Onion or no, this is utterly believable:
Study: U.S. Wastes 2 Million Hours Annually Figuring Out Where Tape Roll Starts
Onion or no, this is utterly believable:
Study: U.S. Wastes 2 Million Hours Annually Figuring Out Where Tape Roll Starts
The Washington Free Beacon reports:
Officials with the Department of State threatened to call security Monday on a Washington Free Beacon reporter who was attempting to report on a briefing held by senior Obama administration figures in Vienna on the eve of an expected nuclear agreement with Iran.
Two State Department officials booted the Free Beacon from a room where Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, was talking to reporters, despite the Free Beacon’s being credentialed by the Austrian government for the ongoing Iranian nuclear talks.
Western observers present in Vienna for the talks linked the State Department’s behavior to jitters over media coverage revealing a still growing list of concessions being made to Iran by the Obama administration. . .
“You have a press pass from the [European Union], not from me,” Turley said, after being informed that the Free Beacon was officially credentialed to cover the event.
Turley and her colleagues then threatened the reporter, instructing him to leave the room or be dealt with by “security.”
Taking such an extreme step to exclude a reporter from a press briefing does not indicate confidence. It also speaks poorly of the rest of the press that they accepted this.
While America focuses its attention on domestic concerns, the rest of the world keeps getting more dangerous:
U.S. intelligence agencies believe there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect key Syrian government strongholds if Islamist fighters and other rebels try to overrun them, U.S. officials said.
That’s strange, because Syria doesn’t have any chemical weapons any more. Barack Obama told me so:
The reason we did not [take military action] was because Assad gave up his chemical weapons. And that’s not speculation on our part. That, in fact, has been confirmed by the organization internationally that is charged with eliminating chemical weapons.
How is there a strong possibility Assad will use chemical weapons — on a large scale, no less — when he gave them all up? It almost sounds like our president wasn’t telling the truth.
(Via Morning Jolt.)
The Supreme Court ruled against the EPA today, finding that the EPA must take cost into account when deciding whether to regulate power plants. But don’t be too excited. (Or, if you favor regulating coal-fired power plants out of existence, don’t be too disappointed.) The Court leaves up to the EPA how to account for cost, so the EPA will simply come up with an accounting scheme that will justify doing the exact same thing.
The main benefit of this is to delay the regulations, perhaps long enough to elect a new president. But I wouldn’t even count on that. Rather than restarting the process from scratch, I expect that the EPA will try to rush through a new “appropriate and necessary” finding, and then use the same regulations it already devised.
When gun control advocates, such as Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), cannot make their case without lies, it gives one the strong impression that they do not have a real case at all:
Since Sandy Hook there has been a school shooting, on average, every week. How on earth can we live with ourselves if we do nothing?
One per week? We certainly haven’t seen anywhere close to that number on the news. Is it possible that so many could go unreported?
Obviously not. Nevertheless, the Washington Post Fact Checker column takes a look at the numbers. (SPOILER: They give it four pinnocchios.) The number is based on a report from a gun control organization called Everytown for Gun Safety. (ASIDE: It offends me that the gun prohibitionists are now trying to relabel gun bans as “guns safety.” Gun safety is important and we mustn’t lose the term.)
Everytown for Gun Safety claims there have been 126 school shootings since Sandy Hook, as of earlier this month. Almost none of those bear any resemblance to Sandy Hook, even including unsuccessful attempts. The Post came up with 10 such. In order to get their number an order of magnitude higher, they included suicides and gang-related violence. That’s a standard tactic for the prohibitionists to inflate their numbers, but even that didn’t get them there.
To get to 126, they also had to include virtually any discharge of a firearm on any premises connected with any kind of school. For example, they included the case in which a man accidentally shot himself while unloading his gun in the parking lot of Beaver County Community College.
(Via Hot Air.)
Our treaty with the Marshall Islands (formerly part of the US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and independent since 1986) provides that the United States takes full responsibility for their defense. In the words of the State Department:
The United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands, and the Government of the Marshall Islands is obligated to refrain from taking actions that would be incompatible with these security and defense responsibilities.
But when a Marshall Islands ship was seized by Iran, the Pentagon announced:
You thought that treaty meant something to the Obama administration? Think again.
UPDATE: David Kopel gives the Pentagon’s position more thorough consideration than it deserves, and finds it wanting.
(Via Hot Air.)
So, I saw this cross my Twitter feed:
This gives the impression that Texas is preparing to ignore the Supreme Court ruling. That would be surprising, and in fact, the actual facts are a bit different:
He said his office believed state religious freedom laws would allow clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they have sincerely held beliefs that prohibit them from doing so, and if there was someone else present – like a deputy – who would be willing to service the couple.
So, it’s not that Texas is going to deny same-sex couples a marriage license. Rather, some government agents empowered to issue licenses might decline to do so, leaving it to others to do so. Paxton went on to say that anyone who tried it should expect to get sued. (That’s for sure!)
This may or may not be legally defensible (I am not a lawyer), but I think it’s wrong. If it’s part of your job to issue marriage licenses, it’s part of your job. If government provides a service, its agents should provide that service to everyone entitled to receive it, without adding additional inconvenience for applicants you’d rather not serve. (ASIDE: This principle is routinely flouted in applications for firearms permits, and that too is an outrage.)
But let’s suppose that Texas really were going whole hog, and simply ignoring the Supreme Court ruling. That would certainly be wrong. It’s also exactly what the Democrats were talking about doing if they lost in King v. Burwell (the Obamacare subsidy case). From the pages of the New York Times:
Luckily the Constitution supplies a contingency plan, even if the administration doesn’t know it yet: If the administration loses in King, it can announce that it is complying with the Supreme Court’s judgment — but only with respect to the four plaintiffs who brought the suit.
This announcement would not defy a Supreme Court order, since the court has the formal power to order a remedy only for the four people actually before it. The administration would simply be refusing to extend the Supreme Court’s reasoning to the millions of people who, like the plaintiffs, may be eligible for tax credits but, unlike the plaintiffs, did not sue.
The whole matter became moot when they won the case, but back when they looked likely to lose, this scheme was the talk of the town. We certainly never saw anyone from the White House rule it out.
The analogous scheme regarding Obergefell would have been to issue marriage licenses to the 14 plaintiffs, but otherwise ignore it. I trust that progressives have no trouble seeing that such a response would be lawless and wrong. But that’s exactly what they wanted to do prop up Obamacare.
For some time, the ACLU has been lukewarm at best toward religious freedom, but now they have officially come out against it:
The ACLU supported the RFRA’s passage at the time because it didn’t believe the Constitution, as newly interpreted by the Supreme Court, would protect people such as Iknoor Singh, whose religious expression does not harm anyone else. But we can no longer support the law in its current form. For more than 15 years, we have been concerned about how the RFRA could be used to discriminate against others.
It’s useful to start by looking at what the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act actually says. The key provision says:
(a) In general
Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section.
Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
This means that “strict scrutiny” (the standard used for freedom of speech) applies in all religious freedom cases. This was the precedent until 1990, when the Supreme Court ruled the government could burden religious freedom pretty much as much as it wanted, provided that the law applied to everyone equally. Thus, for example, the government could ban circumcision — a key ritual for Jews for thousands of years — provided the ban applied to everyone equally. (Alas, this example is not entirely hypothetical.) The RFRA sought to restore the old standard; it passed almost unanimously and was signed by President Clinton. (The Supreme Court later narrowed it to federal cases only, which is what occasioned many states to pass their own RFRAs.)
So if you say you are against the RFRA, you need to say what you think should change. You have three possibilities: (1) the government should be able to burden religion without a compelling government interest, (2) the government should be able to burden religion more than necessary, or (3) both. So which is it, ACLU?
Okay, but what about discrimination? The ACLU opines:
In the states, legislators, governors and businesses are citing state religious freedom restoration acts to justify all manner of discrimination against gay men and lesbians, including at commercial establishments.
Okay, perhaps they have been citing it, but how many of them have been successful? I believe the answer is zero. (Indeed, hardly any have even gone to court.) The reason is that ending discrimination has been found to be a compelling government interest, and prohibiting it is arguably the least restrictive way of ensuring it doesn’t happen. (ASIDE: As a libertarian, I think that all virtually exchanges should be voluntary. But we’re talking here about what the law is.)
Is the ACLU conceding that ending discrimination is not a compelling government interest? That would be a surprise. And if not, what are they saying? They don’t say; in fact, they say nothing about the actual content of the law at all.
I think the whole discrimination thing is a smokescreen. This is what it’s all really about:
In the Hobby Lobby case last year, a Supreme Court majority blessed the use of the RFRA by businesses to deny employees insurance coverage for contraception, a benefit guaranteed by law, if those businesses object on religious grounds and there is some other means of furthering the government’s interests.
Yes, it did. The Obama administration (not the Congress, mind you, just the HHS department) sought to force Christian employers to violate their beliefs by paying for abortion drugs. This plainly violates strict scrutiny, since the government could easily arrange for employees to have such drugs without requiring the employer to pay for them — for example by the government paying for them itself.
This would be just like the government mandating that all restaurants serve bacon (yum!) — including kosher and halal restaurants.
Except that it’s not Jews or Muslims. It’s not native Americans. It’s not Sikhs. It’s Christians, and I think that’s the point.
The ACLU suddenly realized that it was against religious freedom as soon as it was used by Christians, instead of various religious minorities.
Remember the IRS scandal? It faded from the headlines, but it never ended, as the IRS never actually changed its behavior.
One of the organizations that the IRS has been discriminating against is Z Street, a pro-Israel group. Z Street sued the IRS, demanding that its tax exempt application be considered in a fair process. The IRS argued in court that Z Street had no right to a fair process.
No kidding, that’s exactly what they argued. The IRS argued that, since Z Street could appeal the rejection of its application after nine months, they had no need for legal action:
The agency argued that Z Street was seeking non-profit status, and that this could be remedied outside of court if the group waited for the government-prescribed 270-day period process where it was not subject to discriminatory delays because of its positions on Israel.and then petitioned the for an IRS ruling.
However, Z Street argued that it was not seeking non-profit status, but rather a fair application process where it was not subject to discriminatory delays because of its positions on Israel.
During the hearing, Chief Judge Merrick Garland was highly critical of the IRS’s defense.
“You don’t really mean that, right?” said Judge Garland to the IRS attorney. “Because the next couple words would be the IRS is free to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint, religion, race [for 270 days]. You don’t actually think that?” . . .
While the panel of judges was more subdued in the Friday ruling, it still dismissed the government’s argument against Z Street.
What possible reason is there to suppose that that isn’t exactly what the IRS thinks? We’ll have the opportunity to find out now, as Z Street finally has the right of discovery.
Dylan Byers writes:
No matter their perceived editorial biases, it would be difficult to imagine legacy news brands like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, NPR or Time magazine taking sides in a political debate that they were expected to cover. The Times, Post or Journal editorial boards would surely be expected to take a stand, but not so the news divisions.
You might have thought so, but:
As a libertarian, I’ve long felt that people should be able to form whatever partnerships they want to form, without interference from the government. However, as a constitutionalist, I’ve long felt that that change should be made by the legislative process, not by judicial fiat. In any case, this outcome was so obviously going to happen, I cannot muster much satisfaction or much outrage. I pretty much priced it in long ago.
Ideally, the government should now get out of the marriage business entirely. Let any two (or more) people form whatever relationship they choose, and then let society decide which ones they wish to respect. If not all parts of society make the same decision, that’s fine.
But the progressives are clearly against that outcome. They want everyone to be coerced into respecting same-sex marriages, and indeed into participating in the ceremonies. We’ve already seen bakers threatened with ruinous fines, and we’ve even seen ministers threatened with arrest, for refusing to participate. As the Chief Justice’s dissent observed (p. 28), Obama’s Solicitor General has basically promised to try to revoke the tax exemption of churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
So if there used to be some tension between libertarianism and constitutionalism, there won’t be any going forward.
What happens next? When it comes to social issues, most American opinion always sides against the side they see as the aggressor. Much of America has already decided who they see as the aggressor, but media is key for swinging the middle. Ordinarily, they paint the conservative side as the aggressor, and the progressive side as the victim. They were able to do that for same-sex marriage (“why not let these loving couples get married?”), but it will be much harder when it comes to punishing churches.
POSTSCRIPT: For a particularly bizarre instance of coercion, consider this: A same-sex couple asked a jeweler to make their custom-made wedding rings. The jeweler, who was personally opposed to same-sex marriage, nevertheless made them the rings. The couple were happy with the outcome. However, when they subsequently discovered that the jeweler opposed same-sex marriage, they demanded a refund! The jeweler, having done exactly the work requested of him, naturally refused to refund the money, but he eventually agreed after heavy pressure on online media was brought to bear. So what exactly is a jeweler supposed to do?
I guess it’s time to abandon the old-fashioned notion that the meaning of a law has anything much to do with the words that make up the law:
You would think the answer would be obvious—so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it. . . Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is “established by the State.” It is hard to come up with a clearer way to limit tax credits to state Exchanges than to use the words “established by the State.” And it is hard to come up with a reason to include the words “by the State” other than the purpose of limiting credits to state Exchanges.
From now on, the way our system works is: (1) Congress passes a law; it doesn’t much matter what it says because, (2) the President then does whatever he feels like to achieve what he deems to be the aims of the law.
If, to make the law work, someone who the law plainly says does not have to pay a penalty, must nevertheless be ordered to pay a penalty, he has to pay. That’s how our system works now. (Uh, I mean tax, not penalty. Sorry.)
POSTSCRIPT: Ann Althouse says that Republicans should be glad, because this is politically better for them. That’s only true if we value the GOP’s political fortunes over the rule of law.
In light of recent events, I think that it is indeed time to ban that old symbol of slavery, racism, and division. It should have no place in today’s society. So, once and for all, let’s get rid of this:
The legacy of the Democratic Party is thoroughly entwined with the Confederacy, and every bit as appalling. For decades, the Democrats were the political vehicle for the perpetuation of slavery. Slavery’s abolition only became possible when internal struggles among the Democrats allowed Abraham Lincoln (our first Republican president) to be elected. A Democratic president (James Buchanan) shipped weapons to the south in advance of the Civil War. Even once war was underway, the Democratic platform called for allowing the south to secede.
And, of course, the Democratic party continued its legacy of racism long after it failed to preserve slavery. All of the implementers and defenders of the Jim Crow south were Democrats, and of course it was a Democratic president (Woodrow Wilson) who resegregated the military and federal government.
UPDATE: Randy Barnett has more on the astonishing racism of Democratic hero Woodrow Wilson. (Although one of the pieces he quotes whitewashes Wilson’s non-racist evils. I wouldn’t say that the only US President to hold political prisoners was particularly interested in the “extension of democratic liberties.”)
Another troubling aspect of the Obama administration is its politicization of the government’s statistical agencies, which are supposed to be free of politics. In the latest instance, the FBI commissioned a bogus report on mass shootings, which it has now been forced to retract:
Last September the Obama administration produced an FBI report that said mass shooting attacks and deaths were up sharply—by an average annual rate of about 16% between 2000 and 2013. Moreover, the problem was worsening. “The findings establish an increasing frequency of incidents,” said the authors. “During the first 7 years included in the study, an average of 6.4 incidents occurred annually. In the last 7 years of the study, that average increased to 16.4 incidents annually.” . . .
But late last week, J. Pete Blair and M. Hunter Martaindale, two academics at Texas State University who co-authored the FBI report, acknowledged that “our data is imperfect.” They said that the news media “got it wrong” last year when they “mistakenly reported mass shootings were on the rise.”
Alas, but surprisingly, the retraction was issued with much, much less fanfare than the original bogus report.
It’s worth noting that criminologist John Lott debunked the study almost immediately, while the report’s authors dithered for the better part of a year before admitting he was right.
First, Obama decided to ignore the law and admit illegal immigrants by executive order. Second, when a federal judge was examining the order, the Obama administration lied to the judge:
At issue is whether the DOJ misled the judge into believing that a plank of the Obama program — giving deportation reprieves to thousands of young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — would not go forward before he made a ruling on a request to halt it. In fact, federal officials had given more than 108,000 people three-year reprieves before that date and granted them work permits under the program.
So I guess we shouldn’t really be surprised that, third, the Obama administration kept doing their thing even once the (angry) judge ordered them to stop:
The government “erroneously” doled out about 2,000 expanded immigrant work permit authorizations under President Obama’s controversial executive actions, even after a federal judge blocked the move, the Justice Department says.
“The Government sincerely regrets these circumstances and is taking immediate steps to remedy these erroneous three-year terms,” the Department of Justice wrote in a court advisory filed late Thursday in the Southern District of Texas.
The advisory comes after District Court Judge Andrew Hanen halted the implementation of the executive actions, which defer deportations for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally and provide them with expanded access to work permits, until the courts could decide whether the policies are constitutional.
The Obama administration has nothing but contempt, not only for Congress, but also for the courts. That is, he has nothing but contempt for any branch of the US government other than his own. The Constitution envisions our government as a three-legged stool, but Barack Obama sees it as a pogo stick.
The NYT reports:
The United States recovered thousands of old chemical weapons in Iraq from 2004 to 2009 and destroyed almost all of them in secret and via open-air detonation, according to a written summary of its activities prepared by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international body that monitors implementation of the global chemical weapons treaty. . .
It included a table disclosing limited details on 95 separate recoveries and destructions of chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, for a total of 4,530 munitions from May 2004 through February 2009 — a period of often intense fighting in Iraq.
The United States later recovered more Iraqi chemical weapons, pushing its tally to 4,996 by early 2011, according to redacted intelligence documents obtained by The Times via the Freedom of Information Act.
The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.
The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Most people believe that Bush was wrong (or even lied) about Iraqi WMDs. As this illustrates, he was not. Nevertheless, the Bush administration has no one to blame but themselves. They knew this stuff back when they were being accused of lying about WMDs, but they never bothered to put it out there. Now the truth is out, but no one is paying attention.
It’s very helpful for the University of California to put out a list of ideas you’re not allowed to hold. Thanks guys!
For example, one of those banned ideas is “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” That, like the other 50-odd prohibited sentiments, are “microaggressions,” a new term that is taking the politically correct world by storm. It provides a invaluable tool for proclaiming any sentiment a progressive disagrees with to be racist, even though it isn’t. (If it were actually racist, you wouldn’t be bothering to call it a microaggression.)
It is a sign of the times that the University of California, having been exposed for this, doesn’t even have the decency to backpedal in shame:
The university stood by the use of the guides.
“Given the diverse backgrounds of our students, faculty and staff, UC offered these seminars to make people aware of how their words or actions may be interpreted when used in certain contexts. Deans and department heads were invited, but not required, to attend the seminars,” University of California Office of the President spokeswoman Shelly Meron told FoxNews.com.
She added that the university had not banned the words when it labeled them as examples of micro-aggressions and insisted that the university system is “committed to upholding, encouraging and preserving academic freedom and the free flow of ideas.”
Meron said that they have one more seminar scheduled that makes use of the training guides.
Terrific! We are committed to the free flow of ideas; we just want you to know that expressing certain ideas (like merit-based hiring) will brand you a racist. I’m sure that untenured faculty will take great comfort from that reassurance and will feel perfectly free to speak their minds.
Ironically, the University of California was the birthplace of the so-called “free-speech movement“, but it’s quite clear now that the movement was never about free-speech per se, but their speech. They were all for free-speech when they were in the minority, but now that they control the campus, everyone must toe the line.
POSTSCRIPT: Eugene Volokh takes a look at the University of California’s unconvincing explanation.
The UK, having largely banned guns, is shocked to learn that non-firearms can also be used to commit crimes. Hence this: “British Police Call On Nation To ‘Save a Life, Surrender Your Knife’ As ‘Knife Violence’ Continues.” No word on whether the next step is sticks or chains. Rocks may take a few years.
The director of the OPM says no one is responsible for the catastrophic OPM hack:
“Fox News has learned that the number of victims of a pair of massive cyberattacks on U.S. government personnel files has soared to at least 18 million — but the head of the hacked Office of Personnel Management refuses to blame anyone in her agency.
“I don’t believe anyone is personally responsible,” OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said Tuesday. . .
Grilled on whether anyone takes responsibility, Archuleta said only the perpetrators should be blamed. . .
Only the perpetrators should be blamed; the government has no responsibility to secure its data!
One good person to blame would be whoever thought it would be a good idea to give root access to the Chinese, but Archuleta’s remarks prove that the idiocy started at the top. Take a look at the White House announcement of her appointment. It contains not one word on any actual qualification that Archuleta had for the job. Let’s go through each paragraph:
It’s clear what happened here: It’s only the Office of Personnel Management; what difference does it make who the director is? It’s the perfect place to appoint a minority with political connections.
Except that it did matter. Oops.
UPDATE: It occurs to me that the title isn’t really fair to bureaucrats. A typical bureaucrat at least has experience with bureaucracy, but there’s no evidence Archuleta even had that. A little slavish devotion to procedure might actually have helped here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Charlie Martin writes about how this kind of disaster goes about happening.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Archuleta’s complete lack of any qualifications for the job.
In a softening of longstanding policy, the Obama administration will tell families of Americans held by terror groups that they can communicate with captors and even pay ransom without fear of prosecution — part of a broad review of U.S. hostage guidelines that will be released Wednesday. . .
Two people familiar with the review said there will be no formal change to the law, which explicitly makes it a crime to provide money or other material support to terror organizations. However, the administration will make clear that the Justice Department has never prosecuted anyone for paying ransom and that that will continue to be the case.
POSTSCRIPT: And, of course, note how this was done; no change in the law, just an official announcement that the law will be ignored.