EPA to critics: please shut up

July 31, 2013

Gina McCarthy, the new head of the EPA:

Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs, please?

You’d like that, wouldn’t you? I don’t think we can oblige.

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A glimpse of our future

July 30, 2013

Community rating (together with guaranteed issue) is what is going to destroy the US health care system. A Wall Street Journal article tells how New York State destroyed drove out all its health insurers by going down this path.

Ironically, community rating in New York is so strict that Obamacare actually weakens it, so New York is actually seeing premiums fall.


Megrahi release tied to arms deal

July 30, 2013

The Telegraph reports:

The release of the Lockerbie bomber was linked by the Government to a £400 million arms-export deal to Libya, according to secret correspondence obtained by The Sunday Telegraph. An email sent by the then British ambassador in Tripoli details how a prisoner transfer agreement would be signed once Libya “fulfils its promise” to buy an air defence system.

The disclosure is embarrassing for members of the then Labour government, which always insisted that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s release was not linked to commercial deals.

(Via Instapundit.)


Detroit cannot be repaired

July 30, 2013

Bill Nojay’s piece on Detroit myriad misfunctions is a must-read. Detroit cannot be repaired; they need to start over from scratch.


Mayors defect from anti-gun group

July 29, 2013

Fox News reports:

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is losing part of his arsenal of local leaders as more and more long-time members of his gun-control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns say they aren’t happy with the coalition’s trajectory and want out.

While the group apparently is growing in membership overall amid an effort to assume a larger profile in the national gun debate, it’s turning some members off. In the past five months, 50 members of the group have quit. Many say they did so because the organization abandoned its mission statement of going after illegal guns, and instead used its political clout to go after lawmakers who supported gun rights.

Most recently, the mayors of Rockford, Ill., and Nashua, N.H., dropped out after saying they felt misled by Bloomberg.

Misled? Maybe if you’re a rube. This was obviously the plan from day one. It’s not about illegal guns, it’s about making guns illegal.

More likely they are facing heat from the voters and complaining of being misled is their way to get out while saving face. Which is fine; if they are turning back from their unconstitutional folly, we can be gracious.


Howard Dean opposes Obamacare rationing board

July 29, 2013

Howard Dean’s op-ed attacking Obamacare’s health care rationing board (a.k.a. death panel), the Independent Payment Advisory Board, doesn’t really break any new ground, but it is notable to see such a prominent Democrat breaking with the administration. Could the dam be breaking?


Obamacare corruption

July 29, 2013

One of the beneficiaries of Kathleen Sebelius’s shakedown of health care companies (she pressured them, under cover of authority, to contribute to organizations promoting Obamacare) is caught engaging in nakedly political activity:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ favorite pro-Obamacare nonprofit held a Democrats-only congressional briefing earlier this year, according to emails obtained by nonprofit watchdog Judicial Watch.

Enroll America president Anne Filipic, a former Obama White House aide, exchanged emails with Debra Curtis, a Democratic staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee.

“They [House Democrat leadership] want to do another one next week while Congress is in recess that would be open [to] all House Democratic Staff to start getting folks up to speed,” Curtis wrote to Filipic in a Feb. 11, 2013, email.

“We’ll check IDs to be sure we’ve got all Dems coming as well,” Curtis added the next day while projecting that a 100 people would attend.

Democrats haven’t really had to address Sebelius’s shakedown; with all the other Obama administration scandals sucking up all the oxygen, this didn’t get much attention. But if they did, I’m sure they would say that it was appropriate for her to fundraise for organizations seeking to further the government’s goals.

That wouldn’t be true in its own right — the government has no right to exploit its regulatory power to coerce any financial contributions in excess of legal tax liabilities — but this shows it’s not even true to that extent. Sebelius was extorting financial contributions to organizations engaging in partisan political activity. That’s a crime.

POSTSCRIPT: Sebelius sure is a piece of work.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


Open season on the innocent in New York

July 29, 2013

You can’t carry a gun in New York, and the police are under no obligation to help you.

POSTSCRIPT: Yes, this is an old story, but I think it’s important to be reminded each step the sordid case takes as it winds its way through the system.


Connecticut vs. common sense

July 27, 2013

Under a new Connecticut law, it is a crime to use a handheld device while behind the wheel, even when stopped at a traffic light. So “distracted driving” doesn’t even require driving.

(Via Fox News.)


Amateur hour

July 27, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry refers to Palestine as a country. Then:

When asked later Thursday about his comments, Kerry reportedly asked, “Did I say that?”

The people running our foreign policy are desperately in need of adult supervision.

(Via the Corner.)


News gathering is hard

July 26, 2013

The New York Times doesn’t like Antonin Scalia, I get that. But that doesn’t really excuse an organization whose purported business is gathering news for not getting the facts before writing:

Scalia’s Latest Outburst . . .

Justice Scalia brought Godwin’s Law to Snowmass, suggesting in an address to the Utah State Bar Association that activist judges helped bring about the Holocaust.

Godwin’s Law refers to inappropriate reference to the Nazis to score rhetorical points. Is that what Scalia did? Not exactly:

The context is vital. . . As you can see Justice Scalia was the principal speaker on Saturday morning—Day 3 of programming. On Friday morning (Day 2 of the meeting), the principal speaker was Dr. William F. Meinecke of the Holocaust Memorial Museum giving his presentation “Law, Justice, and the Holocaust: How the Courts Failed Germany.” It is a fascinating presentation of how the Nazi party co-opted the Courts and lawyers to further its agenda against the Jews and used the judiciary to “legalize” its conduct.

Justice Scalia opened his remarks by noting that, at the previous evening’s Utah State Bar’s Past Presidents Dinner, there had been a great deal of discussion about Dr. Meinecke’s talk. Justice Scalia then indicated that, prior to beginning his prepared remarks, he had some observations about Nazi Germany and the law.

Scalia was adding to an ongoing conversation about Nazis and the law, which the NYT belatedly acknowledged, once someone else had gathered the facts for them.

I think the NYT’s real point, which they doubtless stand by, is that Scalia really shouldn’t say anything about anything.


Skype helped the NSA spy on us, then lied about it

July 26, 2013

Details here.

(Previous post.)


Lies

July 26, 2013

When the media can’t tell a story without seasoning it with lies, that’s a hint that the narrative might not be true. On PBS:

JELANI COBB: . . . we can’t escape — and finally the fact of the matter is, Mr. Zimmerman had called the police 46 times in previous six years, only for African-Americans, only for African-American men.

Not so. In fact, only six calls had to do with African-American men, and two of those were Trayvon Martin. Most of the calls were this sort of thing:

8/12/04: Reports male driving pick-up without car seat
9/20/04: Neighbor’s garage door open
8/20/04: Reports white male walking in the road carrying a paper bag, presumably drinking
3/17/05: Pothole
4/27/05: Neighbor’s garage door open

(Previous post.)


Does the truth even matter?

July 26, 2013

This particular lie has been going around throughout the left, but I’ll take The New Republic for the canonical version:

[George] Zimmerman was an edgy basket case with a gun who had called 911 46 times in 15 months, once to report the suspicious activities of a seven year old black boy.

Every single statement in this sentence, other than Zimmerman owning a gun, is a lie. He did not call 911 46 times; most of his calls were to the non-emergency number. His calls were over the course of nearly a decade, not 15 months. And, most libelously, he never called to report a seven-year-old boy. In regards to the last, the record of his call reads (original document here):

Advsd is walking alone & is not supervised on busy street compl concerned for well-being.

Zimmerman wasn’t reporting the boy for suspicious activities, quite the opposite; he was concerned for the boy’s well-being.

ASIDE: As I said, this lie is popular on the left. Here’s the Daily Beast’s version:

April 22, 2011 – 7:09 p.m.
Type: TEL
Subject: Suspicious activity
Report: Juvenile black male “apprx 7–9” years old, four feet tall “skinny build short blk hair” last seen wearing a blue t-shirt and blue shorts

Again, the reference to “suspicious activity” is a fabrication.

When made aware of their error, the New Republic was loathe to correct it. Here’s their first semi-correction:

Zimmerman was an edgy basket case with a gun who had called the polics [sic] 46 times in 15 months, once to report on a seven year old black boy.

They corrected the least significant of the falsehoods (911 vs. non-emergency call) — replacing it with a typo — but left the substantive lies in place. Yes, they did remove the explicit reference to “suspicious activities” but replaced it with a phrase (“report on”) that implies the same thing.

As Michelle Meyer comments:

It’s one thing to make a mistake about facts. It’s quite another to double down on damaging falsehoods after having your mistake pointed out. In that respect, TNR’s cure here is worse than the disease.

TNR’s next version finally removed the seven-year-old-boy lie, and the typo, but left the 15 months lie:

Zimmerman was an edgy basket case with a gun who had called the police 46 times in 15 months.

They also failed to note the seven-year-old-boy correction in the editor’s note.

Finally, today, they got the last of the correction out, finally writing:

Zimmerman was an edgy basket case with a gun who had called the police 46 times in about eight years.

They also recognized all three error in an editor’s note at the end. However, they did not mark the correction at the top where it might be noticed. Moreover, by stalling the correction for ten days, they ensured that almost no one would see it, other than those drawn to the article by the controversy itself. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Now, what about the “edgy basket case”? Wendy Dorival, who coordinated Neighborhood Watch Programs for the Sanford Police didn’t think so. She had high praise for Zimmerman’s work, and even tried to recruit him into Sanford’s “Citizen on Patrol” program, but Zimmerman declined.

And what about those 46 calls? Here’s the first five calls, just to get the flavor:

8/12/04: Reports male driving pick-up without car seat
9/20/04: Neighbor’s garage door open
8/20/04: Reports white male walking in the road carrying a paper bag, presumably drinking
3/17/05: Pothole
4/27/05: Neighbor’s garage door open

If he hadn’t been a Neighborhood Watch member, it might be safe to call him a busybody.

(Previous post.)


Republicans barred from Obama speech

July 25, 2013

Barack Obama, 2004:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.

Barack Obama, 2007:

I don’t want to pit red America against blue America. I want to be the President of the United States of America.

Barack Obama, 2008:

We are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America.

That was when he was seeking office. Today, if you’re a Republican, Obama doesn’t care about you. You can’t even attend his speech:

Ten College Republicans were dubbed a security threat and refused admittance to President Barack Obama’s speech at the University of Central Missouri on Wednesday.

Despite the fact that the students had tickets to the event, security personnel turned them away at the door to the recreation center where Obama gave a speech on economic policy, telling the group it wasn’t about their politics but the president’s safety.

ASIDE: It should go without saying that the security justification was just a pretext.  If the Secret Service can’t protect the president from a few College Republicans, he can’t be giving public speeches.

This isn’t just disgusting, it’s illegal. As Glenn Reynolds points out, discriminating based on political affiliation at a public university is a violation of the First Amendment. They ought to sue.

UPDATE: The Secret Service claims that they were turned away because the venue was full.


California proposes state Social Security tax

July 25, 2013

Fox News reports:

California lawmakers are pushing a controversial, first-in-the-nation plan that would require private-sector employers to remove 3 percent from every worker’s paycheck. The money would go into a new state fund with a guarantee that all withheld funds plus investment gains will be available for distribution at retirement age.

This is nothing more than a thinly disguised 3% tax, as that money won’t be there when people retire. California has already proven it can’t manage pensions.


Inclusion = exclusion

July 25, 2013

In a degree of doublespeak that might impress Ingsoc, an atheist group is complaining that a proposed holocaust memorial in Ohio is “exclusionary” because it memorializes all the victims of the Nazis, including Jews. According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, for the memorial to be acceptable (i.e., inclusive) they need to leave out the symbol representing the Jews. In a holocaust memorial.

So inclusion is exclusionary, while exclusion would be inclusive.


C’mon, give me a third chance

July 24, 2013

Anthony Weiner on his latest “sexting” scandal:

In the statement, Weiner pointed to previous comments he made around the time he announced his bid for New York City mayor, in which he said it was possible for more photos to come out as he made a re-entry into politics.

“I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out, and today they have,” he said Tuesday.

What he didn’t say, when he announced his campaign for mayor, was the reason the material was likely to come out was because he never stopped doing it.

This time, he says, it really is all behind him.

(Previous post.)


Come again?

July 24, 2013

The NSA says it can’t respond to Freedom of Information Act requests because — get this — it doesn’t have the technology to search its own emails.

(Via Instapundit.)


Unlawful command influence

July 24, 2013

Barack Obama just isn’t a very good lawyer at all, is he?

Two defendants in military sexual assault cases cannot be punitively discharged, if found guilty, because of “unlawful command influence” derived from comments made by President Barack Obama, a judge ruled in a Hawaii military court this week.

Navy Judge Cmdr. Marcus Fulton ruled during pretrial hearings in two sexual assault cases — U.S. vs. Johnson and U.S. vs. Fuentes — that comments made by Obama as commander in chief would unduly influence any potential sentencing, according to a court documents obtained by Stars and Stripes. . .

“The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this,” Obama said, according to an NBC News story submitted as evidence by defense attorneys in the sexual assault cases.

‘I expect consequences,” Obama added. “So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable — prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

Obama sounded off without bothering to learn of the legal ramifications of a commander ordering a trial to deliver a certain sentence. His unlawful order has prevented exactly what he demanded.

His ill-considered action has tainted at least a dozen sexual assault prosecutions already. Two cases have been dismissed already.

Military law experts said that those cases were only the beginning and that the president’s remarks were certain to complicate almost all prosecutions for sexual assault. . .

“His remarks were more specific than I’ve ever heard a commander in chief get,” said Thomas J. Romig, a former judge advocate general of the Army and the dean of the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kan. “When the commander in chief says they will be dishonorably discharged, that’s a pretty specific message. Every military defense counsel will make a motion about this.”

POSTSCRIPT: I’ll admit, I didn’t know about unlawful command influence before either. But then, I’m not the president.

(Via Instapundit.)


Democrats still want to repeal the First Amendment

July 24, 2013

Specifically, Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) want to repeal the freedom of speech and the press as they apply to corporations. As I noted when this awful idea was first floated over a year ago, this would do away with free speech, since most speech (including nearly all journalism) is prepared by people organized as a corporation.

POSTSCRIPT: This part of the proposed amendment is hilarious:

Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association and all such other rights of the people, which rights are unalienable.

Let’s just forbid the inevitable, direct consequence of the preceding language. Awesome! But why not use this technique more widely: Spending bills should simply clarify that they won’t increase the deficit. Regulatory bills should clarify that they don’t hurt the economy. Defense cuts should clarify that they don’t hurt national defense. All our problems can be resolved simply by clarifying they won’t happen.


Obamacare’s Massachusetts kickback

July 24, 2013

We heard about many of Obamacare’s special deals for certain states, especially Nebraska and Louisiana, but a kickback for Massachusetts managed to stay under the radar until now.


This propaganda paid for by your tax dollars

July 24, 2013

The government of New York City is providing web hosting for Mike Bloomberg’s anti-gun group. I wonder if that’s even legal.


Cool mines

July 24, 2013

We’re supposed to find these pictures horrifying, but I think they look kinda cool.


Will the last health insurer to leave California please turn out the lights

July 24, 2013

Another insurer bails on California. Remember when they told us that Obamacare would improve selection?


ACLU now okay with double jeopardy

July 24, 2013

The ACLU has changed its long-held position opposing double jeopardy and now approves of it, at least in George Zimmerman’s case.

The ACLU saving grace was always its consistency. They didn’t care about the right to keep and bear arms, and they didn’t much care about religious freedom, but they were strong on free speech and the rights of criminal defendants, even when the target was unpopular (such as the KKK or the cops in the Rodney King beating). Without that consistency, the ACLU is just another liberal pressure group.

POSTSCRIPT: I’ve been reading a lot of commentators who have been saying that re-trying George Zimmerman on federal charges would not be double jeopardy. Saying so is an offense against the semantics of the English language. It may be true that courts have ruled that way (I’m not saying they have, I don’t know), but if so, it is their error and we ought not go along with it. According to the phrase’s plain meaning, it is double jeopardy when the government gets another try at a defendant after he is acquitted. It changes nothing that they are re-trying him in a different venue, or on slightly different charges stemming from the same incident.

(Previous post.)


Standards

July 24, 2013

Facebook is okay with pages calling for the murder of George Zimmerman, but using words that rhyme with racial epithets violates their standards.

UPDATE: Facebook apologizes, and then does the exact same thing again — on the very same post!


The long history of Stand Your Ground

July 23, 2013

One meme going around the blogosphere is to say that Barack Obama is being hypocritical to oppose Stand Your Ground now when he was a co-sponsor of a Stand Your Ground law in Illinois. David Weigel (of Journolist infamy) fires back, writing:

Oh, you can probably guess the twist. [Scofflaw: sucking up to the brilliant readers at Slate, who are oh so much smarter than those stupid wingnuts, check!] Illinois’ 2004 SB2386 was passed by a unanimous vote in the state Senate. It amended a self-defense law first passed in 1961. Alarm bells should be ringing at this point, because Florida was pretty famously the first state to pass a “stand your ground” law, a year after this Illinois bill. Have reporters been blowing that story? No: “Stand your ground” is substantively different than what Obama backed in Illinois. He backed a tweak to the “castle doctrine,” which reads . . .

The degree of similarity between the two laws is debatable. It didn’t take much digging to find that there is a lot of similarity between them, but the similarity in a different area (a shield from lawsuits in self-defense cases) than the one most people are talking about most when they bring up Stand Your Ground. So while there’s some truth to the meme, Weigel also has a point.

Of course, that’s all based on the counterfactual assumption that this debate has anything to do with the substantive contents of the law, rather than pure demagoguery.

But never mind all that, I want to go back to this point, where Weigel seems to believe he proves that Illinois’s law can’t possibly be Stand Your Ground:

Alarm bells should be ringing at this point, because Florida was pretty famously the first state to pass a “stand your ground” law, a year after this Illinois bill.

Absolutely, utterly false, and by saying it Weigel beclowns himself far in excess of any legitimate point he might have had. Florida might have been the first to use the phrase “Stand Your Ground” (doubtful, but I can’t say for sure one way or the other), but the doctrine is over a century old. Andrew Blanca notes numerous cases doing as far back as 1877.

You needn’t be a lawyer to know this. Any history covering the American West (I recommend Paul Johnson) will tell of how the frontier did away with the duty to retreat that was typical back east. That doctrine, which we now call Stand Your Ground, was what gave rise to the gunfighting mythology of the West. That mythology persists today, providing not only most of the misconceptions employed to attack Stand Your Ground, but indeed providing most of the attack terminology (e.g., “the Wild West”) as well.


IRS scandal gets closer to Obama

July 23, 2013

IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, who oversaw the IRS’s misconduct, and who is one of only two political appointments in the IRS, met with President Obama just two days before authoring the agency’s rules on dealing with Tea Party applications. I do hope someone asks what the meeting was about.

(Previous post.)


EU blacklists Hezbollah

July 23, 2013

I guess this is a good thing, but I’m horrified that this didn’t happen decades ago.


Unclean at any speed

July 22, 2013

Research suggests that electric cars are bad for the environment.


Public enemy #1

July 22, 2013

No one who paid attention to the George Zimmerman trial could have been at all surprised by the verdict, given Zimmerman’s story and utter lack of any credible evidence to contradict it. The real question is: with no evidence to convict him, why was Zimmerman charged in the first place?

Much of the story played out in public. The city of Sanford refused to prosecute. Inflamed by false reporting, the public was outraged, and Florida governor Rick Scott wilted under pressure. He appointed the execrable Angela Corey as special prosecutor, with a clear mandate to prosecute Zimmerman, which she did.

But a hidden side to the story is now revealed: Judicial Watch has obtained documents showing that the Department of Justice was working behind the scenes to stir up outrage. (More here.)

The little-known Community Relations Service is tasked with making peace in communities in conflict:

The Community Relations Service is the Department’s “peacemaker” for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin. Created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CRS is the only Federal agency dedicated to assist State and local units of government, private and public organizations, and community groups with preventing and resolving racial and ethnic tensions, incidents, and civil disorders, and in restoring racial stability and harmony.

But making peace doesn’t advance Democratic interests, so in Eric Holder’s Justice Department, the CRS did exactly the opposite.

Now Zimmerman is acquitted, and the Justice Department isn’t satisfied with a pointless prosecution. They want to prosecute him for something, but all the talk of charging him with a hate crime is going nowhere. (If the shooting was justified, it can’t be a hate crime; plus there’s no evidence that the shooting had anything to do with race; plus Zimmerman actually has a long record of friendliness toward blacks.)

But, eager to find something they can charge Zimmerman with, the Justice Department has established a tip line:

“They were calling on us to actively refer anyone who had any information,” that might build a case against Zimmerman for either a civil rights violation or a hate crime, [activist Barbara] Arnwine said. “They said they would very aggressively investigate this case.” . . .

DOJ officials also said they would open a public email address so people could send in tips on the case. That email address, which is now in operation, is [redacted].

So this is how American justice works now? First you pick the target, then you inflame public opinion against him, and then you solicit accusations? Absolutely astonishing and appalling. America has sunk far.

(Previous post.)


“Third-world” Obamacare

July 22, 2013

The Obama administration has scaled back their ambitions for the Obamacare exchanges considerably from their original grandiose promises:

[Henry] Chao said the main objective is to get the exchanges up and running and signing up the uninsured. “The time for debating about the size of text on the screen or the color or is it a world-class user experience, that’s what we used to talk about two years ago,” he said. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.

(Emphasis mine.) And they’re failing.


Anti-fracking fakery

July 22, 2013

The anti-fracking film Gasland featured an iconic scene in which filmmaker Josh Fox set a kitchen faucet on fire. Fox was aware that the town had reports of methane in the water going back decades, long before fracking, but he didn’t share that information with his viewers.

His follow-up film, creatively named Gasland 2, is even worse. It features a scene in which a garden hose is lit on fire, which is even more bogus than the infamous Gasland scene:

Texas’ 43rd Judicial District Court found in February 2012 that Steven Lipsky,  “under the advice or direction” of Texas environmental activist Alisa Rich, “intentionally attach[ed] a garden hose to a gas vent—not a water line” and lit its contents on fire.

(Emphasis mine.)

UPDATE: Josh Fox also made up a cancer spike in fracking country that didn’t exist.


End the war on salt

July 22, 2013

The CDC has finally admitted that efforts to reduce people’s salt intake to nearly zero were completely misguided.

Others have known this for years.

(Previous post.)


Proverbs 26:11

July 22, 2013

Steve Rattner, the auto bailout czar, says we should bail out the city of Detroit:

But apart from voting in elections, the 700,000 remaining residents of the Motor City are no more responsible for Detroit’s problems than were the victims of Hurricane Sandy for theirs, and eventually Congress decided to help them.

Got that? Apart from the fact that Detroit’s ruin is entirely man-made, caused by irresponsible politicians elected by foolish voters, yes, Detroit is just exactly like a natural disaster.

No, there must be consequences for folly, or folly will reign supreme.

(Via James Taranto.)


The fall of Detroit

July 22, 2013

Where has a half century of Democratic rule brought Detroit? These statistics are all appalling, but perhaps worst is this one:

An astounding 47 percent of the residents of the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate.

(Via Instapundit.)

Detroit has been plundered for half a century by liberals and their union allies. It’s a testimony to the former strength of the city that it took so long to go bankrupt.

But according MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, the city’s woes are somehow Republicans’ fault. I’m reminded of the time I was present at an Al Gore rally in 2000 (I had my reasons), and the president of the steelworkers union blamed Ronald Reagan for the collapse of the Pittsburgh steel industry.

My point is this: Some people take comfort in the prospect that liberals will have to see the wreckage wrought by their policies; then they’ll be sorry. They will see the wreckage, but they won’t take responsibility. They could find themselves living in caves and the burnt-out remains of cities, and they will blame whatever tiny aspect of economic freedom they couldn’t stamp out for all of it.


Mugged by reality

July 22, 2013

Michael Barone’s piece on how Detroit (he’s a native) changed him from liberal to conservative is a must-read.


Math is hard

July 22, 2013

The White House is bragging about the Obamacare provision requiring health insurers’ “medical loss ratio” (the amount of a premium that is spent on medical care) to be at least 80%. This proves that the White House not only does not understand economics, they don’t even understand fractions.

What this provision does is eliminate any incentive that insurers might have to deliver care more efficiently. Without it, an insurer who managed to reduce expenses could turn a tidy profit. Now, if they do reduce expenses, they just have to return the savings to the consumer. So why bother? Thus “medical loss ratio” helps to ensure that wasteful medical spending continues to rise.

It also directly pushes health premiums higher. Insurers cannot make money by keeping expenses down, but they can make more money simply by raising premiums. That way they keep 20% of a larger pie. Even if they have to return some of it, they still come out ahead.

And that is exactly what we are seeing. Yes, some rebates are being sent, but also premiums are skyrocketing. How much of the latter is due to “medical loss ratio” is hard to say.


Lois Lerner is a piece of work

July 20, 2013

George Will recounts her sordid history. This woman should have been bounced out of government long ago.

(Previous post.)


HHS mandate enjoined

July 20, 2013

A federal judge has issued an injunction in the Hobby Lobby case, barring enforcement of the HHS mandate to provide contraceptives and abortifacients.

This seems right to me; under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Hobby Lobby has a very strong case. The Act requires strict scrutiny of government compromises of religious freedom. Even if providing free contraceptive and abortifacients is taken to be a compelling state interest, there’s no way that requiring employers to provide them is a narrowly-tailored solution.


IRS targeted candidates for audits

July 20, 2013

Another branch of the IRS scandal is opening:

For the first time, [Inspector General Russell] George revealed claims that IRS officials targeted political candidates for audits. . .

The story doesn’t offer any details, but when we do, I’m sure they will be damning. Not a single aspect of the IRS scandal has yet failed to be damning.

POSTSCRIPT: Remember, the tone is set at the top.

(Previous post.)


Treasury improperly accessed confidential tax records

July 20, 2013

The saddest thing about this story might be that it’s not surprising any more:

A government watchdog has found for the first time that confidential tax records of several political candidates and campaign donors were improperly scrutinized by government officials, but the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any of the cases.

Its investigators also are probing two allegations that the Internal Revenue Service “targeted for audit candidates for public office,” the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, has privately told Sen. Chuck Grassley.

In a written response to a request by Mr. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Mr. George said a review turned up four cases since 2006 in which unidentified government officials took part in “unauthorized access or disclosure of tax records of political donors or candidates,” including one case he described as “willful.” In four additional cases, Mr. George said, allegations of improper access of IRS records were not substantiated by the evidence.

The story doesn’t identify whose records were improperly accessed, but I think we can assume that the victims were opponents of the Obama administration.

ASIDE: Could one of the victims have been the Koch brothers? The White House claimed knowledge of their tax returns, which they had no legitimate access to. Another victim appears to be Christine O’Donnell.

It’s one thing for the misconduct to take place. A few bad apples and all that. It’s quite another for the Justice Department to refuse to prosecute. By so doing, the Obama administration has approved the misconduct after the fact. Worse, they are encouraging it to happen again.

(Previous post.)


As if

July 20, 2013

The Obamacare czar says that we should trust them to safeguard our medical information properly.

(Via Jim Treacher.)


All the way to the top

July 20, 2013

The IRS claimed that its misconduct was limited to a few rank-and-file employees in Cincinnati. We’ve known that to be a lie almost from the beginning, but not how much until now:

The chief counsel’s office for the Internal Revenue Service, headed by a political appointee of President Obama, helped develop the agency’s problematic guidelines for reviewing “tea party” cases, according to a top IRS attorney.

In interviews with congressional investigators, IRS lawyer Carter Hull said his superiors told him that the chief counsel’s office, led by William Wilkins, would need to review some of the first applications the agency screened for additional scrutiny because of potential political activity.

The IRS scandal now goes all the way to the top. The Chief Counsel is one of only two political appointees in the entire agency.

Let’s dwell on that a little further: The lawyer that President Obama picked to run the IRS legal department was responsible for improperly harassing President Obama’s political opponents.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


“Behavior changers”

July 20, 2013

In a 2011 interview, Lois Lerner explains the IRS’s purpose behind sending massive, intrusive questionnaires:

Receiving a thick questionnaire from the IRS, she says, is a “behavior changer.”

She was discussing the practice in a different context than the IRS scandal, but this confirms — as we have long believed — that the purpose of invasive IRS inquiries is not actually to collect information.

(Previous post.)


The Democratic strategy emerges

July 20, 2013

It took a while for the Democrats to find their footing in the astonishing and appalling IRS scandal, but they now seem to have settled on a strategy. Conducting a good-faith investigation and reforming the agency is, of course, out of the question. (Indeed, the much-vaunted IRS investigation seems to be a Potemkin investigation, the FBI has not interviewed any of the targeted Tea Party groups — at least as of earlier this month.) No, Democrats like the IRS just the way it is.

So the strategy they have settled on is to allege that the IRS flagged for special scrutiny not only Tea Party and other conservative groups, but also progressive groups as well. This proves — supposedly — that the IRS was behaving in a non-partisan manner.

This narrative has a small grain of truth to it: The IRS did maintain BOLO (be on the lookout) lists of keywords to search for, and one of the many keywords was progressive. What the Democratic narrative leaves out is that the BOLO lists also instructed agents on what to do with the applicants that they flagged.

For Tea Party applicants the BOLO list instructed:

Any cases should be sent to group 7822. Liz Hofacre [more on this name later] is coordinating. These cases are currently being coordinated with EOT.

(The actual document is here.) From that referral, the harassment would begin.

The instructions for “progressive” applicants was entirely different:

Applicants submit form 1023. Their “progressive” activities appear to show that (c)(3) may not be appropriate.

What this means is that “progressive” groups appear to be involved in politics, which would make them ineligible to be 501(c)(3) “charitable” groups, to whom contributions are tax deductible. (This suggests that progressive groups had a history of improperly applying as 501(c)(3).) In contrast, most (perhaps all) Tea Party applicants applied as 501(c)(4) “social welfare organizations”, which are permitted some political activity.

In short, in regard to progressive groups, agents were just instructed to make sure that political groups were not applying 501(c)(3), which is entirely appropriate. The instructions did not prevent first-line screeners from approving the application, and they did not result in the kind of harassment that Tea Party applicants received.

Indeed, Liz Hofacre (the agent who received Tea Party applications) testified that, on the occasions in which she was sent a progressive application by mistake, she simply returned it:

When that occurred, pursuant to the instructions that were given to me, I would send those applications to general inventory since they were not within the scope of the Tea Party emerging issue.

(Emphasis mine.) And, if that that’s not clear enough, the notes for an IRS screening workshop specifically stated:

“Progressive” applications are not considered “Tea Parties”

(The actual document is here, hosted by the House Democrats, who have nevertheless failed to take notice of this particular element.) It should be obvious that there would be no need to distinguish progressive and Tea Party applicants if they both faced the same treatment.

To summarize then, progressive applicants faced only an appropriate review to ensure they weren’t trying to do politics under the 501(c)(3) umbrella, while Tea Parties were sent off for special treatment. Russell George, the Treasury Dept. Inspector General, made much of this explicit in his letter to the House Democrats:

Our audit did not find evidence that the IRS used the ‘progressives’ identifier as selection criteria for potential political cases between May 2010 and May 2012,” George wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill.

The inspector general stressed that 100 percent of the groups with “Tea Party,” “patriots” and “9/12” in their name were flagged for extra attention, while only 30 percent of the groups with “progress” or “progressive” were highlighted as potentially political. . .

“While we have multiple sources of information corroborating the use of Tea Party and other related criteria we described in our report, including employee interviews, e-mails and other documents, we found no indication in any of these other materials that ‘progressives’ was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention,” George wrote to Levin, the top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

However, having settled on a narrative, the Democrats are not likely to be turned aside merely by a letter from the Inspector Genera. They have simply added George to their attack list. Not only does this help preserve their narrative, it also helps to neutralize the investigation.

(Previous post.)


Evasion analytics

July 20, 2013

Yahoo News breaks down all the ways Jay Carney won’t answer your question.

(Via the Corner.)


Let the fraud begin

July 19, 2013

When Obamacare rolls out next year, the exchanges will not do anything to verify eligibility for subsidies:

The Obama administration announced Friday that it would significantly scale back the health law’s requirements that new insurance marketplaces verify consumers’ income and health insurance status. Instead, the federal government will rely more heavily on consumers’ self-reported information until 2015, when it plans to have stronger verification systems in place.

(Via Instapundit.)

To call this an invitation to fraud is an understatement.

It’s also illegal. The law offers subsidies, but requires the government to verify eligibility for those subsidies. But no matter, the president is going to go ahead and give those subsidies to anyone who asks.


Obamacare mandate delayed until after election

July 19, 2013

Bloomberg reports:

The Obama administration will delay a crucial provision of its signature health-care law, giving businesses an extra year to comply with a requirement that they provide their workers with insurance.

The government will postpone enforcement of the so-called employer mandate until 2015, after the congressional elections, the administration said yesterday. Under the provision, companies with 50 or more workers face a fine of as much as $3,000 per employee if they don’t offer affordable insurance.

Why? Here’s why:

Forty-one percent of the businesses surveyed have frozen hiring because of the health-care law known as Obamacare. And almost one-fifth—19 percent— answered “yes” when asked if they had “reduced the number of employees you have in your business as a specific result of the Affordable Care Act.”

(Via Hot Air.)

41% of small businesses have frozen hiring! And half of those are actually laying off workers. This is an utter catastrophe, and no less catastrophic for having been predicted.

The Democrats still dream of winning back the House in 2014 so they can have their way with America for Obama’s last two years, and there’s no way that can happen with the entire small-business segment of our economy in a coma due directly to their reckless, tyrannical policies.

POSTSCRIPT: And then there’s Nancy Pelosi being Nancy Pelosi:

The point is, is that the mandate was not delayed. Certain reporting by businesses that could be perceived as onerous, that reporting requirement was delayed, and partially to review how it would work and how it could be better. It was not a delay of the mandate for the businesses, and there shouldn’t be a delay of the mandate for individuals.

What a barrel of utter nonsense. The notion the mandate isn’t delayed, just the reporting, sounds like meaningless hair-splitting. Who cares if the mandate is in place, if no one has to pay it? And indeed it would be hair-splitting, except it isn’t even true. The administration did not only delayed the reporting requirements, they specifically delayed the mandate itself:

We recognize that this transition relief will make it impractical to determine which employers owe shared responsibility payments (under section 4980H) for 2014.  Accordingly, we are extending this transition relief to the employer shared responsibility payments.  These payments will not apply for 2014.  Any employer shared responsibility payments will not apply until 2015.

Nancy Pelosi is simply a liar.


Apple convicted of price fixing

July 19, 2013

Pro tip: when you conspire to fix prices, don’t brag about it to the press:

When asked by a reporter later that day why people would pay $14.99 in the iBookstore to purchase an e-book that was selling at Amazon for $9.99, Jobs told a reporter, “Well, that won’t be the case.” When the reporter sought to clarify, “You mean you won’t be 14.99 or they won’t be 9.99?” Jobs paused, and with a knowing nod responded, “The price will be the same,” and explained that “Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon because they are not happy.” With that statement, Jobs acknowledged his understanding that the Publisher Defendants would now wrest control of pricing from Amazon and raise e-book prices, and that Apple would not have to face any competition from Amazon on price.

The import of Jobs’s statement was obvious. On January 29, the General Counsel of [Simon & Schuster] wrote to [the CEO of S&S, Carolyn] Reidy that she “cannot believe that Jobs made the statement” and considered it “[i]ncredibly stupid.”

I really lament that this happened. I used to buy a lot of ebooks, but not any more because of the price. The publishers don’t seem to understand that ebooks are a lesser product than paper and ought to cost less. Sometimes ebooks actually cost more!

It would be nice if this case returned ebook prices to where they once were, but it won’t.


Chalking prosecution

July 18, 2013

I’m not much of a fan of chalking myself; I think it’s tacky in most circumstances. But it’s clearly a form of speech, isn’t it?

Jeff Olson, the 40-year-old man who is being prosecuted for scrawling anti-megabank messages on sidewalks in water-soluble chalk last year now faces a 13-year jail sentence. A judge has barred his attorney from mentioning freedom of speech during trial.

(Via Instapundit.)

Barred from mentioning freedom of speech during trial? In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess. Anyway, the jury acquitted him, but they shouldn’t have had to.


Facebook censorship

July 18, 2013

This post got Fox News’s Todd Starnes blocked from Facebook:

I’m about as politically incorrect as you can get.

I’m wearing an NRA ball cap, eating a Chick-fil-A sandwich, reading a Paula Deen cookbook and sipping a 20-ounce sweet tea while sitting in my Cracker Barrel rocking chair with the Gather Vocal Band singing ‘Jesus Saves’ on the stereo and a Gideon’s Bible in my pocket.

Yessir, I’m politically incorrect and happy as a june bug.

Apparently, these sentiments violate Facebook’s standards:

“We removed this from Facebook because it violates our Community Standards,” Facebook wrote in a message to Starnes. “So you’re temporarily blocked from using this feature.”


Benghazi cover-up continues

July 18, 2013

These are not the actions of an administration with nothing to hide:

Many if not all of the survivors of the Benghazi attacks along with others at the Department of Defense, the CIA have been asked or directed to sign additional non-disclosure agreements about their involvement in the Benghazi attacks.

And there’s also this:

Defense Department officials have told members of Congress that Bristol cannot be forced to testify because he retired after stepping down during a March change of command ceremony, according to several media reports. The Pentagon reinforced that point of view to Marine Corps Times on Tuesday. . .

That isn’t the case, however. While Bristol is preparing for retirement, he is on active duty through the end of July, said Maj. Shawn Haney, a Marine spokeswoman, on Wednesday. He will be placed on the inactive list on Aug. 1, she said. That contradicts statements that Pentagon officials have issued to both Congress and the media.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


The Zimmerman case

July 18, 2013

Last week a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Despite the collective freak-out of the media and the liberal establishment, no one who followed the trial would find the verdict at all surprising.

George Zimmerman told a consistent story from day one: He spotted an individual (Martin) whom he did not recognize and thought was behaving suspiciously. He called the police. He then got out of his car and walked in the same direction as Martin. (Zimmerman says he wasn’t following Martin, but was looking for an address to report to the police. Many people, even defenders of Zimmerman, find that part odd, but it doesn’t really matter.) He lost sight of Martin and subsequently tried to return to his car. Then Martin, who had doubled back, accosted Zimmerman. Martin attacked Zimmerman, pinning him to the ground, and repeatedly smashed his head against the pavement. Martin then saw Zimmerman’s gun, threatened to kill him with it, and tried to take it. Zimmerman then drew the gun and shot Martin once.

If Zimmerman’s story is true, the shooting was clearly justified self-defense. At the trial, the prosecution never presented any plausible evidence that contradicted his story.

Most of the state’s witnesses either were irrelevant to the self-defense claim, and many actually supported it. This was a very strange aspect of the case that I assume is atypical: witness after witness called by the prosecution but whose testimony actually supported the defense. Particularly damaging to the prosecution was the testimony of the lead investigator who said that he believed Zimmerman, and the eyewitness who corroborated a key part of Zimmerman’s story.

Only a few witnesses contradicted Zimmerman’s story at all. One was an excitable woman whose testimony contradicted the physical evidence in multiple ways. Some of Martin’s family members identified the person screaming for help (captured in a 911 call) as Martin. The defense rebutted their testimony with other witnesses who identified the screamer as Zimmerman, and by getting an expert witness for the prosecution to testify that the procedure used with the Martin family prevented a reliable identification.

That left only the prosecution’s star witness, one Rachel Jeantel who testified that she was on the phone with Martin as the fight began. Her testimony was damaging to the prosecution, as she testified that Martin used a racial slur to describe Zimmerman. (This was the only role that race played in the trial.) But she also contradicted Zimmerman’s story, testifying that Zimmerman started the fight and she heard Martin yelling “get off!”

The problem for the prosecution was that Jeantel wasn’t believable. Her behavior on the stand was erratic. During the investigation she told many lies, some of them under oath. But the most astonishing moment was when she admitted that she was unable to read the letter that she supposedly wrote to Martin’s family telling her story.

In short, the prosecution never dented Zimmerman’s story. For their part, the defense presented various witnesses supporting his story, and also got admitted into evidence the fact that Martin was under the influence of drugs at the time. (On the other hand, the judge did not allow the defense to present Martin’s text messages that showed he liked to get into fights.) Zimmerman himself never needed to testify, because — bizarrely — the prosecution played videos of Zimmerman telling his story, essentially giving Zimmerman the opportunity to testify without facing cross examination.

No one who followed the trial is surprised about the verdict. (Even Jimmy Carter!) But the media’s campaign against Zimmerman has never been about the facts. Big Journalism has conveniently collected a rundown of media lies about the Zimmerman.

With all the lies the legacy media tells against Zimmerman, you might expect to find public opinion overwhelmingly against him. But the truth seems to have gotten out, nonetheless. But a Rasmussen poll finds that Americans agree with the verdict by a 48-34 margin. Disintermediation of information is working.

POSTSCRIPT: Not all the lies told about the Zimmerman case are attacking Zimmerman. There’s also a consistent effort to lie about Florida’s (and 33 other states’) “Stand Your Ground” law. From the very beginning, Stand Your Ground has been legally irrelevant. It says that persons facing an attacker are not required to retreat from that attacker, even if they can do so safely. But even states that do require you to retreat, require it only when you can do so safely.

Zimmerman could not retreat safely (according to his story, at least). Indeed, being pinned to the ground, he could not retreat at all. Thus, Stand Your Ground never came into play. This hasn’t stopped the media from trying to implicate Stand Your Ground in this case. For example, the New York Times, always eager to get things wrong, editorialized that Stand Your Ground played a role in the case, despite its own reporting to the contrary. (In a very narrow sense it did: since Stand Your Ground is the law, it appears in the standard jury instructions, but it wasn’t relevant.)

(Previous post.)


Passengers nearly killed by lack of knives

July 13, 2013

A postscript to the TSA’s reversal of a proposed sensible policy to allow small knives on planes once again. Passengers trapped on Asiana flight 214 by jammed seatbelts nearly burned to death because no one on the flight had a knife to free them. They were saved only when police officers arriving at the plane threw up knives for the crew to use.

(Via Instapundit.)


Your lips are moving again

July 13, 2013

Right in the midst of this month’s revolution/coup in Egypt, CBS News spotted Secretary of State John Kerry boarding his yacht. The Obama administration then did what they do, they lied through their teeth:

“Since his plane touched down in Washington at 4 a.m., Secretary Kerry was working all day and on the phone dealing with the crisis in Egypt,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “He participated in the White House meeting with the president by secure phone and was and is in non-stop contact with foreign leaders, and his senior team in Washington and Cairo. Any report or tweet that he was on a boat is completely inaccurate.”

Of course, by “completely inaccurate”, they meant completely accurate, as they admitted in their subsequent climb-down. But first, the State Department somehow stood by its denial even when CBS sent them photos of Kerry on the yacht. Only after CBS released its photo along with State’s absurd denial, did they reverse themselves:

While he was briefly on his boat on Wednesday, Secretary Kerry worked around the clock all day including participating in the President’s meeting with his national security council,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Note that the reversal came from the exact same spokesperson as the initial lie. If Psaki’s name rings a bell, it’s because she was the official spokesman of Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

This administration will lie about anything at all.

(Via Hot Air.)

POSTSCRIPT: Politico didn’t exactly cover themselves with laurels by un-correcting their story (is that what you call it when you “correct” a story that was already accurate?) on such flimsy evidence as an unequivocal denial from the Obama administration.


Perspective

July 12, 2013

Michelle Obama likens her upbringing to that of impoverished Senegalese children:

See, like many of you, I didn’t grow up in a family with a lot of money.

I suppose I should give her a break — she’s just trying to connect with some children — but I find this offensive. No one in America faces the kind of poverty that poor children face in the third world. Michelle Obama comes from a working-class family without many luxuries, but with food on the table. For these children, her upbringing would be like winning the lottery.


Government-run health care

July 12, 2013

A glimpse of our future, in the UK today:

As many as 1,165 people starved to death in NHS hospitals over the past four years fuelling claims nurses are too busy to feed their patients. . .

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics following a Freedom of Information request, for every patient who dies from malnutrition, four more have dehydration mentioned on their death certificate.

Absolutely appalling. And Democrats are determined to bring it here.


I don’t think “grassroots” means what you think it means

July 12, 2013

Grassroots Campaigns is hiring.


Sequestration didn’t hurt

July 12, 2013

Remember the White House’s long list of disasters that would befall if sequestration took effect? The Washington Post evaluated those claims and found that hardly any of them happened.


You can’t make this stuff up

July 12, 2013

The law is supposed to forbid the IRS from compromising the privacy of taxpayers’ information, but as we well know, it has failed to prevent it. Nevertheless, with astonishing chutzpah, the IRS now claims that same law also forbids the IRS from revealing which of its employees violated the law.

Their privacy, not ours, is sacrosanct.


Heh

July 12, 2013

Brain damage causes French accent.


Happy Birthday

July 12, 2013

No one can sing Happy Birthday in public without paying royalties to Warner/Chappell Music, who owns the copyright to the song, over a century after it was composed. But a lawsuit now claims that Happy Birthday should not be under copyright, and they seem to have a strong case.

(Via Instapundit.)


Oh, the irony

July 12, 2013

The Supreme Court bans protests on its grounds.


Obama threatens to veto religious freedom

July 12, 2013

After repeated attacks on the rights of members of the armed forces to practice their religion, a corrective is necessary. The House’s defense bill for 2014 includes a provision that would protect servicemen and women’s religious freedom except in cases of military necessity.

Naturally, President Obama has threatened a veto.

 


MSNBC history

July 12, 2013

MSNBC thinks that George Wallace was a Republican. Like Jefferson Davis, Roger Taney, James Buchanan, George McClellan, Lester Maddox, and Bull Connor.


Clapper was warned of question, still lied

July 12, 2013

People have tried to defend Obama administration intelligence chief James Clapper for lying to Congress, saying that Ron Wyden’s question on classified operations in an unclassified setting put him in an awkward situation. That seems to make some sense, until you learn that Clapper was warned of the question in advance. He also failed to avail himself of the opportunity to correct his statement after the fact.

In short, he lied, not because he wanted to keep the operation secret from the world, but because he wanted to keep it secret from Congress.

(Previous post.)


Complaining about water quality is terrorism

July 12, 2013

. . . according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.


State Department spikes child abuse investigation

July 12, 2013

The New York Post reports:

A State Department whistleblower has accused high-ranking staff of a massive coverup — including keeping a lid on findings that members of then-Secretary Hillary Clinton’s security detail and the Belgian ambassador solicited prostitutes.

A chief investigator for the agency’s inspector general wrote a memo outlining eight cases that were derailed by senior officials, including one instance of interference by Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills.

Among the bombshell findings: A DS agent was called off a case against US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman over claims that he solicited prostitutes, including minors.

“The agent began his investigation and had determined that the ambassador routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” says the memo. . .

Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy ordered the investigation ceased, and the ambassador remains in place, according to the memo.

Gutman was a big Democratic donor before taking the post, having raised $500,000 for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and helping finance his inaugural.

(Via Instapundit.)


/AFK

July 12, 2013

The paper is done, so I’ll be trying to catch up on my backlog of events demanding comment. Some of them aren’t so timely any more, but bear with me.