The ATF

November 27, 2014

. . . is so incompetent, it defies belief. And dishonest too: the story only came to light because they refused to pay the rent they owed. The whole agency should be scrapped.

(Via Instapundit.)


A new IRS scandal

November 25, 2014

The Obama administration has admitted in court filings that the IRS shared taxpayers’ information with the White House, to the tune of 2500 documents. A court earlier shot down the administration’s effort to withhold the documents, and their very existence.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


Hagel sacked

November 24, 2014

Surprise, surprise:

The officials say the White House has lost confidence in Hagel to carry out his role at the Pentagon. According to one senior official, “He wasn’t up to the job.”

What? Hagel wasn’t up to the job? You could knock me over with a feather!

The fact that Hagel wasn’t up to the job was obvious, and was illustrated in full glory during his confirmation hearing. He was confirmed for the sole reason that he was thought to carry some political benefit: a Republican to sell Obama’s weak defense policies.

All we’re seeing here is the White House determining that he carries no political advantage commensurate with his incompetence.

UPDATE: This is really telling:

While aides described the departure as a mutual decision based on shifting priorities at the Department of Defense, there are signs that tensions between Hagel and the White House contributed to the personnel change. . . Ultimately Hagel believed the pivot to combating ISIS represented a dramatic change from the types of reforms he had hoped to accomplish during his tenure at the Pentagon, aides said.

White House and Defense officials said Hagel was tapped to spearhead efforts like combating sexual assault in the ranks and trimming the Pentagon’s budget to deal with sequestration.

Obama was okay with Hagel when Hagel’s job was to impose the president’s agenda on the military. But when the military actually had to do some national defense, Hagel had to go.

(Via Instapundit.)


L’etat, c’est moi

November 21, 2014

The Constitution: He shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.

Barack Obama: Screw that!

The remarkable thing about Obama’s speech is the word that it did not contain: Constitution. Also: “separation of powers.”

POSTSCRIPT: He claims that he wants Congress to pass an immigration bill, but that’s a lie. Without this action, there was a chance for a bill. A lot of Republicans favored one. But no more. There will be no immigration bill. He has poisoned that well for the foreseeable future. On purpose. Obama doesn’t want an immigration bill, he wants a fight.


Maryland buys environmentalist sermons

November 19, 2014

The Washington Post reports:

The news was as welcome to the group of Prince George’s County pastors as a plague of locusts: Maryland’s controversial “stormwater remediation fee” applied to all property owners, including houses of worship. Depending on the acreage, churches faced a tax of hundreds, even thousands of dollars. . .

After months of negotiation with county environmental director Adam Ortiz, the pastors emerged with a rebate deal that will significantly cut the fees if churches adopt programs and equipment that will curb runoff, lessen pollution and help bolster the environment.

So far, about 30 churches have applied. Forestville [New Redeemer Baptist Church] was the first. They are planning to install rain barrels, build rain gardens, plant trees and, perhaps, replace their blacktop with permeable pavement. The government will cover most of the cost.

Fine. Sounds like a waste of money to me, but that’s Maryland.

But then there’s this:

Thomas and other pastors also have agreed to start “green” ministries to maintain the improvements at their churches, and to preach environmentally focused sermons to educate their congregations.

What?! This is flagrantly unconstitutional. The state cannot impose a tax on churches, and then waive the tax if the church preaches sermons to the state’s liking.

But you expect the government, particularly in Maryland, to try get to gain control over churches. Governments have always done that. (That’s how America got founded, if you recall.) But I’m disgusted with the church for agreeing to go along.

(Via Instapundit.)


Say it ain’t so!

November 19, 2014

What? Obama outright lied about Obamacare? Astonishing:

At a town hall meeting where he campaigned for health care legislation in 2009, President Barack Obama pledged to voters that he did not want any tax on health insurance plans he perceived as wastefully generous to ever impact average Americans. But in recent comments by one of the men who helped draft the legislation, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, that is not only precisely what will happen — but that was the intention of the tax.

White House officials had no comment, despite repeated requests by CNN.

Here’s Jake Tapper explaining the controversy, with lots of clips of Obama and his people denying what they expressly intended to do:

Tapper’s video embeds a lot of good quotes, but he misses a very important one. Here’s Gruber explaining how Obama was personally involved in designing the tax on health care benefits (the so-called Cadillac tax):

He said ‘it’s just not going to happen politically.  The bill will not pass.  How do we manage to get there through phase-ins and other things?’ And we talked about it. He was just very interested in that topic.”

Just to be clear, people think the “Cadillac tax” is on high value health care plans. It’s not. The law is designed, deliberately, as Gruber is good enough to explain, to tax all health care benefits eventually.

Gruber says this is good economic policy. I think he’s right, for the most part. Employer-provided health care shouldn’t have a special tax status. It encourages obtaining health insurance from the employer, which insulates people from their health care costs, which results in higher costs. We should tax health care plans, in combination with a tax cut or tax credit so that it’s not a net tax hike.

That, of course, is exactly John McCain’s health care proposal from 2008. The one that was savagely demagogued by Barack Obama. Obama said he opposed taxing health care plans, and McCain was terrible for suggesting such a thing. The man is a liar.


Gruber

November 19, 2014

(Via Hot Air.)


DOJ admits lying to appeals court

November 14, 2014

Ars Technica reports:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a remarkable letter (PDF) this morning in which the Department of Justice admits its lawyer misled a panel of judges during oral arguments last month over the legality of National Security Letters, or NSLs.

To the surprise of some observers, during his rebuttal, Justice Department lawyer Douglas Letter told the three judges that recipients of NSLs could, in fact, speak about the letters in general terms. They could discuss the fact that they had received a letter and could engage in public debate about the “quality” of the NSLs they had received, he said.

But actually, they can’t. Letter’s statements contradicted longstanding policy, and EFF apparently asked the DOJ for clarification. The result is that DOJ has sent a note to the Clerk of Court for the 9th Circuit to correct the error, clearing up “an inadvertent misstatement by government counsel during the rebuttal portion of the argument.”

(Via Instapundit.)


“Naked power grab”

November 13, 2014

That’s how NYT op-ed writer Linda Greenhouse describes the outrage of the Supreme Court granting review of a lower court ruling:

This is a naked power grab by conservative justices who two years ago just missed killing the Affordable Care Act in its cradle, before it fully took effect. When the court agreed to hear the first case, there actually was [post-hoc rationalization omitted] . . .

Not so this time. There is simply no way to describe what the court did last Friday as a neutral act. Now that the justices have blown their own cover. . .

I’m certain that Linda Greenhouse is aware that the Supreme Court can review any lower court ruling it chooses, and indeed it is its duty to do so. This idea that the Supreme Court can only review a ruling when there exists a circuit split is not only wrong, it’s just plain strange. In many of the left’s most celebrated cases (e.g., Brown v. Board of Education or Roe v. Wade.) there was no circuit split, nor even a ruling from the appeals court.

POSTSCRIPT: The main body of the piece is a plea to Chief Justice Roberts to rule for Obamacare again, which would be pathetic if it hadn’t already worked once. Having knuckled under once already, Roberts will face no end to pressure. We’ll see if he wilts again.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: By the way, a naked power grab is one party pushing through a far-sweeping bill they haven’t even read, with no votes from the opposition party, and making full use of every one of their tainted Senate seats (Franken (MN), Begich (AK), Kirk (MA), Specter (PA)), after the voters have already repudiated the bill.

UPDATE: Orin Kerr adds Lawrence v. Texas as a recent case without a circuit split that Greenhouse specifically celebrated.

(Via Althouse.)


Priorities

November 12, 2014

The NYT reports:

In his first year as secretary of state, Mr. Kerry joined with the Russians to push Syria to turn over its chemical weapons, persuaded the Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct peace talks, and played the closing role in the interim nuclear agreement with Iran. But while the public’s attention has been on his diplomacy in the Middle East, behind the scenes at the State Department Mr. Kerry has initiated a systematic, top-down push to create an agencywide focus on global warming.

An agency-wide focus on global warming. I guess all that other stuff must be finished. Glad to hear the world’s a safe enough place now that we can waste our time on such things.

Still, based on Clinton’s and Kerry’s records at State, maybe an agency-wide focus is the best possible way to prevent agreement on global warming.

(Via Instapundit.)


Don’t you dare return a not guilty verdict

November 7, 2014

The latest incident in the Obama administration’s war on due process:

In a federal probe of Princeton University, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights faulted the Ivy League university for violating the federally recommended standard of proof for cases of rape and sexual assault.

Princeton’s offenses:

  • Treating the accused as innocent until proven guilty.
  • Prohibiting double-jeopardy.
  • Informing the accused of the charges against him.
  • Allowing the accused to call witnesses.
  • Allowing the accused to have legal representation.

So the Obama administration is pretty much against any kind of due process for the accused. But, incredibly, that’s not even the worst part of the story:

OCR also faulted Princeton for not finding men guilty in three cases.

Forget the procedures entirely. Princeton was supposed to find them guilty.

Remember when people suggested that having a constitutional law professor as president would mean greater respect for civil liberties?

(Via Instapundit.)


Subpoena, schmubpoena

November 7, 2014

The IRS hasn’t even tried to recover Lois Lerner’s emails from backup:

Judicial Watch announced today that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) admitted to the court that it failed to search any of the IRS standard computer systems for the “missing” emails of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials. The admission appears in an IRS legal brief opposing the Judicial Watch request that a federal court judge allow discovery into how “lost and/or destroyed” IRS records relating to the targeting of conservative groups may be retrieved. The IRS is fighting Judicial Watch’s efforts to force testimony and document production about the IRS’ loss of records in Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation about the IRS targeting of Tea Party and other opponents of President Obama(Judicial Watch v. IRS (No. 1:13-cv-1559)). The lawsuit is before U.S. District Court Judge Emmett G. Sullivan.

It’s almost like the IRS doesn’t want to find those emails.

(Previous post.)


The “I won” president

November 5, 2014

The prez speaks:

I still believe in what I said when I was first elected six years ago last night. All the maps plastered across our TV screens today and for all the cynics who say otherwise, I continue to believe we are simply more than just a collection of red and blue states. We are the United States.

Oh, good lord. You can’t seriously be going back to that now, after everything you’ve done for the last six years.

(Via Althouse.)


The costs of war, and avoiding war

November 5, 2014

Conor Friedersdorf, a writer for the Atlantic and formerly a ghost-writer for Andrew Sullivan, tweets:

This is staggeringly naive. First of all, it’s untrue on the face of it. The Iraq War, by the most dramatic estimates, cost $2.2 trillion over 8.5 years. That’s $258 billion per year. In 2013, the federal government spent $851 billion on Medicare and Medicaid, $808 billion on Social Security, and $373 billion on “other mandatory spending”, which is mostly entitlements. Any one of those is larger than the Iraq War. Total them together and you’re spending the entire cost of the Iraq War every single year.

There’s nothing pricier than entitlements.

Moreover, that estimate doesn’t take into account opportunity cost. What does it cost not to go to war? England and France saved some money by not going to war in 1935, and 1936, and 1938, and 1939, but it cost them dearly from 1940 to 1945.

Naturally, anti-war people — including, presumably, Mr. Friedersdorf — think that there was no opportunity cost. They believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were unnecessary and no adverse effects could possibly have resulted from not fighting them. Fine, I know that’s an article of faith among that set, but we don’t agree. And, Mr. Friedersdorf, you’re the one addressing us.


Press agrees not to report Ebola news

November 5, 2014

I guess the public has no right to know:

The Associated Press and other press outlets have agreed not to report on suspected cases of Ebola in the United States until a positive viral RNA test is completed.

I would be very interested to know who it was that requested they adopt this policy. Usually the press rejects such requests, such as when national security is at stake. But I guess “avoiding a panic” has is important in a way that national security just isn’t.

(Via Instapundit.)


Woot

November 4, 2014

Glad to see Republicans winning elections all across the country. Dismayed to see Pennsylvania bucking the trend.


Dithering kills

November 3, 2014

Fox News reports:

As early as May, the Obama administration had strong and specific information about the location of American James Foley and other hostages held in Syria, a source close to the discussions told Fox News, but the rescue mission was not approved until early July.

The gap raises new and compelling questions about whether the operation to save the American and British hostages was unnecessarily delayed for at least five weeks because the administration wanted the intelligence to develop further. . .

Other sources backed up the account provided to Fox News. The timeline seems to conflict with administration claims that the White House signed off on the operation as soon as the intelligence allowed.

(Emphasis mine.)

Anyone can make mistakes, but these guys never own up to anything.


Postman dumps Republican mail

November 3, 2014

The Blaze reports:

A Wisconsin mailman is under investigation for dumping hundreds of letters supporting Republican candidates in the trash, according to the Wisconsin Reporter. . .

Robert Rukes, a special agent with the U.S. Postal Service inspector general’s office in Chicago, told the Wisconsin Reporter the agency’s initial findings are that the mail carrier wasn’t trying to sabotage the GOP before Tuesday’s midterm elections, he was likely just “overwhelmed.”

No, I’m sure it wasn’t partisan. Just like it wasn’t partisan when CBS aired an attack story against President Bush based on fake documents, and coordinated the story it with John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Just like it wasn’t partisan when the IRS searched for “tea party” to find non-profit organizations to harass. Just like it wasn’t partisan when voting machines turned Republican votes to Democratic votes. Just like it wasn’t partisan when Obama’s justice department dismissed voter intimidation charges against the Black Panthers, after the case was already won.

Of course it wasn’t partisan; it never is.

(Via Instapundit.)


Democrats against motherhood

November 1, 2014

President Obama finally came out against stay-at-home moms:

Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.

It’s safe to assume they will be walking this one back, but what he says off-the-cuff is a better guide to his gut than what they’ll put out today.


NYT: Bush covered up WMD finds

November 1, 2014

Old and busted: “There were no WMDs in Iraq. Bush lied!” New hotness: “There were lots of WMDs in Iraq. Bush lied!”

Yes, in a story so bizarre I can scarcely believe I’m seeing it, the New York Times is attacking President Bush for covering up all the chemical weapons that have been found in Iraq:

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule. In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“What?!” you say, “Chemical weapons were found in Iraq? So Bush is vindicated!”

Not so fast, the New York Times spin-machine is on the case. You see, the weapons they found were — the NYT insists — the wrong ones:

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

To understand what they are talking about, we need to think back to 1998. In 1998, Saddam Hussein ejected weapons inspectors from Iraq after they discovered Saddam was hiding chemical weapons from inspectors. It defies logic that Saddam would destroy his chemical arsenal after ejecting weapons inspectors, but would do so in secret so sanctions could remain in place. In 2003, it seemed certain they were still there. But we didn’t find them.

So what became of them? One theory says that most of them were shipped to Syria. This theory is supported by reports from Iraqi defectors, second-hand accounts from Russians who reportedly assisted, satellite imagery, and witnesses on the ground. But none of it is conclusive. (ASIDE: A well-cited Wired article says categorically that it didn’t happen. It’s evidence is two-fold: (a) Saddam wouldn’t have done it, and (b) if he had, there would have been satellite evidence. But (a) is pure conjecture,  and there was satellite evidence.)

But even if much or most of them were shipped to Syria, it seemed unlikely that all of them could have been, particularly in light of the Duelfer report’s conclusion that if weapons were shipped to Syria, it was done unofficially. So the question remained, what became of them?

Now we know. They were still in Iraq, scattered here and there. Thousands of them.

Why are we only hearing about this now? The Bush administration decided not to talk about the weapons after the war, preferring to move forward than re-argue the past. This was a terrible decision, as it allowed the left to build up a mythology of the Iraq war unchallenged. The left, of course, didn’t want to talk about it because it contracted that very mythology it was constructing.

So why are we hearing about it now? Because — good news! — those weapons are now in the hands of ISIS. When ISIS uses them, as surely they will, the news would come out, so they want to get their story straight now.

But how do they do that? After years of “Bush lied!” how do they admit the weapons were there all along? And more importantly, how do they admit that, and yet not see Bush vindicated? Well, the New York Times rose to the challenge.

The key is to make a distinction between old weapons and new ones:

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

and, just to be totally clear:

The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush insisted that Mr. Hussein was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of international will and at the world’s risk. United Nations inspectors said they could not find evidence for these claims.

The new story goes like this: we were told there was an active weapons program, and they never said anything about old weapons, so Bush still lied!

In fact, the new story is a lie. Bush never drew such a distinction. The New York Times offers not a single line from any speech in support of it. Gabriel Malor at Ace of Spades goes through all of Bush’s most famous speeches and finds not one in which he focused on new weapons to the exclusion of old ones.

In fact, the last quote above (“did not support . . . the rationale”) doesn’t even fit into the flow of the story. It looks like it was inserted by an editor who was concerned that the story was not sufficiently clear that the “Bush lied!” narrative is still in effect. The New York Times sets the agenda for leftist spin, so it’s important to make it clear.

But the story goes further. It not only charges Bush with lying about the new weapons, it actually alleges that the government covered up the old ones. That strikes me as trying too hard. Sure, Bush — unwisely — preferred not to talk about the WMD issue after the war, but is anyone going to believe that he would actually cover the evidence that would exonerate him? That doesn’t even make sense.

Our narrative makes more sense, and also has the benefit of being true: The United States and its allies invaded Iraq to build a stable democracy in the Middle East and to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. By early 2008, both aims seemed accomplished: Iraq was stable and had soldiers guarding Al Muthanna and other sites. Then Obama abandoned Iraq and both accomplishments collapsed.

This story, published a few weeks ago, seems to have settled into obscurity for now. But when ISIS uses these weapons, as seems woefully inevitable, it will be everywhere.


An unintentional revelation

November 1, 2014

It seems that the left is puzzled by the fact that, although Republicans oppose President Obama, Republicans don’t seem to want Obama murdered. They are pretty sure than Republicans’ concern about Obama’s safety must be feigned. Together with their own years of fantasies about President Bush being assassinated, it tells us a lot about how they see the world.

(Via Instapundit.)