If you read his remarks carefully, this could be a very narrow investigation; one in which they’re not looking to get to the bottom of it, just to see if any laws were broken. If they find only disgusting partisan abuse of power, but nothing they can prosecute in court, they fold up shop and say nothing. Then the administration says the FBI cleared them.

Only time will tell.

(Previous post.)


Petraeus: Benghazi talking points were essentially useless

May 13, 2013

We already knew that the White House’s claim that the Benghazi talking points came unedited from the intelligence community was a lie (they were edited a dozen times by the State Department), but here’s a new detail: David Petraeus, then the director of the CIA, thought that the resulting talking points were “essentially useless”.

That’s a quote from ABC’s Jonathan Karl, not a direct quote. Petraeus wrote:

I would just as soon not use them, but it’s their [the White House’s] call.

The White House’s call.

(Previous post.)


Another IRS misrepresentation

May 13, 2013

The Washington Post reports:

The Cincinnati office was not filled with low-level apparatchiks. It was the division specifically tasked with evaluating applications for such nonprofit groups.

(Previous post.)


IRS targeted Tea Party as early as 2010

May 13, 2013

Within a year of the Tea Party’s appearance on the national scene, the IRS was targeting them for increased scrutiny:

The timeline contained in the draft report indicates that IRS scrutiny of tea-party and other conservative groups began as early as 2010 and came to the attention of Ms. Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt-organizations division, at least by the following year.

Also, the criteria used to identify conservative groups was quite broad:

The Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names—as the agency admitted Friday—to also include ones worried about government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to “make America a better place to live,” according to new details of a government probe.

This is important, because it puts the lie to the notion (never very plausible in the first place) that this was some sort of ill-conceived labor-saving strategy. That might be possible if they were merely using a keyword search, but if they are reading the documents looking conservative content, it’s the opposite of labor-saving strategy. They were expending extra effort to identify conservative applicants.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Obama’s war on religion continues

May 13, 2013

The Obama administration’s little-recognized war on religion is continuing, and once again the battlefield is the area in which the president has the greatest influence: the military.

During the last year-and-a-half, his administration has banned Bibles at Walter Reed hospital (a policy later rescinded), issued orders to Army chaplains limiting what they could preach from the pulpit, and tried unsuccessfully to strip a freedom-of-conscience clause for chaplains from the law.

Now the administration is pushing new rules to discourage evangelism among the military:

A Pentagon ban on proselytizing has left some conservative activists fearful that Christian soldiers — and even military chaplains — could face court martial for sharing their faith.

The Defense Department said this week that proselytizing — trying to get someone to change faiths — is banned. Its statement does not define proselytizing or address the role of military chaplains. It also does not rule out court martial for those whose share their faith too aggressively.

Supposedly the administration’s concern is superiors who pressure their subordinates to convert.  But that is not reassuring, for at least three reasons:

First, there is no evidence that anything like that is going on. Certainly it is not going on in the great numbers that would require a national policy.

Second, the rules as written do not limit themselves to pressure situations, but to any instance in which someone might be “induced” to convert to one’s faith.

Third, the rules were prompted by a meeting between the Pentagon and leaders of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an Orwellianly named group opposed to religion in the military. Given the rules’ origin, it’s impossible to allow them the benefit of the doubt.

(Via Hot Air.)


Chinese censors

May 13, 2013

Chinese government censors are censoring Hollywood movies now:

Hand in hand with playing to Chinese viewers comes working with Chinese censors. While experts say that the navigating Chinese rules and mores is still more of an art than a science, it’s generally accepted that red flags are raised when you disparage the image of the People’s Army or police, show obscene or vulgar content, feature ghosts or the supernatural, show mistreatment of prisoners, advertise religious extremism, display excessive drinking or smoking, or oppose the spirit of law.

And if you dare go off script while shooting in China, prepare for punishment. According to Cain, during a shoot a few years ago in Shanghai, the director decided to change things up a bit and film a take with an extra holding a camcorder pretending to tape a movie at a theater. Sensitive to their reputation as the source of a large chunk of the world’s movie piracy, China told the team their movie would be shut down.

“We begged and pleaded and promised to keep the film on track,” Cain told us. “The lesson there was that there is always someone watching.”

Oughtn’t this concern us?


Printed guns and the law

May 13, 2013

As might be expected, the anti-gun establishment instantly freaked out at the prospect of printable guns. (They say they’re concerned about undetectable guns, but that’s disingenuous. Our ability to detect guns is already spotty. They’re worried that if people can print guns, they’ll never be able to ban them.)

But what to do about it? Legislating against printable guns is slow, and would be ineffective anyway. The only thing to do is disappear the plans, and fast.

So that’s what the Federal government is trying to do. The US State Department ordered Defense Distributed to take down the plans from its web site. Why the State Department? Because they are the ones empowered to control arms exports. By posting the plans, Defense Distributed was exporting munitions.

This is obviously pretextual, and also ineffective, since the plans had already been downloaded  hundreds of thousands of times. But is it even legal? The answer seems to be no:

Wilson has complied with the takedown request for now. But he’s hinted at further challenges to the government’s decision. From his point of view, plans for the Liberator fall into a legal category that escapes regulation. . .

“We’re quite familiar” with the rules, known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Wilson told me. . .

He argues that ITAR doesn’t regulate publicly accessible technical information. If your designs are put on library or bookstore shelves (something Wilson has actually done), ITAR effectively passes you over. You can read the relevant sections of the regulation, 120.10 and 120.11, here for yourself.

And he seems to be right:

§ 120.10 Technical data.
(a) Technical data means, for purposes of this subchapter . . .

(5) This definition does not include . . . information in the public domain as defined in §120.11. . .

§ 120.11 Public domain.
(a) Public domain means information which is published and which is generally accessible or available to the public:

(1) Through sales at newsstands and bookstores; . . .

(4) At libraries open to the public or from which the public can obtain documents;

You never know what a court will decide, but according to the plain meaning of the law, the government’s actions here don’t seem to be legal.

UPDATE: The Daily Caller notes that the government already has lots of gun blueprints available on-line.


NYT still okay with IRS targeting

May 13, 2013

A year ago, the New York Times was okay with the IRS subjecting Tea Party groups to special scrutiny. Nothing has really changed since then, other than the IRS admitting it did so, but I still wondered if the NYT might change its tune now that the proverbial excrement has hit the fan.

Nope. The NYT’s editorial this morning is its usual fare: an attack against Republicans. No mention of the IRS. The NYT’s editorial Sunday was an attack against opponents of amnesty for illegal immigrants. The NYT’s editorial Friday was an attack against Republicans (for holding the Benghazi hearings!). No mention of the IRS, much less an indication of a change of heart.

In fact, the only mentions of the IRS scandal on the NYT opinion page are from Ross Douthat (the NYT’s token conservative), and one throwaway sentence from Maureen Dowd in an incoherent column about Benghazi.

(Previous post.)


IRS scandal: the past is prologue

May 13, 2013

Here’s something I did not know (but doesn’t surprise me):

I always thought the number of Bill Clinton enemies audited by his Internal Revenue Service was a bit high to be coincidental. . .

According to a Judicial Watch filing, the Clinton enemies audited included

Clinton paramours Gennifer Flowers and Liz Ward Gracen, sexual assault accusers Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick, and fired White House Travel Office Director Billy Dale.

as well as these organizations:

The National Rifle Association, The Heritage Foundation, The National Review, The American Spectator, Freedom Alliance, National Center for Public Policy Research, American Policy Center, American Cause, Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for Honest Government, Progress and Freedom Foundation, Concerned Women for America and the San Diego Chapter of Christian Coalition.

(Previous post.)


Good grief

May 12, 2013

Time’s Joe Klein, writing on the IRS scandal, says:

The President has been very proud of the absence of scandal in his administration, and rightly so.

Oh please. You mean, except for Gunwalker, Benghazi, Solyndra, Black PanthersNEA propaganda, DOJ hiring, HHS campaigning, Lightsquared, and Americorps, just from the first page of hits for Obama+scandal?

What he means is:

The President has been very proud of his ability to squelch reporting of his administration’s numerous scandals, and rightly so.


IRS admits targeting Tea Party

May 12, 2013

Now that the IRS has admitted targeting Tea Party groups, let’s take stock of where we are. The IRS claims, risibly, that politics played no role in its decision to target the Tea Party:

Lois G. Lerner, the IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, said the “absolutely inappropriate” actions by “front-line people” were not driven by partisan motives.

Even most of the usual leftist apologists find this absurd. For instance, Time’s Joe Klein writes, “Does anyone actually believe this?” The Washington Post adds “it seems that groups with “progressive” in their titles did not receive the same scrutiny.”

ASIDE: The IRS does still have a few apologists. The New York Times seem to think it’s okay, editorializing “The IRS does its job.” (That was in March 2012, but it’s hard to see what has changed materially since then.) National Journal seems to think it’s no big deal, calling it a “mishap” and then revising it to a “blunder”, both of suggest that this can somehow happen without deliberate misconduct.

Let’s not make the mistake of giving the IRS any credit for coming out with this. The agency denied the charges for months. They only admitted to it now because the story was coming out soon anyway, and they tried to dump it on a Friday (as if a story this explosive could be buried).

The claim that only “front-line people” were involved seems to be a lie. Senior officials knew what was going on. The IRS’s director seems to have perjured himself when he testified in March 2012 that Tea Party groups were not being targeted. According to the AP, senior officials were aware by June 2011 at the latest.

Hot Air has a list of some of the outrageous things the IRS demanded. They demanded a whole sheaf of personal information on present and past employees, and their families, and promised to make all of that information public.

Even the left is jumping on this, in part because the IRS’s conduct is too outrageous to excuse (except perhaps by the NYT), and in part because they think that the scandal won’t reach back to the White House. They shouldn’t be so sure. This is a president who jokes about abusing the IRS, and which has snooped through IRS records on its political opponents before.

We’ll get a sense pretty soon of whether the White House feels safely distant from this on Monday. If they do, they will announce an independent investigation.  If they don’t, that will be an indication that they are worried this will come back to bite them.

(Previous post.)


Investigations and answers

May 10, 2013

When did it happen that the existence of an investigation became an excuse not to answer any questions? I mean this question seriously; when did it happen?

It doesn’t make any sense; the one has nothing to do with the other. One might argue that one doesn’t want to jeopardize a prosecution, but (1) that doesn’t stop people from answering questions when they want to, and (2) in most of these cases (e.g., Benghazi) there’s no prospect of prosecution in the first place.

Whoever first used the ploy, it has certainly become the Obama administration’s go-to strategy for containing any scandal from Gunwalker to Benghazi: First, you tell a bunch of lies, hoping the thing will go away. If it doesn’t, you launch an investigation. For a year or more, as long as the investigation runs, you answer no questions. When the press finally moves on, you quietly close the investigation and issue a whitewash. Thereafter, if someone has the ill grace to bring up the subject, you say they are dredging up ancient history. (Carney: “Benghazi happened a long time ago.” Clinton: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”)

UPDATE: Yep.

UPDATE (5/28): I had forgotten about this piece from last September (which I noted here), demolishing the idea that there is any legal impediment to releasing information when investigations are ongoing.


Obamacare isn’t about health

May 10, 2013

Obamacare was sold as an effort to help uninsured people, particularly those with pre-existing conditions. We know it was nothing of the sort, but here’s a particularly striking example: When Republicans proposed to cut money from an Obamacare slush fund and use it to help people with pre-existing conditions, Democrats opposed the plan:

Democrats objected because the funding source, the “Prevention and Public Health Fund,” is all about patronage and greasing political wheels, and that is, for them, more important than helping sick Americans. Some of the $10 billion in the slush fund has already been used by Health and Human Services (HHS) to fund local groups lobbying for higher soda taxes and moratoriums on fast-food outlets; it’s also gone to for pet neutering, bike paths, and community-gardening projects. By design, there is no congressional oversight.

Obamacare isn’t about helping the uninsured. It’s about graft, and it’s about government control over our health decisions. Democrats’ refusal to cut their slush fund illustrates the point perfectly.


More non-existent election fraud

May 10, 2013

Remember, election fraud never, ever happens. Pay no attention to stuff like this:

A jury in South Bend, Indiana has found that fraud put President Obama and Hillary Clinton on the presidential primary ballot in Indiana in the 2008 election. Two Democratic political operatives were convicted Thursday night in the illegal scheme after only three hours of deliberations. They were found guilty on all counts.


Paper tiger

May 10, 2013

I saw this coming. Last August, President Obama said:

We cannot have a situation in which chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people . . . We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.

This was clearly taken as a threat of force. (NYT headline: “Obama Threatens Force Against Syria”).

Unfortunately, it was just as obvious that he didn’t mean it.  Alas, it was obvious not just to me, but also to Assad. So when Assad started moving his chemical weapons around, the administration claimed it wasn’t clear that he was doing it.  When we learned he was using them, they claimed it wasn’t clear that he was using them. And, when the evidence finally became undeniable, they were forced into a humiliating backpeddle.

The bottom line is that Obama is just really bad at this. This is a guy who actually says things like “don’t call my bluff.” In this case, the president’s aides had carefully developed a position that was supposed to scare Assad but not mean anything. But then Obama went and ad-libbed a new policy at the podium:

Moving or using large quantities of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and “change my calculus,” the president declared in response to a question at a news conference, to the surprise of some of the advisers who had attended the weekend meetings and wondered where the “red line” came from.

This is a president who manages, on the fly, to invent a policy even worse than his intended policy of meaningless talk.

But his weakness goes so much further than that. When trying to develop a response to Assad disregarding Obama’s threats, the White House felt its hands were tied:

Mr. Obama’s advisers also raised legal issues. “How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense and with no Security Council resolution?” another official said, referring to United Nations authorization. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”

Well, that’s the problem with giving foreign dictators a veto over US policy, isn’t it? But what about “what’s that got to do with us”? A year ago Obama thought it had something to do with us, when he vowed to prevent foreign atrocities in a speech at the Holocaust Memorial Museum:

And finally, “never again” is a challenge to nations.  It’s a bitter truth — too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale.  And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.

These too are shown to be empty words. In April 2012 he was running for election and had to pretend to be strong, when in fact he is anything but. (See also, Benghazi.)

POSTSCRIPT: Remember this, from Joe Biden?

We’re going to face a major international challenge, ’cause they’re going to want to test him, just like they did John Kennedy, they’re going to want to test him, and they’re going to find out this guy’s got steel in his spine.

Tested he was, but steel in his spine? Not so much.


Democrats didn’t want to “count all the votes”

May 10, 2013

I’m not sure why this is current again, but Megan McArdle takes a look at the history of the 2000 Presidential election, and how Democrats are trying to revise it to make themselves look less unreasonable.


“You can’t go”

May 10, 2013

Another key revelation from the Benghazi hearings:

The deputy of slain U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens has told congressional investigators that a team of Special Forces prepared to fly from Tripoli to Benghazi during the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks was forbidden from doing so by U.S. Special Operations Command Africa.

The account from Gregory Hicks is in stark contrast to assertions from the Obama administration, which insisted that nobody was ever told to stand down and that all available resources were utilized. . .

Hicks told investigators that SOCAFRICA commander Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were on their way to board a C-130 from Tripoli for Benghazi prior to an attack on a second U.S. compound “when [Col. Gibson] got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, ‘you can’t go now, you don’t have the authority to go now.’ And so they missed the flight … They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it.”

In short: The military wanted to help but was forbidden to do so, and the Obama administration lied about it after the fact.

(Previous post.)


Benghazi lies

May 10, 2013

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the Benghazi debacle, but there is one thing we know for certain: The White House lied about what they knew when. The excerpt is a little long, but stay with it to the end:

When it became clear last fall that the CIA’s now discredited Benghazi talking points were flawed, the White House said repeatedly the documents were put together almost entirely by the intelligence community, but White House documents reviewed by Congress suggest a different story.

ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.

White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department. The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.

That would appear to directly contradict what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said about the talking points in November.

“Those talking points originated from the intelligence community. They reflect the IC’s best assessments of what they thought had happened,” Carney told reporters at the White House press briefing on November 28, 2012. “The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.”

(Emphasis mine.) We now know every single thing in Carney’s statement to be a lie.  The talking points did not originate from the intelligence community, they didn’t reflect the intelligence community’s best estimate, and there were many more adjustments than the trivial one Carney cites.

(Previous post.)


Motive remains elusive (to some)

May 6, 2013

I can’t excerpt this story any better than Andrew Johnson, so here is his version:

French police are investigating a recent attack on a rabbi and his son outside a Paris synagogue. An Iranian man screaming “Allah-u-Akbar” slashed the rabbi’s throat with a box-cutter. The AP reports that “an official investigation [is] underway to determine a possible motive.”

Gee, I hope they can figure it out.


Love them Saudis

May 6, 2013

NBC reports:

A case of “possible human trafficking” at a Saudi diplomatic compound in Virginia is under investigation, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed to News4.

Homeland Security Special-Agent-in-Charge John Torres, who is leading the probe, said Fairfax County Police responded to a tip Tuesday night citing a possible case of modern slavery.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations were called to a home in the 6000 block of Orris Street in McLean and — in the words of a source familiar with the investigation — “rescued” two women. One woman reportedly tried to flee by squeezing through a gap in the front gate as it was closing. . .

The investigation is in its very early stages and complicated by the possibility that some of those involved may have diplomatic immunity, said a State Department spokesperson.

We need to send a strong message to the Saudis and whomever else that bringing your slaves into America won’t be tolerated. We need to, but we won’t.


The cover-up unravels

May 6, 2013

The Benghazi cover-up is finally unraveling. A well-reported piece in the Weekly Standard exposes the process by which the intelligence estimate on Benghazi was laundered to remove all mention of Islamic militants. The claims that the drivel put out by the administration were the intelligence community’s best estimate are an outright lie.

The piece really needs to be read in its entirely, but a graphic illustrating the laundering process is extracted here. And here is the reason why:

The talking points were first distributed to officials in the interagency vetting process at 6:52 p.m. on Friday. Less than an hour later, at 7:39 p.m., an individual identified in the House report only as a “senior State Department official” responded to raise “serious concerns” about the draft. That official, whom The Weekly Standard has confirmed was State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland, worried that members of Congress would use the talking points to criticize the State Department for “not paying attention to Agency warnings.”

There, in black and white: the estimates were laundered for political reasons.

In other developments: The Benghazi whistleblowers have been identified and will testify before the house committee. Second:

On the night of the Benghazi terror attack, special operations put out multiple calls for all available military and other assets to be moved into position to help — but the State Department and White House never gave the military permission to cross into Libya, sources told Fox News.

We don’t know who the sources are, I hope they are among the whistleblowers so we can get them on record. But we already know that the CIA operators who defended the consulate personnel were ordered twice to leave them to die, so this is entirely plausible.

Third, the Benghazi attack was an Al Qaeda attack. While we ponder that entirely unsurprising development, think of what transpired the morning after the Benghazi attack: Our feckless diplomats responded to a terrorist attack (one we now know, but always suspected, was an Al Qaeda attack) by apologizing. Mitt Romney said (paraphrasing) maybe we shouldn’t be apologizing to terrorists while we are still burying our dead, and virtually the entire media attacked Romney for it!

All of this shows massive malfeasance on the part of the administration, and the media that covers for them, but it misses the true scandal. The administration put a filmmaker in jail over the Benghazi attack, and he is still there. I can scarcely imagine a greater dereliction of presidential duty than jailing a man for exercising his free speech because it offended foreign Islamists. (Glenn Reynolds isn’t letting this go either.)

ASIDE: Please, no nonsense about how Nakoula Nakoula is in jail for parole violations. Yes, those were the charges they used to jail him, but they never would have cared about a minor parole violation if not for him making the video that they claimed was responsible for the Benghazi attack. In fact, they never would have known his identity if not for a federal investigation that pierced his pseudonym. We need to know who ordered that investigation and why (although we can guess). Efforts to get to the bottom of Benghazi won’t have even begun until we know that, as far as I’m concerned.

(Previous post.)


A simple analysis

May 3, 2013

The basic problem at Sandy Hook and other shooting incidents comes down to this: There were too many armed bad guys, and not enough armed good guys. You can resolve the problem by having fewer armed bad guys (hard to accomplish), or more armed good guys.

However, this administration has worked to have more armed bad guys, and fewer armed good guys. This is sheer idiocy.