NYT lies about Plame-Armitage

January 27, 2014

The New York Times revisits the Plame-Novak-Armitage affair:

Retaliation is hardly unusual in politics either. The Christie affair reminds me of the I. Lewis Libby scandal, when top White House officials, including Mr. Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide, decided to punish Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador critical of the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq, by outing his wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert C.I.A. agent.

I’m sure the NYT wishes this were true. It certainly would tie up the affair in a neat bow if were. But, as the NYT is well aware, it isn’t true.

Plame’s name was leaked by Richard Armitage, who did so accidentally, without any nefarious intent, and without any direction from anyone, including Libby or any other “top White House officials”. Libby went to jail on an unrelated charge.

The story is dated 10 days ago, and it carries no correction yet.

(Previous post.)

Advertisements

Rand Paul shows how it’s done

January 27, 2014

David Gregory tries to trap Rand Paul into playing into the Democrat-media complex’s “war on women” narrative. Paul will have none of it. I hope other Republicans learn from his example.


An interesting admission

January 27, 2014

The New York Times reports that Republican dominance in the House is mostly not the result of gerrymandering:

The problem for Democrats is that they have overwhelming majorities not only in the dense, poor urban centers, but also in isolated, far-flung college towns, historical mining areas and 19th-century manufacturing towns that are surrounded by and ultimately overwhelmed by rural Republicans.

A motivated Democratic cartographer could produce districts that accurately reflected overall partisanship in states like these by carefully crafting the metropolitan districts and snaking districts along the historical canals and rail lines that once connected the nonmetropolitan Democratic enclaves. But such districts are unlikely to emerge by chance from a nonpartisan process.

So Republican dominance results not from Republican gerrymandering, but from the lack of Democratic gerrymandering. If you group nearby people together, Republicans win.

That’s interesting, but what I found particularly telling is how the NYT introduced these results:

The results were not encouraging for reform advocates.

If the results — showing that reform wouldn’t help Democrats — were not encouraging to reform advocates, that tells us what the actual goals of “reform advocates” are, doesn’t it?

(Via Instapundit.)


You can’t make this stuff up

January 20, 2014

The help line for Maryland’s Obamacare exchange connects to a Seattle pottery store.

(Previous post.)


The unmitigated gall

January 20, 2014

Barack Obama:

There is a historic connection between some of the arguments that we have politically and the history of race in our country, and sometimes it’s hard to disentangle those issues.

It can be particularly hard to disentangle those issues when your party and you personally are doing everything you can to entangle them!

Then he does that thing (he used to do it a lot, back when he was doing the unity schtick) where he gives lip service to the other side before expounding his own, far-left view:

. . . I think it’s important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my Presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there’s some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans. The flip side is I think it’s important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history . . .

The key point that Obama leaves out here is that history of criticisms against those “trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans” is the history of the Democratic party!

Now that the Democratic party has made its 11th-hour transformation from an anti-minority racist party to a pro-minority racist party (no exaggeration), they want to project their own evils onto their opponents, who have (more or less) been arguing for a color-blind society all along.


Why “bridgegate” is so bad

January 18, 2014

New Jersey’s “bridgegate” scandal (in which the state government intentionally snarled traffic as political payback) has certainly captured the media’s imagination. The big three networks dedicated over 34 minutes of airtime to it in a single day, which is 17 times as much as they dedicated to the IRS scandal over the past half year.

And with good cause; the allegation is very serious indeed.  Chris Christie stands accused . . . of behaving like a Democrat.

Dealing out political retribution has been the Democrat playbook going all the way back to Martin Van Buren, who — with Andrew Jackson — founded the modern Democratic party. (Jackson himself was more direct. When he was particularly incensed with someone, he would shoot him.)

Today’s Democratic party is rife with this sort of thing. The closest analogue is Seattle’s Democratic mayor closing city streets, out of an explicit desire to inconvenience drivers.

But a better example of callous political retribution was Barack Obama’s shutdown theater last year. During the government shutdown, the Obama administration directed the government to “make life as difficult as possible“. And so they did:

None of these (save one) were mandated by the shutdown; they actually cost the government money to perpetrate. (The exception, cancer treatment for children, Republicans sought to fund, but the Democrats refused.)

The most recent example to come to light is how the White House took extraordinary steps to ensure that the budget sequester hurt rural schools. (Via Instapundit.) In this instance, the Agriculture Department had already determined that the sequester would have no effect on funds already disbursed the previous year. However, the White House overruled that determination, and ordered them to claw back the money they had already spent.

It’s wrong for anyone to behave like this, and we do expect better from Republicans. Christie ought to be in hot water over it. But all the furor from the Democrats and their media allies over this is very much the pot calling the kettle black.


Selective law enforcement is tyranny

January 18, 2014

If your gun stunt pleases the powers-that-be, you can break the law. Witness David Gregory. But, if your gun stunt angers the powers-that-be, you go to jail for four months and then serve two years probation.

Without uniform enforcement, the law is merely a tool for the harassment of those who are out of favor. We need the rule of law.


You can’t talk about the Bible; this is school!

January 18, 2014

Fox News reports:

The parents of a 6-year-old girl said their daughter was humiliated when a teacher interrupted the child’s one-minute speech and told her to sit down because she’s “not allowed to talk about the Bible in school,” attorneys for the California family allege.

It’s worse than that. She was supposed to give a presentation on a family Christmas tradition! Then the teacher was shocked and dismayed that one student’s tradition actually had something to do with Christmas.

In fact, it’s worse still: this isn’t the school district’s first offense:

It’s not the first time the school district has found itself in hot water over religious liberty violations. Last October, a seventh grade student was publicly ridiculed by a teacher for reading the Bible. The classroom assignment had been to read a non-fiction book. The teacher told the student in front of the class that the Bible was fiction and refused to give him credit for the assignment.


Obama overreach likely to cost him

January 18, 2014

A year ago, President Obama’s massive overreach — claiming that the presidential recess appointment power could be used at essentially any time at all — resulted in him losing the recess appointment power in nearly its entirety. Now the Supreme Court appears poised to confirm that ruling.


Concealed carry = fewer murders

January 18, 2014

Give law-abiding citizens the ability to protect themselves, and crime goes down:

Using data for the period 1980 to 2009 and controlling for state and year fixed effects, the results of the present study suggest that states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murder rates than other states. It was also found that assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level. These results suggest that restrictive concealed weapons laws may cause an increase in gun-related murders at the state level. The results of this study are consistent with some prior research in this area, most notably Lott and Mustard (1997).

Imagine that!


Let freedom ring

January 18, 2014

A big win for free speech in the Ninth Circuit, which has found that First Amendment protection is not limited to members of the institutional press.


Cuomo: conservatives not welcome in New York

January 18, 2014

The governor of New York says if you don’t agree with him on social issues, you have no place in his state:

The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

To be clear: when Democrats talk about uniting red America and blue America, they don’t mean by respecting diversity of thought. They mean that red Americans must become blue, or else.

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: Cuomo: I never said what I said. I would have thought it hard to accuse people of being “entirely reckless with facts and the truth” when they quote you verbatim, but he’s up for it.


Your government at work

January 17, 2014

This is why the government cannot be trusted with information. They will abuse it:

The Environmental Protection Agency has told farmers and ranchers it is sorry for handing private information about them over to environmental groups, but agriculture advocates who fear attacks from eco-terrorists say it’s like closing the barn door after the horses escaped.

In response to Freedom of Information Requests, the federal agency released information on up to 100,000 agriculture industry workers, including their home address and phone numbers, GPS coordinates and even personal medical histories.

Whether this was accidental or not is beside the point. If they face no consequences, it will keep happening.


Court rejects net neutrality, again

January 14, 2014

The DC Court of Appeals has unanimously rejected the Obama administration’s second effort to impose network neutrality. (It unanimously rejected their first effort in 2010.) This is a good thing.

In fact, while striking down the pernicious aspects of the FCC regulation, it leaves in place the regulation’s requirement that ISPs disclose what they are doing, so this seems like the best possible result. Perhaps Google (on whose behalf the administration was acting) will adopt a constructive, market-oriented approach (like this one) instead of rent-seeking now.

(Previous post.)


I call BS

January 12, 2014

The Denver Post, it seems, is happy to print Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-CO) fevered imagination as fact:

More than two-thirds of the 250,000 people whose health policies the state Division of Insurance said last week were “terminated” have actually been offered renewals of existing plans through 2014, according to research by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s office. . .

Insurance companies have been sending out cancellation notices to consumers with plans that don’t meet minimum benefit levels required by the health care act. . . Many of the cancellation notices, however, also contain language allowing customers to renew their existing policies.

(Emphasis mine.) According to “research” by Udall, who previously tried unsuccessfully to pressure his state to fudge the cancellation numbers.

What would it even mean to send out a cancellation notice that allowed the customer to renew? That’s simply a contradiction in terms. I’ve looked at hundreds of cancellation notices at mycancellation.com and I’ve never seen anything that could possibly be described this way. We are asked to believe that there are hundreds of thousands of such self-contradictory letters in Colorado alone. Were that true, they could include at least one example.

(Previous post.) (Via Power Line.)


How to destroy health insurance

January 11, 2014

If you want to destroy a health insurance market, institute community rating (every customer pays about the same, regardless of risk) and guaranteed issue (no applicant can be turned down). That puts the market into a death spiral: prices soar, so the healthy flee, so the prices soar even more. New York showed how it’s done:

New York state’s guaranteed issue and community rating rules—the two regulations that limit how insurers can charge based on health history and require them to sell policies to all comers—took effect in 1994. At the time, there were about 752,000 policyholders in the state’s individual market, or about 4.7 percent of the non-Medicare population. But by 2009, according to a Manhattan Institute report by Stephen Parente and Tarren Bragdon, the state’s individual market had practically disappeared, leaving just 34,000 participants, or about 0.2 percent of the non-elderly population. Individual insurance premiums, meanwhile, were among the highest in the nation—about $388 on average in 2007, compared with just $151 in California, another big Democratic-leaning state. In New York City, the annualized premium cost for individuals was more than $9,300 and more than $26,400 for a family.

The median household income in New York City is $50,711, so health insurance is quite literally unaffordable, it would cost over half the typical family’s income.

Obamacare is different, as it includes an individual mandate. This is supposed to prevent the death spiral: prices soar (boy, do they), but the healthy aren’t allowed to flee, so prices don’t soar further. There’s a couple of problems with the theory though.

First, the individual mandate’s penalty isn’t really severe enough to force people into the market. Many people will pay the penalty rather than sign up for expensive insurance they don’t think they need. In fact, the fact that the penalty isn’t severe enough is part of why John Roberts was able to convince himself that it could be construed as a tax, not a penalty, and thus found constitutional. If the mandate actually worked, it would be unconstitutional.

Second, as I’ve noted before, the quality of health insurance is not uniform. Even if the mandate worked, it doesn’t force healthy people into good plans. Consequently, good plans will become unaffordable and cease to exist.

(Previous post.)


Writing on the walls

January 11, 2014

If it wasn’t clear that Democrats are running scared from Obamacare, check out this Star Tribune column explaining that Al Franken (D-MN) wasn’t really the 60th vote for Obamacare. In fact, no one was!

They’ve abandoned “Obamacare is good” and are now attempting “it’s not my fault.” I don’t think it will work any better.

(Previous post.)


Ha ha, good one!

January 10, 2014

The Obama administration says that people who have their personal information stolen through Obamacare should not be notified:

The Obama administration stopped short Thursday of threatening to veto House bills to require officials to tell people if their personal data has been compromised through ObamaCare, and to require weekly reports on the health law’s implementation.

The White House said in two Statements of Administration Policy that it opposed both bills, one of which is set for a Friday vote in the House. . .

In its second statement, the White House said officials are already working on security issues with the HealthCare.gov website. Additionally, it repeated that the legislation requiring reports on data breaches would create “costly paperwork requirements.”

Got that? They are against warning people who they have made vulnerable to identity theft, because — don’t drink a beverage right now! — it’s too expensive! They waste trillions on one boondoggle after another, but suddenly become miserly when it comes to notifying people that they screwed up and exposed them to identify theft.

(Via JammieWearingFool.)

UPDATE: Democrats broke ranks with President Obama to vote for this. Good. But get this:

The White House said it opposed the bill, arguing the government already has plans to tell people if their information has been compromised.

We oppose it because we plan to do it anyway. Pinky swear!

Sheesh. That’s so lame even his own party isn’t buying it.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


As predicted

January 10, 2014

We’ve been talking for months about the disaster that is the Healthcare.gov back-end, and now, as predicted:

Record-keeping snags could complicate the start of insurance coverage this month as people begin using policies they purchased under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Insurance companies are still trying to sort out cases of so-called health insurance orphans, customers for whom the government has a record that they enrolled, but the insurer does not.

Government officials say the problem is real but under control, with orphan records being among the roughly 13,000 problem cases they are trying to resolve with insurers. But insurance companies are worried the process will grow more cumbersome as they deal with the flood of new customers who signed up in December as enrollment deadlines neared.

More than 1 million people have signed up through the federal insurance market that serves 36 states. Officials contend the error rate for new signups is close to zero.

Insurers, however, are less enthusiastic about the pace of the fixes. The companies also are seeing cases in which the government has assigned the same identification number to more than one person, as well as so-called “ghost” files in which the insurer has an enrollment record but the government does not.

Note that the 13,000 problem cases are only the ones they know about. Any “orphans” who haven’t come forward during the first ten days aren’t counted among the number.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Fox investigating chicken coop

January 9, 2014

So, they’re not even going to pretend to have a non-partisan investigation of the IRS scandal:

The Justice Department selected an avowed political supporter of President Obama to lead the criminal probe into the IRS targeting of tea party groups, according to top Republicans who said Wednesday that the move has ruined the entire investigation.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, and regulatory affairs subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, said they have discovered that the head of the investigation is Barbara Kay Bosserman, a trial lawyer in the Justice Department who donated more than $6,000 to Mr. Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, as well as several hundred dollars to the national Democratic Party.

The Justice Department says it wasn’t allowed to prefer someone else who wanted a big Democratic supporter:

But the Justice Department said it isn’t allowed to consider a career lawyer’s political leanings when doling out assignments and that it would violate an employee’s constitutional rights if he were penalized on the job for making legal political contributions.

“It is contrary to department policy and a prohibited personnel practice under federal law to consider the political affiliation of career employees or other non-merit factors in making personnel decisions,” said spokeswoman Dena Iverson.

Frankly, even if that is the rule (I’ll take their word for it), I imagine that the Justice Department has some latitude in picking appropriate people for assignments. (For example, you don’t infiltrate Middle Eastern terrorist cells with Europeans, even if the rules prohibit considering race in assignment.)

But never mind all that, because it’s nonsense. The Obama/Holder Justice Department considers political affiliation in personnel decisions all the time. Indeed, it appears to be their primary consideration. For example, every single one of the people hired by the Civil Rights division was a leftist. No conservatives, no moderates. 113-0-0.

Now they’re going to pretend that they are so punctilious about ignoring politics that they couldn’t possibly choose an appropriate investigator? That doesn’t even pass the laugh test.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


If you don’t like the numbers, change them

January 9, 2014

Colorado senator Mark Udall (D) asked his state’s insurance regulators to cook its numbers to reduce the number of people receiving cancellations notices because of Obamacare. To their credit, Colorado’s regulators refused.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


The model for the nation

January 9, 2014

Massachusetts’s health care system, which was loosely the model for Obamacare, is delivering the highest health care costs in the country.

(Previous post.)


Iowa resets

January 9, 2014

Everyone in Iowa who thought they signed up for health insurance on the Obamacare web site needs to sign up again. Every single person.

(Previous post.)


Obama releases domestic terrorist

January 9, 2014

Lynne Stewart, the lawyer who facilitated terrorist communications with Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, has been released by the Obama administration.


Naivete considered harmful

January 9, 2014

When I write about climate science, I take care to remember my limitations: As a computer scientist, not a climate scientist, I’m not really qualified to comment on the details of their work.

They would do well to do the same. Consider Gavin Schmidt’s naive remarks on programming:

when are scientists going to stop writing code in fortran?

as crimes go, using fortran is far worse than anything revealed in “climategate”…

[Response: You might think that, but it’s just not true. Fortran is simple, it works well for these kinds of problems, it complies efficiently on everything from a laptop to massively parallel supercomputer, plus we have 100,000s of lines of code already. If we had to rewrite everything each time there was some new fad in computer science (you know, like ‘C’ or something ;) ), we’d never get anywhere. – gavin]

Fad? Structured programming has been the dominant paradigm since the late sixties. That’s only ten fewer years than programming languages have even existed. Back when structured programming was invented, climate scientists were still taking about global cooling!


Global warming review

January 9, 2014

In honor of the passing of the polar vortex, I’d like to review what I think we know about the state of climate science:

  1. The earth is warming, probably as a result of human carbon dioxide emissions.
  2. The amount the earth has warmed in modern times so far, although measurable, is negligible. The warming trend we see (as in the famous “hockey-stick” charts) uses a smoothing function, and is much, much smaller than the year-to-year variation.
  3. Thus, anyone who says this or that weather is the result of global warming, is a fool, a liar, or both. Generally climate scientists refrain from making such statements, but climate activists and politicians do not. (This problem seems particularly prevalent in Britain, where both parties’ leaders believe global warming is affecting current weather.)
  4. We can calculate the direct impact of increased carbon dioxide on the climate as a straightforward physics problem. The direct impact is small.
  5. Predictions of dire consequences are based on feedback loops. For example, warming causes ice to melt, which results in more clouds, which either increase or decrease warming depending on where and how they form. Climate scientists differ on whether positive or negative feedbacks will dominate, but the former camp (i.e., feedback leads to more warming) seems to be larger, and is certainly more influential and better funded.
  6. There is no way to test whether the positive or negative feedbacks dominate, and by how much, so climate scientists build models. Predictions of future climate are made on the basis of these models.
  7. Most climate scientists (at least the influential, well-funded ones) believe that the strong-positive-feedback models are more convincing.
  8. KEY POINT: However, there is no way actually to test the long-term predictions of these models without waiting for the long term. The short-term predictions of the models have generally not come true. (In fact, in 2005 Gavin Schmidt could only point to one instance in which a climate model made a prediction that was subsequently validated.)
  9. Consequently, we just don’t know what long-term effects increased carbon dioxide will have, scientifically speaking.
  10. However, we do know that cutting carbon dioxide emissions to a degree that would make a difference (according to the models) would not only be disastrous, it is literally impossible, barring an unforeseen technological advance.
  11. Thus, we ought to be looking at reasonable, cost-effective ways to limit CO2 emissions (e.g., nuclear energy, carbon sequestration), but not ridiculous ways (e.g., everything the left wants). We should also be looking at geoengineering in case the worst comes to pass.

Note that above I am not criticizing any of the work of any climate scientists. I simply don’t have the background to do it. Other people who do have the background have criticized their work (the media calls them “climate skeptics”), but I have no way to judge who is in the right. Thus, I’m relying on the consensus view (by which I mean actual consensus, not the consensus of just one side, which is how the media seems to use the term), and — in points 8 and 9 — my basic understanding of the scientific method.

One area in which I do have the background to criticize their work is in their programming. Much of climate science relies heavily on data sets that must be processed by computer. Unfortunately, it seems that their standards of programming is very low, at least if the story of HARRY_READ_ME.txt is typical. This means that the data they are using is suspect. (And, unfortunately, the raw data doesn’t exist any more!)

Worse, there is very good reason to worry that the academic process itself in climate science is badly broken:

  • Climate scientists refuse to share their data, and actually delete their data when they might be forced to release it. (They also lie about it, and even break the law.) From scientists this is astonishing and horrifying, and it tells us that we simply cannot believe their results.
  • Influential climate scientists have subverted the peer-review process. This corrupts their entire field, not just their own work.
  • On occasion, they tell outright lies.
  • Alas, there’s no indication that anything has improved in the field since all the above misconduct came to light.

So where does this leave us? Climate scientists have a tough job: they can’t run controlled experiments and their most important predictions can’t be tested. You can’t blame them for that. You can blame them for shoddy programming, and for academic misconduct.


Heh

January 9, 2014

In 1974, the polar vortex phenomenon was evidence of global cooling. Now it’s evidence of global warming.

(Via Best of the Web.)


Only the government can be trusted with guns

January 7, 2014

Maybe the reason New York state officials are so anti-gun is they think that gun owners are as irresponsible with them as they are:

Jerome M. Hauer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s director of homeland security, took out his handgun and used the laser sighting device attached to the barrel as a pointer in a presentation to a foreign delegation, according to public officials. . . These officials, one of whom claimed to be an eyewitness, said that three Swedish emergency managers in the delegation were rattled when the gun’s laser tracked across one of their heads before Hauer found the map of New York, at which he wanted to point.

[Hauer] isn’t a law enforcement official. He carries the loaded 9-millimeter Glock in a holster into state buildings, an apparent violation of state law barring state employees from bringing weapons to the workplace. . .

Appalling. He should be required to take an NRA gun safety class. Perhaps the version for kids.

(Via Instapundit.)


I got pinched!

January 7, 2014

It’s terrible how people are getting screwed by Obamacare. But, if anyone has it coming, it’s the people who fought for it when they thought someone else would pay, and are only now finding out they were the suckers:

One Oregon mother says that she is unable to afford health insurance for her and her 18-month-old son because it’s too expensive.

The woman — who wishes to remain anonymous — tells KOIN-TV that she originally championed President Barack Obama’s signature health care law because she thought it would help people in her situation.

“I’ve been a cheerleader for the Affordable Care Act since I heard about it and I assumed that it was designed for people in my situation,” she told KOIN. “I was planning on using the Affordable Care Act and I had done the online calculator in advance to make sure I was going to be able to afford it.”

ASIDE: What, the online calculator lied? Imagine that.

I’m reminded of an exchange from Firefly (from Ariel, one of my favorite episodes):

Mal: You called the Feds.
Jayne: I got pinched!
Mal: Which is what happens when you call the Feds.

She thought that the feds would help her profit at the expense of others, but it turns out all the got was skyrocketing premiums and no subsidy. Which is what happens when you call the Feds.

(Previous post.) (Via Vodkapundit.)


Why we fight

January 6, 2014

BBC reports:

A young Afghan girl has been detained wearing a suicide vest in southern Afghanistan, officials say. She was held on Sunday night in Helmand province, as she tried to carry out an attack on border police, an interior ministry spokesman told the BBC.

The girl, reported to be as young as eight and thought to be the sister of a prominent Taliban commander, is said to be in a state of shock and confusion. Police told the BBC she was encouraged to carry out the attack by her brother.

His own eight-year-old sister.

The next time we get the idiotic idea of trying to negotiate with these barbarians, we need to remember that they are pure evil.


You can’t expand Medicare

January 6, 2014

I frequently see it alleged by liberals that getting health universal coverage is as simple as expanding Medicare so that it covers everyone. Many of them probably actually believe it, so I want to explain some basic economics.

The reason Medicare’s cost to the government is as low as it is (which is not all that low, by the way) is because Medicare’s reimbursement rate is just barely above marginal cost. That means that it is barely profitable to treat them, given that — and this is the key point — all the fixed cost has already been paid for by other patients.

In other words, Medicare is cheap (that is, cheaper than it would otherwise be) because its share of the cost of all our health care infrastructure (hospitals, equipment, etc.) is shifted onto other patients.

But you cannot shift the fixed cost off of everyone! For Medicare to work, there need to be people left off of it to bear Medicare’s share of the fixed cost. Try to put everyone on Medicare and the whole thing collapses.

This is nothing more than elementary economics. Whenever you see a politician proclaim we should have “Medicare for all”, they are proclaiming that they don’t understand economics. Or, if they actually do (I’m looking at you, Paul Krugman and Robert Reich) then they’re engaging in pure demagoguery.


FBI changes primary mission from law enforcement

January 6, 2014

This is interesting:

The FBI’s creeping advance into the world of counterterrorism is nothing new. But quietly and without notice, the agency has finally decided to make it official in one of its organizational fact sheets. Instead of declaring “law enforcement” as its “primary function,” as it has for years, the FBI fact sheet now lists “national security” as its chief mission. The changes largely reflect the FBI reforms put in place after September 11, 2001. . .

After noticing the change, [lawyer Kel] McClanahan reviewed his records and saw that the revised fact sheets began going out this summer. “I think they’re trying to rebrand,” he said. “So many good things happen to your agency when you tie it to national security.”

(Via Hot Air.)


Reid threatens the inevitable

January 6, 2014

Officially the filibuster is only partly dead, but Reid is hinting at changing that:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday said he was not currently considering an elimination of the filibuster for legislation, but he warned that the country could not remain “paralyzed” by Republican obstruction. . .

[Democrats] left in place a 60-vote threshold for legislation. But in a rare Sunday television interview, Reid stopped short of categorically ruling out such a move in the future.

What he’s trying to do is get the benefit of abolishing the filibuster without actually doing it, by pressuring the opposition into giving him what he wants in return for keeping the filibuster. That worked once last year (once more than it should have), but when Democrats kept doing it, Republicans caught on and declined to play along.

When the Democrats abolished the filibuster, they did it narrowly, for only the things (presidential nominations) they wanted to do that very day, and pretended to leave it in place for other things, such as legislation and Supreme Court nominations. No matter; the filibuster is dead now and everyone knows it. From now on, there will be a new exception whenever anything is filibustered.


What could go wrong?

January 6, 2014

This is just brilliant:

The Pentagon waived laws prohibiting Chinese-made parts on U.S. weapons repeatedly for Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter program in order to keep it on track, Reuters reports.

Chief Pentagon weapons buyer Frank Kendall allowed two subcontractors, Northrop Grumman and Honeywell International, to use Chinese magnets for the plane’s radar, landing gears and other hardware, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.


Obama to weaken mental-health privacy

January 5, 2014

The Obama administration has announced that it will weaken the HIPAA rules that protect the privacy of individuals’ health records. They wants government bureaucrats to have access to mental health records so they can use them to deny patients permission to purchase firearms.

They claim that they will find a way to do this without compromising patients’ privacy, but it’s not true. Firstly, it’s not true because it’s impossible: the whole point is to give health information to government bureaucrats. Secondly, we know from experience that when it comes to gun-related records, the government will leak the information:

In 2003, under pressure from the gun lobby, Congress passed a law that hid from public view the government database that contained the gun tracing information.

The Washington Post has obtained the names of the gun dealers nationwide with the most traces over the past four years. In addition, The Post has uncovered the names of the dealers, all from border states, with the most traces from guns recovered in Mexico over the past two years.

It was illegal for the government to disclose the information, but they did it anyway. And this wasn’t just a few “bad apples”, either. There was never any investigation of the leak, so DOJ policy-setting officials were complicit, at least after the fact.


Struck down

January 5, 2014

In the same decision that struck down New York’s astonishingly stupid and pointless law banning more than seven rounds in a magazine, the federal judge also struck down three provisions as unconstitutionally vague:

  • A ban on “muzzle breaks”.  (There is no such thing. The state contends that the law was supposed to say “muzzle brakes”, which actually exist. But we-meant-to-say-X-instead-of-Y is not an accepted principle of statutory construction.)
  • A grammatically unintelligible provision limiting “large capacity” (i.e., normal capacity) magazines.
  • A ban on “semiautomatic version[s] of an automatic rifle, shotgun or firearm”. (The bill offers no rules to determine what firearm is or is not a “version” of another, leaving ordinary people with no way to obey the law, and encouraging “arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement” — which may well have been the point.)

One thing this does make clear (particularly the first and third) is that the people who wrote the bill had no idea what they were talking about.


Blind spot

January 3, 2014

The Washington Post managed to write an entire article entitled “2013 is the year that proved your ‘paranoid’ friend right” without ever once mentioning the IRS scandal.

NSA, EZ-Pass, even Area 51, but they managed to memory-hole the biggest political scandal in more than a generation.

(Via James Taranto.)


Obamacare can’t cope with babies

January 3, 2014

If you’re on the Obamacare exchanges, don’t have a baby. There’s no way to add a baby to your plan:

Insurers say computerized “change in circumstance” updates to deal with family and life developments were supposed to have been part of the federal system from the start.

But that feature got postponed as the government scrambled to fix technical problems that overwhelmed the health care website during its first couple of months.

Maybe this is why they are so concerned about contraception. . .

(Previous post.)


NYT on freedom of religion

January 3, 2014

The New York Times (writing on Justice Sotomayor’s “perplexing” decision that people are better equipped to judge what is a burden to their religion than the New York Times) also has this to say about the Hobby Lobby case:

In November, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two challenges to the birth control mandate brought by secular, profit-making companies seeking to elevate the religious views of company owners over societal interests and the well-being of employees.

This makes clear what the NYT thinks of the matter, but really, how is this different from any freedom of religion case? Isn’t freedom of religion always about elevating religious freedom over the supposed societal interests that would be served by suppressing it?

From this, it’s not hard to infer the NYT’s opinion of religious freedom in general.

(Via Althouse.)


Arms cache found in Palestinian embassy

January 2, 2014

Maybe embassies for terrorist organizations isn’t such a great idea:

A large, illegal weapons stockpile was found Thursday at the home of the Palestinian ambassador in Prague, Jamel al-Jamal, Czech media reported, a day after al-Jamal was killed in an explosion there. Respekt, a Czech weekly newspaper, reported that the arsenal was enough to arm a unit of ten men. . .

Czech police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova confirmed that arms had been found in the ambassador’s residence, which is located within a newly constructed Palestinian diplomatic mission in the city.

Al-Jamal, 56, was killed Wednesday when a safe at his home exploded. . . Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said no foul play was suspected, and claimed that the safe had been left untouched for more than 20 years.

If you think that last sounds like a ridiculous lie, you’re right:

Later, however, El-Fahel told Czech radio that the safe had been in regular use. ”[The safe] was used on a daily basis at the embassy and it was opened and closed almost every day,” the embassy spokesman said.


Iraq crumbles

January 2, 2014

Fox News reports:

Violence in Iraq soared in 2013 to levels not seen in years, U.N. officials reported this week, stoking concerns that the country is descending into the kind of sectarian bloodshed that gripped the country before the U.S. troop surge.

The United Nations said 7,818 civilians were killed in 2013, a return to 2008 levels. The startling figure follows warnings from lawmakers and analysts that the violence threatens to undo hard-fought gains by the United States.

Worse still:

Al-Qaeda-affiliated gangs are fighting in the streets of Fallujah and Ramadi. This illustrates that the Sunnis of Anbar are so disillusioned with the Maliki government that the population is turning a blind eye to the presence of radicals. Terrorist gangs do not drive into cities unless they are confident that the residents will not betray or take up arms against them.

Remember that in 2010, Iraq was so quiet, the Obama administration was actually trying to take credit for it. But President Obama took steps to make sure that we have no influence there, and Iraq is now crumbling.


National security vs. female empowerment

January 2, 2014

Could there be any doubt which consideration would prevail?

More than half of female Marines in boot camp can’t do three pull-ups, the minimum standard that was supposed to take effect with the new year, prompting the Marine Corps to delay the requirement, part of the process of equalizing physical standards to integrate women into combat jobs. . .

The Marines had hoped to institute the pull-ups on the belief that pull-ups require the muscular strength necessary to perform common military tasks such as scaling a wall, climbing up a rope or lifting and carrying heavy munitions.

What business is the military in, anyway?


How to make people safer

January 2, 2014

According to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, make a new law that turns hitherto law-abiding persons into criminals, then arrest those people. Voila, people are safer!

Don’t ask whether there’s been any improvement in actual crime statistics. That would be rude.


Double standard

January 1, 2014

Here’s how NSA spying on Americans is reported during the Obama administration:

A German magazine lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency’s hacking unit Sunday, reporting that American spies intercept computer deliveries, exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijack Microsoft’s internal reporting system to spy on their targets.

I chose that article simply because it is ABC News’s most recently article on the topic. Now contrast how ABC News reported such things during the Bush administration:

Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

See how ABC ties the NSA’s actions to the Bush administration in the very first phrase (and then again in the third paragraph). But ABC doesn’t use the word “Obama” in the other article at all.


At least we’re not in Europe

January 1, 2014

The EU is banning cinnamon rolls.