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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Glad to see Republicans winning elections all across the country. Dismayed to see Pennsylvania bucking the trend.
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.
Anyone can make mistakes, but these guys never own up to anything.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The good news is the Washington Supreme Court has upheld the Constitutional principle of the presumption of innocence in rape cases. The bad news is it wasn’t unanimous. Three of nine justices were willing to increase the defendant’s burden from reasonable doubt to preponderance of the evidence.
For years liberals have proclaimed that the rights of the accused are sacrosanct. Better a hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man convicted. Clearly, many of them didn’t mean it.
Senior Defense and intelligence officials say the vast majority of detainees released from Guantanamo don’t return to the fight — and of those who do, relatively few have made it to Syria.
Of the 620 detainees released from Guantanamo Bay, 180 have returned or are suspected to have returned to the battlefield.
Rest assured, only about a quarter of those released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to terrorism. Awesome.
The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a [expletive],” this official said. . .
This comment is representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis. . .
Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and “Aspergery.” (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.)
The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”
Which is to say that Netanyahu is unwilling to make any more pointless concessions to an enemy who has no interest in peace. Begin had a legitimate partner (Egypt). Rabin’s Oslo accord seemed like a good idea at the time, but turned out to be a historic blunder which, by allowing the PLO to take charge of Gaza and the West Bank, incalculably harmed Israeli security. Sharon unilaterally disengaged from Gaza and southern Lebanon. The jury is still out on whether that helped or hurt. If Netanyahu had “guts”, he’d be willing to damage Israeli interests.
For their part, Obama administration officials express, in the words of one official, a “red-hot anger” at Netanyahu for pursuing settlement policies on the West Bank, and building policies in Jerusalem, that they believe have fatally undermined Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace process.
There’s some projection going on here. Israeli settlements have fatally undermined Kerry’s peace process (note: if it were working, it would be Obama’s) because Obama unwisely and unnecessarily decided to link negotiations to his demand for a settlement freeze.
And finally this:
This official agreed that Netanyahu is a [expletive] on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a “coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. “It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”
Way to bury the lede! The Obama administration pressured Israel not to act against Iran’s nuclear program? This isn’t surprising, but I don’t think it’s been confirmed before.
And Netanyahu is a “coward” for yielding to the administration’s pressure. Let this be noted by everyone who deals with this administration: If you do what Obama demands, you will only earn his contempt.
UPDATE: John Hinderaker makes an important observation that actually casts this in an even worse light:
But consider: the “senior Obama administration official” made the comment in a conversation with a reporter, Goldberg, who was working on a story about the strained relationship between the Obama and Netanyahu governments. He must have known that the “chickenshit” characterization would be quoted, albeit anonymously. He must have wanted it to be quoted. He must have known that it would garner a great deal of attention.
Stupid [expletive] indeed.
UPDATE: David Bernstein has an insightful post on how Obama severely misjudged Israeli politics:
The Obama Administration came in to office thinking it could either force Netanyahu to make concessions, or force his government to fall. Both the Shamir and the first Netanyahu governments made concessions and ultimately got tossed out by the voters after tensions rose with the U.S., so this was not a completely unreasonable assumption. . .
The very popular (in Israel) Bill Clinton confronting an only mildly popular Netanyahu in 1998 played very differently in Israel than a very unpopular Obama confronting a popular Netanyahu over the last several years. . .
Instead, Netanyahu has managed to stay his own course, and still is in no danger of losing his parliamentary majority. Hence administration frustration and “[expletive].”
Why is Obama so unpopular in Israel? Because Israelis have paid attention to a lot of things that Americans have not. Bernstein lists lots of examples. It’s not for no reason that Israeli opinion on whether Obama is friend of Israel is within the margin of error of zero.
The IRS is stealing people’s money with no justification:
The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report. . .
Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up. . .
On Thursday, in response to questions from The New York Times, the I.R.S. announced that it would curtail the practice, focusing instead on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally or seizure is deemed justified by “exceptional circumstances.”
Note particularly the part I’ve emphasized. They are going to focus on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally. Meaning they haven’t been thus far.
They’ve been taking people’s money when they don’t even believe (much less have any proof) that it was acquired illegally.
These people are thieves, plain and simple.
(Via Hot Air.)
The latest Palestinian terror attack:
A three-month old girl, identified by her grandfather as Chaya Zissel, was killed and several US citizens and Israelis were wounded Wednesday evening when a convicted Palestinian terrorist from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan rammed his vehicle into a crowd of people in the capital. . .
The terrorist was shot by police and late Wednesday evening he died in hospital.
The Associated Press ran this headline:
Israeli police shoot man in East Jerusalem
POSTSCRIPT: The first paragraph makes clear that, even at the time, they had enough information to know their headline to be totally inappropriate.
Robert Kennedy Jr. says, apparently in earnest, that people who doubt global warming should be put in prison:
Somehow liberals have a reputation for supporting free speech, but I note that they only favored free speech when they were in the minority.
Let me say first that I support military action against ISIS (or ISIL or the Islamic State, if you prefer). But I think that whatever we do ought to be serious and have a good chance of success. Otherwise, it looks like the president is just pretending to action because he’s suffering in the polls.
That exactly how President Obama’s ISIS speech looks. It’s so full of idiocy and mendacity, we have to go through it line-by-line:
My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
First line, first lie. He doesn’t want to do anything of the sort; he’s being forced to do it by the weight of public opinion.
As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Oh, that again. By now, boasting about Bin Laden, Obama sounds like a middle-aged man bragging about how he scored the touchdown that won the big game in high school.
We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. . .
Actually, the situation in Yemen looks very bad. But I guess it’s true that we’ve targeted them.
Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents.
ISIL’s interpretation of Islam is incorrect, according to the President of the United States. A presidential fatwa, as it were.
President Bush started this line in 2001, when he tried to assure the Muslim world that the war on terror was not a war on Muslims. That was probably the right thing to do in 2001, and it worked to some extent. But 13 years later, opinions in the Muslim world are made up, and aren’t going to be changed by a line in a speech. And anyway, this speech is directed to the domestic audience, not to the Muslim world.
For years we’ve been told that Islam is peaceful, and the Islamic doctrine of jihad — “holy war” — doesn’t refer to war at all, but to a peaceful inner struggle. Mohammed certainly did not see it that way, but since I’m personally uninterested in fidelity to Mohammed, I would love it if Muslims everywhere adopted the peaceful interpretation. But as an outsider, the peacefulness of Islam is primarily an empirical question. I think Jonah Goldberg is right that it’s time they started convincing us, rather than the other way around.
No religion condones the killing of innocents.
Yes, I had to repeat this line, because it’s so breathtakingly stupid. Let’s agree, arguendo, that this is true in regard to Islam. No religion at all condones the killing of innocents? Various cultures have been practicing human sacrifice for millenia. The Aztecs were famous for it. Parts of India still practiced suttee in the 1980s. ISIS absolutely is religious, even if their religion is not true Islam.
And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. . .
This is true in exactly the same way as it is true that the vast majority of Stalin’s victims were Russian or Ukrainian. That’s who he was able to lay his hands on.
Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. . . These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. . .
Yeah, the Kurds are great. Our airstrikes might have helped them somewhat. You know what really helps them? Letting them buy weapons! I’m glad we finally seem to be doing that. We should have done it years ago.
But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. . .
Fair enough, but let’s remember it wasn’t so long ago that the official Democratic position was that we should never, ever outsource our security to the locals.
In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces. Now that those teams have completed their work –- and Iraq has formed a government –- we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission –- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.
We’ll see about that. Indeed, by ruling out the possibility of that we might go in there and crush them, we may well embolden them, making a full ground war all the more necessary. These people have never learned the virtue of being coy about how far you might go.
But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. . .
Two words here, “Kurdish” and “equipment”, are far more important than everything else in this speech. At least he mentioned them.
Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. . .
Years ago, this likely would have made a difference. Today, all of Assad’s enemies who were friendly to us are dead. In the unlikely event that the Syrian opposition manages to overthrow Assad, we’re just going to see a replay of the Libya debacle. (Interesting tidbit: the word “Libya” appears nowhere in this speech.)
Who’s left fighting Assad? People like this: “Syrian rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have agreed a non-aggression pact for the first time. . .”
Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. . . And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.
I’m sure ISIS is shaking in fear of UN action.
Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.
What? Humanitarian assistance is well and good, but it won’t get those refugees back in their homes.
So this is our strategy.
Here’s the tl;dr version: (1) airstrikes, (2) ground forces who will absolutely not have a combat mission, (3) counterterrorism, (4) humanitarian aid.
And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners.
I can’t let this go. Who, exactly, is part of the “broad coalition”? Forty nations deployed troops to Iraq, and that coalition was proclaimed a sham because it didn’t include France and Germany. We don’t know who will be in this coalition, because it doesn’t exist yet. The Obama administration is working frantically to assemble it.
My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home.
Indeed he has. And Obama is unfortunate that he is a Democrat. Were he a Republican, not only would his bipartisan support evaporate at the first sign of difficulty, they would actually pretend that they never supported it in the first place.
I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL . . .
Wow. Exactly where that authority derives from is left unsaid, and for good reason. The 2001 AUMF directed at Al Qaeda doesn’t seem to apply, since ISIS did not collaborate in 9/11 and is not affiliated with Al Qaeda.
The 2002 Iraq War Resolution may provide authority. It gives the president the power to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq”, which won’t do, even if you set aside “continuing”, since ISIS is not Iraq. But it also authorizes the president to “enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq”. There are so many UN resolutions concerning Iraq that some of them arguably apply. Of course, this slender reed relies on ignoring the fact that the Iraq War was over. (The White House said in June that the Iraq War resolution “is no longer used for any U.S. government activities.”)
But at the time at which he said this, the White House had not yet figured out where that authority would come from. The New York Times reports “public and background briefings for reporters this week mentioned only the 9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or A.U.M.F., and not the Iraq authorization, as did a statement the White House released after Mr. Obama’s speech,” but within days they were citing the Iraq War resolution as well.
Ironically, the White House called for the repeal of both resolutions just a few months ago. In May, the president announced “So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the [9/11] AUMF’s mandate.” And in July, the National Security Adviser wrote the House Speaker “we believe a more appropriate and timely action for Congress to take is the repeal of the outdated 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. . . With American combat troops having completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, 2011, the Iraq AUMF is no longer used for any U.S. government activities [Scofflaw: there’s that phrase again] and the Administration fully supports its repeal. Such a repeal would go much further in giving the American people confidence that ground forces will not be sent into combat in Iraq.”
Now, the president certainly has the innate Constitutional power to deal with ISIS. That power is statutorily limited by the War Powers Act, but after Obama ran his Libya campaign in flagrant violation of the War Powers Act, it has to be considered a dead letter. But it’s awfully hard for them to make that case after all the Democratic caterwauling over the unitary executive theory, and Joe Biden’s threats to impeach President Bush if he dealt with Iran without Congressional authorization.
but I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger. . .
That’s a reversal of his pledge in May, “I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate [the AUMF] further.” Obviously, positions must change when situations change. But ISIS was certainly already active in May; they captured Fallujah in January. (Days before Obama derided ISIS as a “JV squad.”) The only change is public opinion forced Obama to start paying attention.
It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. . .
Yeah, we get it. We’re ruling out any possibility that we just might launch an effective campaign.
Next week marks six years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. . .
This again. He always goes back there whenever he’s in trouble.
Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. . .
Thanks to fracking. And it could be even closer if Obama doesn’t succeed in forcing Canada to send their oil overseas.
It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. . .
What?! We did nothing of the sort! I wish we had.
It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again.
This is a great lawyerly statement. Yes, we helped destroy the weapons that Syria declared. Of course, the ones that Syria didn’t declare, those they still have.
And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future. . .
How exactly? I saw America stand back and watch the Arab Spring turn sour. A once-in-history opportunity, and we blew it.
When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said: “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”
Good for us. But how did those civilians get trapped on the distant mountain in the first place? We did nothing as, month after month, ISIS steadily gained territory. We did nothing as ISIS drove those civilians from their homes. We did nothing as those civilians fled to that mountain. Then, when those people faced massacre, the public finally noticed, which forced Obama to take notice. Even now, have those people been able to return home? The media has moved on, but I doubt it.
School bans Chick-fil-A, because it represents an improper political stance. And that’s at odds with “inclusivity and diversity”:
With their political stance on gay rights and because the students of Ventura High School and their parents would be at the event, I didn’t want them on campus,” [Principal] Wyatt told the newspaper. . .
“We value inclusivity and diversity on our campus and all of our events and activities are going to adhere to our mission,” Ventura Unified School District Superintendent Trudy Tuttle Arriaga said.
If they were to look those words up in a dictionary (schools still have those, right?), they’d be surprised by what they found.
On Friday, a white lady named Clara Vondrich had her iPhone stolen out of her hand in Williamsburg but was able to catch one of the thieves, a 13-year-old boy. This story . . . taught us all important lessons about what not to do when you’re able to capture your own child mugger. . .
The boy will now enter New York’s vaunted juvenile justice system, which will likely [expletive] his life even further, simply because he snatched a white lady’s iPhone in Williamsburg.
If you are nonviolently mugged by a child, continue to let him run along with his friends. The world will be a better place.
Let the criminals steal; the world will be a better place. Amazing. And bonus leftism points for irrelevantly bringing up the victim’s race four times (twice in the excerpt).
Gawker speaks for no one, of course, but it’s illustrative of the sickness of today’s left.
(Via Vox Popoli.)
The following are required reading to understand how Iraq, quiescent in 2009 (so much so that the Obama administration was actually taking credit in February 2010), got into the terrible state it’s in today:
- “Why we stuck with Maliki — and lost Iraq” details how the United States acquiesced to Nouri al-Maliki’s coup (supported by Iran) in 2010.
- “Obama’s Disastrous Iraq Policy: An Autopsy” gives the sequel, how Iraq disintegrated under Maliki’s increasingly tyrannical rule, while US policy was “Let Maliki do whatever he wants so long as he keeps Iraq off the front page.”
- Finally, when the New York Times’s Baghdad bureau chief was asked to evaluate the Obama administration’s Iraq policy:
Q. How do you rate the Obama administration’s actions in Iraq? What did they do right? What did they get wrong?
A. It’s not my job to rate the Obama administrations actions in Iraq. But I will tell you that after 2011 the administration basically ignored the country. And when officials spoke about what was happening there they were often ignorant of the reality. They did not want to see what was really happening because it conflicted with their narrative that they left Iraq in reasonably good shape. In 2012 as violence was escalating I wrote a story, citing UN statistics, that showed how civilian deaths from attacks were rising. Tony Blinken, who was then Biden’s national security guy and a top Iraq official, pushed back, even wrote a letter to the editor, saying that violence was near historic lows. That was not true. Even after Falluja fell to ISIS at the end of last year, the administration would push back on stories about Maliki’s sectarian tendencies, saying they didn’t see it that way. So there was a concerted effort by the administration to not acknowledge the obvious until it became so apparent — with the fall of Mosul — that Iraq was collapsing.
(Capital letters added, and emphasis mine.) (Via Hot Air.)
If we are going to re-engage with Iraq now; well, it’s necessary. But we need to do it on the basis of reality, not Obama administration fantasy, and I have little confidence that we will.
Yes, Virginia, health care rationing does kill people:
A Herceptin-style drug that can offer some women with advanced breast cancer nearly six months of extra life has been turned down for use in the NHS because of its high cost.
In draft guidance now open to consultation, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) blames the manufacturers, Roche, who are asking for more than £90,000 per patient, which is far more than any comparable treatment.
In a free country, you would decide for yourself whether 6 months of life would be worth the cost. Or at least you would decide whether health insurance that covers 6 extra months of life would be worth the cost. Not in the UK. In the UK they tax away nearly half your income, promising to provide you health care, and then they don’t do it.
Sure, you can still pay for it yourself (in the UK — this is actually illegal in Canada), but they’ve already taken half your money, and you still need food, shelter, etc.
Even the New York Times is noticing that Barack Obama is out of touch with reality:
When President Obama addresses the nation on Wednesday to explain his plan to defeat Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria, it is a fair bet he will not call them the “JV team.”
Nor does he seem likely to describe Iraq as “sovereign, stable and self-reliant” with a “representative government.” And presumably he will not assert after more than a decade of conflict that “the tide of war is receding.”
As he seeks to rally Americans behind a new military campaign in the Middle East, Mr. Obama finds his own past statements coming back to haunt him. Time and again, he has expressed assessments of the world that in the harsh glare of hindsight look out of kilter with the changed reality he now confronts. . .
“I don’t think it is just loose talk, I think it’s actually revealing talk,” said Peter H. Wehner, a former adviser to President George W. Bush now at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “Sometimes words are mistakes; they’re just poorly put. But sometimes they’re a manifestation of one’s deep belief in the world and that’s what you really get with President Obama.”
Asked for comment, the White House fell back on their old, tired, “what about the WMDs?!” They’ve got nothing else.
I actually think it’s worse than Wehner suggests. I don’t think Obama’s statement reveal his deep beliefs; on the contrary, I think they confirm that he can’t “even fake an interest in foreign policy” (as a prominent Democrat put it). Obama is a purely political animal; everything he says in regard to foreign policy is an effort to dispense with it, so he can return to what really drives him, which is advancing his domestic agenda.
If you had any doubt that the Justice Department’s “investigation” of the IRS scandal was being run politically, doubt no longer. The Justice Department is coordinating its actions with the Democrats:
Justice Department Director of Public Affairs Brian Fallon called the House Oversight Committee Friday evening and mistakenly spoke to Republican staff thinking he was speaking to Democrats, according to a spokesman for Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
In that call, Fallon said his agency was about to turn over some IRS documents. He stated that he was not being allowed to release the material directly to the media, but that he wanted to get it into the hands of certain reporters “before the [Republican] Majority” had the chance to share it. That’s according to a letter Issa sent yesterday to Attorney General Eric Holder. . .
As the telephone conversation continued, Issa’s staff says Fallon realized he was speaking to committee Republicans instead of Democrats and “walked back” the conversation.
This is plainly improper. Elijah Cummings (the lead IRS-defender among House Democrats) dismissed the incident, of course.
Harry Reid decides to waste the Senate’s time debating a constitutional amendment to repeal the Freedom of Speech, and somehow it’s the Republicans’ fault:
After all his complaints about Republican obstruction this year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed frustration last night after Republicans helped guarantee a floor vote on a measure he supports.
The Nevada Democrat has accused Senate Republicans of chicanery for voting to advance to the Senate floor a Democratic constitutional amendment allowing Congress to regulate all campaign speech and spending.
After Monday’s bipartisan 79-18 vote, Reid vented to reporters that Republicans were trying to “stall” the Senate, indicating that he never intended for the campaign finance amendment by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to go to a real floor debate.
What an ass.
Ken White notes that Berkeley’s chancellor is giving lip service to the “free speech movement” it spawned, while simultaneously neutering it by drawing a distinction between free speech and “political advocacy”. Of course, anyone with any knowledge of the Constitution knows that political speech (“advocacy”) was the entire point of the Freedom of Speech.
As White put it:
Political advocacy is not distinct from free speech. Political advocacy is the apotheosis of free speech.
Berkeley’s chancellor is hardly alone. The very same people who used to celebrate free speech on campus hate it now. It’s not hard to see why.
The “free speech movement” arose when leftist ideology was a minority opinion. Free speech was important to leftists so they could be heard. Today, leftist ideology is a majority opinion, at least on college campuses, if not yet nationally. What use is free speech to them now? Free speech now means their opponents can be heard.
I wasn’t there at the time, but the left’s behavior today proves that (broadly speaking) they didn’t care about free speech per se, they cared about leftism.
The California State University is following Vanderbilt and Michigan, banning Christian groups from campus. As in previous cases, the pretext is that they do not admit “all comers” if they require leaders to be Christian.
Of course, all campus groups choose leaders who ascribe to the group’s beliefs. (Just try to get elected president of the College Republicans/Democrats if you’re a Democrat/Republican.) Christian groups are being penalized for being forthright about it.
Just a few weeks ago, President Obama was proclaiming his success in destroying Syria’s chemical weapons:
Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile. The most lethal declared chemical weapons possessed by the Syrian regime were destroyed by dedicated U.S. civilian and military professionals using a unique American capability aboard the M/V Cape Ray – and they did so aboard that U.S. vessel several weeks ahead of schedule.
The United States expressed concern on Thursday that Syria’s government might be harboring undeclared chemical weapons, hidden from the internationally led operation to purge them over the past year, and that Islamist militant extremists now ensconced in that country could possibly seize control of them.
The IRS says it has lost emails from five more workers who are part of congressional investigations into the treatment of conservative groups that applied for tax exempt status. . . The agency blamed computer crashes for the lost emails. In a statement, the IRS said it found no evidence that anyone deliberately destroyed evidence.
What we’re seeing here is confidence on the part of the IRS. They believe that they can do anything, and there will never be any consequences. Sadly, they’re probably right.
The prominent Democrat who said that President Obama can’t “even fake an interest in foreign policy” sure wasn’t joking. The NATO summit — at which western powers were supposed to reaffirm their commitment to collective security in the face of Russian agression — opened today. Obama didn’t even show up:
President Obama was nowhere to be found during the beginning of a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine commission in Wales on Thursday. Obama was “noticeably absent” from the start of the meeting, according to a White House pool report, although U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute was in attendance.
Oh yeah, just send the ambassador. That’ll show Putin how serious you are.
If half of life is just showing up, Barack Obama isn’t even half a president.
The horrifying story of two parents fighting against the United Kingdom to obtain treatment for their cancer-striken child:
- Doctors successfully remove the boy’s tumor.
- To prevent cancer returning, the parents seek proton-beam treatment in place of ordinary radiation treatments.
- Doctors refuse.
- The parents suggest that they could pay for the treatment themselves.
- Doctors say no: you have to accept our recommendation, or else.
- Or else what? The doctors threaten that if the parents keep demanding treatment, they will impose a restraining order that will bar the parents from seeing their son.
- The parents check the child out of the hospital and leave the country.
- Story over? Oh no. The NHS contacts Interpol and issues an international missing person notice to find the boy.
- Staff at a Spanish hotel (where the parents are staying while they raise money for treatment) report them to the police.
- Spanish police arrest the parents, and extradite them back to the UK.
- After a flurry of bad press, the Prime Minister intervenes. The parents will not be prosecuted.
- The boy doesn’t get the treatment, but the parents aren’t barred from seeing the boy.
This is what passes for a happy ending when dealing with the NHS: Your boy doesn’t get treatment, but at least you don’t get punished for trying.
For its part, the police “make no apology” for their actions. And why would they? They’re the government.
This is why government-run health care is so much worse even than a cheap, badly-run HMO. With an HMO, you can fight for treatment. You might fail, but at least you can’t be punished for trying. With the NHS, the people who pass judgement on your care are the same ones who, if you annoy them, can take your children away.
I’ve always wondered why Richard Nixon’s goons bothered to burglarize the Democratic party headquarters. Why didn’t he just open a phony investigation and seize the documents? That’s been accepted practice by Democrats going back at least to FDR, and it continues today:
Conservative targets of a Democrat-launched John Doe investigation have described the secret probe as a witch hunt. . .
Subpoenas also demanded the conservatives’ bank records, “emails from every major private email provider” and other information in what some have described as a mini-NSA (National Security Agency) operation in Wisconsin. . .
Chisholm, a Democrat, launched the dragnet two years ago, and, according to court documents, with the help of the state Government Accountability Board, the probe was expanded to five counties. The John Doe proceeding compelled scores of witnesses to testify, and a gag order compelled them to keep their mouths shut or face jail time. . .
Among other documents, prosecutors sought “all call detail records including incoming and outgoing calls,” “billing name and information,” “subscriber name and information including any application for service,” according to the conservatives’ court filing. . .
In one particularly dramatic demand, the prosecutors’ request for emails was unlimited: the subpoenas require “all information stored in an account including (but not limited to) incoming and outgoing mail.”
“Thus, a target’s mail from well before those dates could be seized if it was simply ‘stored’ in the account during the relevant period, including in the deleted items folder,” the plaintiffs’ court document states.
(Via Legal Insurrection.)
“We don’t have a strategy yet.”
I wish he would have just lied.
But worse than his admission that he has no strategy, was his position — classic too-clever-by-half Obama material — that it would somehow have been inappropriate to have a strategy for dealing with ISIS. That’s utter nonsense, as confirmed by the White House making the rounds today emphasizing that, despite what the president said, they absolutely, positively, really, really do have a strategy.
When Indians complained about the British interfering with suttee (the Indian practice of burning widows alive on their husbands’ funeral pyre), General Charles Napier (1782-1853) told them:
Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. . . Let us all act according to national customs.
Great Britain used to bring civilization to the far corners of the globe. Now they can’t even bring it to their own country:
The sexual abuse of about 1,400 children at the hands of Asian men went unreported for 16 years because staff feared they would be seen as racist, a report said today.
Children as young as 11 were trafficked, beaten, and raped by large numbers of men between 1997 and 2013 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, the council commissioned review into child protection revealed. And shockingly, more than a third of the cases were already known to agencies.
But according to the report’s author: ‘several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist’. . .
In two cases, fathers had tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused – only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene.
This went on for sixteen years with the full knowledge of the authorities, who would rather allow thousands of children to be raped than called racist.
And that fear seems to persist even in the wake of this horror. Even in a story that centers around the horrifying consequences of hyper-sensitivity to racism, this BBC story can’t bring itself to say precisely what the authorities were being hyper-sensitive about. The story has no photographs of the perpetrators, it never uses the word “Pakistani” or even “Middle Eastern”, and it only even uses the word “Asian” (60% of the world’s population) as part of a quotation.
Oh, and by the way:
No council employees will face disciplinary action in a town where 1,400 children suffered sexual exploitation in a 16-year period, the local authority’s chief executive has said.
Glenn Reynolds adds:
Perhaps they need to consider the possibility that there are worse things than being thought racist. Of course, if that idea were to spread, a powerful tool of social control would vanish.
Alas, over sixteen years every one of them must have considered that possibility at some point. And rejected it.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds adds again:
The legal system is, ultimately, an ancient bargain: Renounce your mob violence and blood feuds and we will provide you with justice. It could be argued that such a default as this calls the whole bargain into question, and justifies self-help along ancient lines.
Oh, this isn’t sinister at all:
The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor “suspicious memes” and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online.
The “Truthy” database, created by researchers at Indiana University, is designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.”
“Social pollution.” What a lovely term that is.
Hugo Chavez is dead, but his policies that have ruined Venezuela live on. Rampant inflation leads to price controls, which lead to shortages, which lead to rationing, which leads to draconian rationing. Chavez’s heir is determined to carry “Bolivarian” economics to the bitter end:
Venezuela’s food shortage is so bad the country is mandating that people scan their fingerprints at grocery stores in order to keep people from buying too much of a single item.
President Nicolas Maduro says a mandatory fingerprinting system is being implemented at grocery stores to combat food shortages. He calls it an “anti-fraud system” like the fingerprint scan the country uses for voting.
UPDATE (9/2): Is the phrase “critics said” really necessary here?
Critics said the new system is tantamount to rationing and constitutes a breach of privacy.
Joe Biden has something to hide:
Vice President Joe Biden’s office stonewalled a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for his travel expenses, according to Ronald Kessler’s new tell-all book on the Secret Service, The First Family Detail.
Kessler, a former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post investigative reporter, filed a FOIA request in April 2013 with the Air Force for the details and costs of Biden’s personal trips. . . According to Kessler, Biden’s then-deputy counsel Jessica Hertz took over the FOIA case from the Air Force and ordered it not to release the 95 pages of documents it had compiled in response to Kessler’s request.
They had already compiled the records, and Biden’s counsel ordered them covered up. Why would he cover up his travel expenses? Here’s why:
The records were eventually released to Kessler by an Air Force officer who “was outraged that Biden’s office would taint the Air Force by politicizing its FOIA process.”
The records show Biden’s trips—which include multiple daily flights between Washington, D.C., and Wilmington, Delaware—cost taxpayers nearly $1 million between January 2009 and March 2013. This does not include crew costs or the cost of ferrying Biden between the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory and Andrews Air Force Base.
“Every three or four weeks when it’s warm, Biden gets up there on Saturday and then will fly back on Air Force Two,” a Secret Service agent told Kessler. “While Air Force Two is sitting on the tarmac at Andrews, he goes up and plays golf with the president at Andrews Air Force Base, gets back on the plane, and flies back to Delaware. . .”
An Air Force source also told Kessler that Biden regularly schedules single events in Arizona so he can fly there on the public dime to play golf.
This is a guy who poses (laughably, but determinedly) as the common man, a man who takes the train between Delaware and DC. In fact, he takes his personal Air Force plane every day, and likes to jaunt about the country to play golf.
The Associated Press, reporting a story you’ve probably heard:
County Autopsy: Unarmed teen short 6 to 8 times
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A St. Louis County autopsy has found that the unarmed black teenager killed during a confrontation with a white police officer was shot six to eight times.
This, and several other AP stories, give the deliberate impression that Michael Brown was a child, when in fact he was a very large 18-year-old adult. Avoiding this sort of misleading impression is presumably why the Associated Press forbids using the word “teenager” this way:
youth Applicable to boys and girls from age 13 until 18th birthday. Use man or woman for individuals 18 and older.
Why would the AP break its own rules? Indeed, why would they break their own rules to mislead the public on a point that, legally at least, doesn’t even matter? (After all, killing an adult, if unjustified, is just as bad — legally speaking — as killing a child.)
There seems to be only one conclusion. Their purpose here is not to report the facts; their purpose is to create outrage. The killing of a child is more outrageous, so that’s what they reported, even though it’s not what happened.
(Via Hot Air.)
Okay, CNN anchor Don Lemon doesn’t know the difference between an automatic weapon, and a semi-automatic (i.e., non-automatic) weapon:
If you don’t even know what the terms mean, you have no business reporting on gun policy. But this is much worse than merely that, because Lemon’s guest explains the difference to him, and Lemon says (paraphrasing): I don’t care; I prefer to use the word incorrectly.
There’s a word for using the wrong word when you know it’s the wrong word; it’s called lying.
POSTSCRIPT: The particularly galling thing about this, as Charles C. W. Cooke points out, is that recent gun control efforts have centered on making fine, nearly meaningless distinctions. Bill Clinton’s now-defunct assault weapons ban prohibited weapons with two or more scary-looking features. Here you have a major functional difference (automatic fire vs. single fire) and the liberals dismiss it with contempt.
Simon and Schuster spikes a book proposal about Bowe Bergdahl because it might make Obama look bad:
“I’m not sure we can publish this book without the Right using it to their ends,” Sarah Durand, a senior editor at Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, wrote in an email to one of the soldiers’ agents.
“[T]he Conservatives are all over Bergdahl and using it against Obama,” Durand wrote, “and my concern is that this book will have to become a kind of ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth'” — a reference to the group behind a controversial book that raised questions about John Kerry’s Vietnam War record in the midst of his 2004 presidential campaign.
It’s interesting to see a publisher admit openly that it is more interested in protecting Obama than in making money.
POSTSCRIPT: The original Yahoo article isn’t loading now, but it’s still in the Google cache for now.
A leaked document from the campaign of Michelle Nunn, the Democrat running for Senate from Georgia, is frank about their plans to win by cobbling together a coalition of various minorities.
According to my skim of the document, it almost completely ignores issues and policy positions. The only three ways that issues come up at all are (1) in the context of groups of people to appeal to or at least to neutralize (that is, farmers, gun owners, and small business owners), and (2) a schedule of when to decide what Nunn believes on various issues (too bad for “rural issues”, which somehow comes in #22 on a list of 21 issues on page 62), and (3) Obamacare’s cancellation notices, which (page 141) are totally not at all a bad thing.
It’s been clear for some time that the Democratic party has nothing to offer the people at large, and is merely a coalition of tribes, but it’s striking to see it all written out so frankly.
The state that doesn’t understand the difference between good guys and bad guys:
The same judge and prosecutor who let professional football star Ray Rice avoid a trial after beating his wife unconscious are pushing forward with the prosecution of Shaneen Allen, a single mother who carried a gun into New Jersey without realizing her Pennsylvania permit didn’t apply there.
What is wrong with these people?
After Obama ignored ISIS when American intervention could have been decisive, and continued to ignore ISIS as they unleashed a reign of terror across northern Iraq, the ISIS’s horrifying genocide finally shamed Obama into action:
Arguing that the U.S. could not ignore the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, President Obama Thursday night announced that he had authorized limited air strikes, one of the boldest military moves of his presidency.
Except not really:
U.S. fighter jets launched a “targeted” airstrike on Friday against Islamic militants in Iraq, just hours after President Obama authorized military action to protect U.S. personnel and Iraqi civilians.
Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Friday that two F/A-18 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it. The Pentagon said the military conducted the strike at 6:45 a.m. ET, against terrorists with the Islamic State (IS), the group formerly known as ISIS.
We bombed one artillery piece. That’ll show ’em.
Still, this action might make the enemy nervous. Except Obama took pains to reassure the enemy:
As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.
It’s a basic tenet of foreign crisis management always to be ambiguous about how far you will go. Ambiguity is a powerful weapon; it forces the enemy to worry about your full capabilities, rather than your self-imposed limits. If you want to have a significant impact, you never rule out doing more.
Unless you’re an idiot, or you just don’t care.
UPDATE: Subsequently, we did bomb ISIS some more, which is good.
The latest from the “most transparent administration in history”:
A key ObamaCare official involved in the rocky rollout of Healthcare.gov likely deleted some of her emails that are now being sought as part of an investigation into the problems by a House committee, Fox News confirmed Thursday.
The Department of Health and Human Services informed House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa in a letter Thursday that some of the emails belonging to Marilyn Tavenner, who leads the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, may not be “retrievable.” . . .
[T]he department believes that was due to sloppy records-keeping not an attempt to conceal information.
Of course. It’s never an attempt to conceal information. This administration’s good record has earned the benefit of the doubt.
The media’s practice of reporting Hamas’s fabricated casualty reports as if they were fact is flatly dishonest. There’s absolutely no excuse for it. Hamas’s official policy, announced in the open, is to falsify their casualty statistics:
Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.
If you know it’s a lie, and you report it anyway, you are a liar.
It’s impossible to know what the real civilian toll is, since the only people who could say won’t tell the truth, but we can see that military-aged males are strikingly overrepresented among the “civilian casualties”, while women and children are strikingly underrepresented.
POSTSCRIPT: As far the actual civilian casualties go, don’t forget that Hamas’s policy is to maximize them, not only on the Israeli side but on their own.
John Kerry says that children in Africa are starving, and Africa should refrain from developing new farmland. No joke:
During the Africa Summit “Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate” panel, Secretary of State John Kerry told an audience that “8,000 children die every day” and in sub-Sahara Africa, one in four suffer from chronic hunger.
Then a few minutes later, he stressed how creating new farms would cause too much carbon pollution so they need to discourage more farm land.
He was for food before he was against it.
His argument was that we should improve yield from existing farms, rather than create new farms, as if agriculture was an either-or proposition. At some point idiots become functionally indistinguishable from monsters, and Kerry is well past that point.
On Wednesday, Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province, came under assault from the Islamic State, and all 50 to 60,000 of its residents have fled to Erbil in Kurdistan. . .
The enormity of the humanitarian crisis of the cascading exodus from Nineveh was overshadowed, though, by the early reports indicating genocide is taking place against the people of Sinjar, who are mostly followers of the Yazidi religion but also include some Christians.
America’s response is to issue a statement:
We urge all parties to the conflict to allow safe access to the United Nations and its partners so they can deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance, including to those Iraqi families reportedly encircled by ISIL on Mount Sinjar.
We urge them?! Does the administration think ISIS is doing this by accident?
And lest you think that the title, calling this Obama’s foreign policy, is too harsh, let’s remember that Obama specifically said that he would accept genocide as the price of leaving Iraq:
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there. . .
Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, said it’s likely there would be increased bloodshed if U.S. forces left Iraq. . .
A handful of southern Democrats joined Republicans yesterday to defeat President Obama’s choice to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division. . .
NPR wanted to paint Adegbile’s detractors that way because in the NPR lexicon, “southern” is code for racist. Leaving that matter aside for now, the Democrats who jumped ship were from Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia. Only three of those states could be considered southern under even the broadest possible definition. Certainly none of them are from the Deep South.
But rather than omit their error, NPR covered it up, rewriting the story to begin:
A handful of Senate Democrats joined Republicans yesterday . . .
This is so astonishing that you wonder if people simply misheard Werthheimer; if she really said “Senate” all along. Nope, Will Collier had the foresight to save the original.
What gets me about every internet censorship story is how they always deny using political criteria to block websites, when that is quite obviously exactly what they are doing. As just the latest example:
I also spent some time on the phone with Hyatt representatives. Well, most of that time was on hold, actually, but I did eventually get two bright, human voices. Both of them assured me no political line was being enforced.
Oh good. Your criteria blocks Drudge, Instapundit, and Power Line, while allowing Daily Kos and Talking Point Memos, but since you say it’s not political, we won’t worry about it.
The LightSquared debacle still isn’t quite over; the remains of the politically connected company are now suing the government over its denial of a permit to operate. Since I was strongly opposed to LightSquared’s effort to make money by breaking GPS, I thought I should note Richard Epstein’s contrary take.
Epstein is a very smart guy, so maybe there’s something to this, but I don’t see how to reconcile his position with the expert testimony on LightSquared’s scheme.
The Washington Post reports:
Over the past 2-1/2 years, the Obama administration has published hundreds of rules — on how wheelchairs should be stowed aboard U.S. aircraft, how foreign trade zones should be regulated, how voting assistance should be provided for U.S. citizens overseas and so on.
There’s a problem, however: Technically speaking, these and about 1,800 other regulations shouldn’t be in effect, because they weren’t reported to Congress as required. Yet there is little that lawmakers or the courts can do about it. . .
Under a 1996 statute, most federal rules are supposed to be reported to the House and Senate in paper form and to the Government Accountability Office electronically. But since the start of 2012, that hasn’t happened for many of the regulations put out by the Obama administration, either because of bureaucratic oversight or because they were considered too minor to be reported. . .
But there’s another catch: Congress also barred such rules from judicial review. Two federal appeals courts and two district courts have upheld this principle even when the regulation in question was not submitted to Congress as required. Since Congress cannot pass a resolution of disapproval for a rule until it receives it, this means neither lawmakers nor the courts can step in and demand that agencies submit the required paperwork.
Apparently, so believes Alison Grimes, Democrat running for Senate in Kentucky:
Democratic Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes says Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system prevents Hamas terrorists from tunneling into Israel.
Grimes was asked about foreign policy and the conflict between the Israelis and Hamas during a recent interview with the Lexington Herald Leader. . . “The Iron Dome has been a big reason why Israel has been able to withstand the terrorists that have tried to tunnel their way in,” Grimes was quoted as saying.
(Via Hot Air.)
While the Democrats prattle on about how allowing a Christian employer to decline to supply abortion drugs somehow constitutes a “war on women”, Islamists in Iraq show what a real war on women looks like:
A top UN official in Iraq has said the Sunni Islamist group Isis controlling the city of Mosul is seeking to impose female genital mutilation. All females aged 11 and 46 in the northern city must undergo the procedure, according to an Isis edict, UN official Jacqueline Badcock said.
While Democrats see a fierce moral urgency to ensuring that every employer in America pays for abortion drugs, they are curiously indifferent to women and girls in Iraq having their genitals amputated. It would unfair to say that Democrats actually support Isis, but it is fair to say that they are ready to acquiesce to whatever Islamists want to do in Iraq.
This was obvious (to me, anyway) as far back as early 2008, when I posted this proposed ad:
(Video shows a teenaged Iraqi girl.) This is Amira. She lives in Iraq. She has had a difficult childhood: she saw her father and uncle carried away for speaking critically of Saddam Hussein. [Adjust details as appropriate.] But now Amira is free, and she has dreams for her life. She wants to travel, to study and become an artist, or a doctor.
(Video shifts to Al Qaeda thugs.) But there are some who don’t want Amira to realize her aspirations. Men who subscribe to a perverted form of Islam and wish to impose it on her country, and indeed the world. (Brief collage of Taliban and Iranian atrocities.) These men come into her country and set off bombs, hoping to terrorize her people into obedience. (Aftermath of a car bomb.)
(Screen splits, with Amira on one side and the U.S. Capitol on the other.) Will America continue to stand with Amira, or will we abandon her to her enemies? This November, you will help make that decision.
Alas, America did decide to abandon Amira to her enemies.
It took a long time for the chickens to come home to roost, since we went ahead and won the war before Obama came into office. Having defeated the Islamists in Iraq, it took years of American apathy before the Islamists were again strong enough to threaten to take power. Nevertheless, this outcome was nigh inevitable the day Obama failed to arrange a Status of Forces agreement that would have kept some American troops — and some American influence — in Iraq.
Indeed, Obama ensured that no one could misunderstand when he announced to the world in 2007 that even preventing genocide wasn’t a good enough reason to keep troops in Iraq.
Democrats love the “war on women” narrative because it advances their power and creates opportunity for graft. Preventing the actual war on women does nothing of the sort, so it doesn’t interest them.
It took six years, but the press corps is finally opening mocking President Obama.
Last summer, the Veterans Administration shifted staff from dealing with veterans to helping with Obamacare enrollment, charges a whistleblower due to testify before Congress next week.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor (joined by Justices Ginsberg and Kagan), is upset with the rest of the rest of the Supreme Court:
Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today. . . That action evinces disregard for even the newest of this Court’s precedents and undermines confidence in this institution.
The context of this bellyache is an injunction issued by the Supreme Court barring the enforcement of the Obama administration’s birth control mandate against Wheaton College. Myriad religious organizations, including Wheaton, complained that complying would violate their religious beliefs. The administration then responded with a bogus “accommodation”, wherein the organizations would file a form objecting to the mandate, at which point pretty much the same thing would happen: the health insurer would issue a separate policy just for birth control, and pass the cost on to the organization. The various religious organizations weren’t fooled by this legerdemain.
In fact, HHS has already devised and implemented a system that seeks to respect the religious liberty of religious nonprofit corporations while ensuring [blah blah blah]. . . We therefore conclude that this system constitutes an alternative that achieves all of the Government’s aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty.
Thus, Sotomayor, et al. complain, the majority already approved the “accommodation” and are now going back on it. But they are not.
Under the RFRA, the government cannot burden religious freedom unless it is the least restrictive means to accomplish a compelling state interest. Nothing here says that the accommodation is the least restrictive means. To the contrary, it says only that the accommodation is a less restrictive means than the mandate that the administration sought to impose on Hobby Lobby, and therefore the mandate cannot be the least restrictive means. (ASIDE: The majority opinion also never found that free birth control was a compelling state interest, either.)
It’s sad that three Supreme Court justices don’t understand the basic logical distinction between “less” and “least”.
TANGENTIAL POSTSCRIPT: However, if you want an example of the Supreme Court going back on its word, there’s New Haven v. Briscoe from 2012. In that case, Supreme Court waffling left the hapless city of New Haven with no way to follow the law. In 2009, the city set aside the results of a firefighters test because no black applicants passed the test and they were afraid of a discrimination lawsuit on the basis of disparate impact (the theory wherein you can find racial discrimination based purely on numbers, without any evidence of actual discriminatory policy or conduct). The Supreme Court said they were wrong to set aside the test, adding:
If, after it certifies the results, the City faces a disparate-impact suit, then in light of our holding today it should be clear that the City would avoid disparate-impact liability based on the strong basis in evidence that, had it not certified the results, it would have been subject to disparate–treatment liability.
This certainly sounds like the Court saying that New Haven was safe from a disparate impact suit. But when such a such a suit duly appeared, the lower court found for the plaintiff, and the Supreme Court wouldn’t even grant cert. The city, quite literally, was sued successfully for obeying the Supreme Court.
Strangely, I don’t remember a strongly worded dissent in that case.
You can’t make peace in the Middle East with a two-state solution, because one of the parties — the Palestinians — doesn’t want it. A poll of Palestinians finds that only 27% favor a two-state solution. Even fewer (10%) favor a one-state solution in which Jews and Arabs have equal rights. The vast majority (60%) want all the Jews driven out.
The West persists in pushing a two-state solution because it seems really reasonable to us, but it’s doomed because the Palestinians don’t want it. Israel goes along with the negotiations in order to seem reasonable to us, but they know by now that those negotiations are pointless.
The only way Israel can have peace is to make the Palestinians unable to hurt them. One way to do that would be to wipe them out — that’s what 60% of Palestinians would do to Israel if they could — but the Israelis, being civilized people, won’t do that. Instead, they settle for a security fence and a blockade. Naturally, the Western left opposes the security fence and the blockade.
A White House panel appointed to approve President Obama’s domestic spying program has approved President Obama’s domestic spying program.
I believe this Nevada woman is the first to be killed by Obamacare:
A Nevada woman taking part in a class-action lawsuit against Nevada’s Obamacare exchange contractor over coverage delays passed away Monday due to complications from her illness, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. . .
The family says Rolain’s tumor was treatable last fall when diagnosed, but became fatal by this spring as she waited for the Obamacare exchange to communicate her coverage to the insurance company. Both Rolain and her husband’s health insurance took effect in March, according to the exchange, but the couple alleged that they were told the coverage wouldn’t be in effect until May, according to the Review Journal.
So this is great news. Obamacare is cutting health care costs already!
When you talk tough and carry no stick at all, this is what happens:
John Kerry Told Russia It Had ‘Hours’ to Back Off in Ukraine. That Was Five Days Ago.
White House will consider whether president can act on his own to mitigate effect of Supreme Court contraception ruling
The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby (and two other companies), ordering that HHS cannot force their owners to violate their religious beliefs and pay for abortifacients. The opinion is here.
The key argument made by the administration in defense of its policy is that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act doesn’t apply to companies (even closely held companies), because corporations aren’t real people and can’t exercise religion. This is the same argument that they use to attack the free-speech rights of companies.
The Supreme Court majority, in the Citizens United case, rebutted this, pointing out that corporations are simply groups of people who choose to organize their efforts using a certain legal mechanism. It’s those people whose rights were implicated in Citizens United, and in Hobby Lobby. The Supreme Court reiterates their argument here:
As we will show, Congress provided protection for people like the Hahns and Greens by employing a familiar legal fiction: It included corporations within RFRA’s definition of “persons.” But it is important to keep in mind that the purpose of this fiction is to provide protection for human beings. A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends. An established body of law specifies the rights and obligations of the people (including shareholders, officers, and employees) who are associated with a corporation in one way or another. When rights, whether constitutional or statutory, are extended to corporations, the purpose is to protect the rights of these people. For example, extending Fourth Amendment protection to corporations protects the privacy interests of employees and others associated with the company. Protecting corporations from government seizure of their property without just compensation protects all those who have a stake in the corporations’ financial well-being. And protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and Mardel protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies.
In holding that Conestoga, as a “secular, for-profit corporation,” lacks RFRA protection, the Third Circuit wrote as follows:
“General business corporations do not, separate and apart from the actions or belief systems of their individual owners or employees, exercise religion. They do not pray, worship, observe sacraments or take other religiously-motivated actions separate and apart from the intention and direction of their individual actors.” 724 F. 3d, at 385 (emphasis added).
All of this is true—but quite beside the point. Corporations, “separate and apart from” the human beings who own, run, and are employed by them, cannot do anything at all.
The left railed against Citizens United for “making corporations into people,” and will doubtless do so here as well. But a moment’s consideration shows that exactly the opposite is true. Treating corporations as people is a “legal fiction” that serves to protect the rights of actual human beings. In contrast, the left believes that corporations really are actual entities (they would probably avoid using the word “people”), but ones without any rights:
HHS argues that the companies cannot sue because they are for-profit corporations, and that the owners cannot sue because the regulations apply only to the companies. . .
ASIDE: The dissent, apparently recognizing that terminating all civil rights for corporations might be bad, claim to limit the application of their principle to for-profit companies. The justify their entirely new carve-out by some sophistry (for-profit corporations, they claim, have no purpose whatsoever other than to turn a profit), but it’s hard to believe they are really in earnest. Their new rule against for-profit corporations wouldn’t last long once a for-profit corporation they like (say, the New York Times) was in the dock.
But, to make it crystal clear where they stand, the dissent also explains that, even if the rights of real human beings were implicated, the government would be free to trample those rights:
Accommodations to religious beliefs or observances, the Court has clarified, must not significantly impinge on the interests of third parties.
The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would override significant interests of the corporations’ employees and covered dependents. It would deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage that the ACA would otherwise secure.
This argument, which the dissent adopts from HHS, claims that accommodating Hobby Lobby’s owners’ religion would impinge on the interests of third parties. That’s true, in a sense. Yes, it would impinge on third-party interests that they HHS’s own policy created! If this were to stand, it would provide a blueprint for neutering any religious freedom claim: simply create a third-party interest against the religious practice, and then observe that accommodating religious would make it go away again.
This did not escape the notice of the majority, who observed:
In a related argument, HHS appears to maintain that a plaintiff cannot prevail on a RFRA claim that seeks an exemption from a legal obligation requiring the plaintiff to confer benefits on third parties. Nothing in the text of RFRA or its basic purposes supports giving the Government an entirely free hand to impose burdens on religious exercise so long as those burdens confer a benefit on other individuals.
To summarize, the left’s position now is that (1) corporations are people exactly enough to stand clear of their owner’s right, but not enough to have rights of their own, and (2) the government can burden religion, so long as in so doing it creates some third-party who benefits from the burden.
UPDATE: An interesting analysis from Mark Rienzi. It includes this observation:
It was well-established that corporations could exercise religion, and that profit-making ventures could also exercise religion. And as the Court pointed out today, the various opinions in Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Markets made it hard to conclude that putting the two together eliminated the ability to engage in religious exercise in the sense of the First Amendment and RFRA. But Hobby Lobby now establishes the point beyond any doubt.
Put that way, it sounds pretty obvious. Unless your school of jurisprudence is entirely ends-directed.
UPDATE: A lot of people on the left are attacking Hobby Lobby (the company), rather than Hobby Lobby (the legal opinion). I think those people are missing the point; what’s important here is the law as it pertains to religious freedom, not Hobby Lobby’s particular choices. But, for what it’s worth, this article addresses every attack against Hobby Lobby I’ve seen, as well as reiterate some of the key legal points.
Yesterday’s passing of two key Watergate figures — Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN), who famously asked “what did the president know and when did he know it”, and IRS commissioner Johnnie Walters, who refused to target Richard Nixon’s political enemies — highlights a key difference between our two political parties: The Republican party is filled with honorable people who stand up for the rule of law, even against their own party’s interests. The Democratic party has few such people, if any at all.
On October 19, 1973, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus (Republican political appointees each) both resigned in protest when Nixon ordered them to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who headed up the Watergate investigation. Richardson had appointed Cox to the position earlier that year. Alas, today’s Attorney General is no Elliot Richardson. He has no special prosecutor to fire — not for the IRS, not for Gunwalker, not for the HHS, etc. — because he refused to appoint one in the first place. Far from countenancing any kind of investigation into the Obama administration’s wrongdoing, Eric Holder sees his role as “scandal goalie”, protecting the Obama administration from any investigation.
Nixon ultimately was forced from office because he was abandoned by his own party. Republicans had more than enough votes to acquit Nixon in a Senate trial on impeachment articles, but Nixon resigned when informed that he could rely on no more than 15 votes.
Contrast that with today, with Democrats placing their party over everything. Far from holding the Obama administration to account — as Republicans did — they are on the team, doing what they can to obstruct the investigation. As the most pungent example, here’s Elijah Cummings’s (D-MD) abject apology to IRS Commission John Koskinen (no Johnnie Walters is he!) for the appalling nerve of GOP representatives asking tough questions about the IRS’s highly suspicious loss of years of subpoenaed emails:
Elijah Cummings’s role in the IRS investigation has been to blunt any impact it might have by portraying it as a partisan effort. He’s right, in a way. The House investigation of the IRS (etc.) has been partisan. Democrats won’t take part in it, and they have blocked any non-partisan investigation.
In Watergate, Republicans showed that they have principles higher than party loyalty. During the Obama administration, Democrats have shown they do not.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the New York Times bestseller list is fake, and yet I still am. Is anything they do legit?
I had thought that the Red Cross was a worthy charity, but this makes me doubt it:
Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy?
The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request we filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a “trade secret.” . . .
If those details were disclosed, “the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross’s business model for an increased competitive advantage,” Levin wrote.
The letter doesn’t specify who the Red Cross’ “competitors” are.
Competitive disadvantage? If the Red Cross’s business is helping people, how could it be bad for others to follow their model? It seems that the Red Cross has fallen victim to the iron law of bureaucracy.
The Telegraph reports:
Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner has created a new post: secretary for strategic co-ordination of national thought.
The government hastened to explain that the post isn’t what it sounds like. Then why make it sound like that?
The New York Times doesn’t want you to have guns. They definitely don’t want felons to have guns. Except, as Ann Althouse notes, when the case can be used to attack a potential GOP presidential candidate. Then the NYT finds it outrageous that a felon cannot carry a gun. Get this:
Aware of the awkwardness, the two men [that is, the perpetrator and the victim] arranged to meet in the evening quiet of the local community center. Their only previous encounter, a decade ago, had ended with a thrown punch and a broken nose. . .
The punch they shared had come out of who knows where, maybe Iraq, to still a long-ago liquid night. But its impact was still being felt by the former Marine [Eric Pizer], who threw the right jab just days after returning from a second deployment; the victim, who has not breathed the same since; and the governor, who chooses never to exercise an executive power of ancient provenance.
(Emphasis mine.) “The punch they shared”! Ordinarily a punch is thrown by one person and impacts another, but when we want to rehabilitate the perpetrator for political purposes, it was “shared” by both of them. “Sharing” sounds so much nicer than “maiming”. Naturally, the real culprit isn’t the culprit; no it’s either the booze or the Iraq War, and probably the latter.
Yes, I said “maiming”:
That pop pushed Mr. Frazier’s nose nearly two inches to the right. . . “Broken nose” is almost too flip a term for the damage done. Mr. Frazier says that his nose had to be broken and reset twice, but it remains a bit crooked, aches in the cold and feels constantly congested. “Migraines pretty much daily,” he said.
Pizer, who has a history of getting drunk and maiming people, now wants to be a police officer, but his felony conviction stands in the way. The New York Times thinks that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker should pardon him so that Pizer can realize his ambition of being a cop. Keep in mind, this is someone with a record of misreading a situation and responding with unjustified violence.
The NYT is able to offer the following evidence that Pizer has changed his ways: “”. No, that’s too glib. Let me quote, in their entirety, both of the article’s paragraphs on his post-conviction life:
The former Marine worked as a construction laborer before getting hired to lug Steinways and Schimmels up stairs and around corners. He completed probation and paid off the $7,165.59 in restitution. He met a woman with a child, married, fathered a son, and received joint custody in the divorce.
. . .
Mr. Pizer pushed on. Taking classes part time, he earned an associate degree in criminal justice. He also found allies in two Madison lawyers, David D. Relles and John R. Zwieg, who agreed to help him seek a pardon.
To summarize: he got a job, he got married, he got divorced, he got a community-college degree, and he hired lawyers. In an article about how Pizer deserves a pardon (and Gov. Walker is an awful human being for not giving him one), the NYT is strangely unable to produce even a single fact that would support such a pardon. Well, he does say he’s sorry, so there’s that.
What’s really striking about this piece is the comments from the NYT’s reader-idiots. They are eager to get in line with what they are told to believe. I’ll just quote one, which is typical of many:
I would be absolutely comfortable to learn that Eric Pizer was patrolling my community as a deputy sheriff. It would be even better if here were allowed to serve his own community that way.
Based on what? This is a guy who maimed someone for life because he “saw movement and reacted with his right hand.” Imagine if this guy had been carrying a gun, which is what you say you want!
In all seriousness, perhaps Pizer has turned his life around and is a really good guy now. I hope so. But if so, wouldn’t they be able to come up with some examples more compelling than his ability to hold down a job and get an associate degree part-time? The touching part of the story is how Frazier was willing to meet with Pizer and forgive him. That speaks well of Frazier, but it tells us nothing about Pizer.
POSTSCRIPT: By the way, the New York Times is on the record as opposing the restoration of gun rights to felons, making this whole piece particularly bizarre.
(Via Power Line.)
UPDATE: By the way, it’s telling that after years of a massive, publicly-financed fishing expedition, this is all they can come up with.
Google has seen fit to honor Rachel Carson today. To heck with that. Instead read this: “What the World Needs Now Is DDT.” Some choice quotes:
In her 297 pages, Rachel Carson never mentioned the fact that by the time she was writing, DDT was responsible for saving tens of millions of lives, perhaps hundreds of millions. DDT killed bald eagles because of its persistence in the environment. ”Silent Spring” is now killing African children because of its persistence in the public mind. Public opinion is so firm on DDT that even officials who know it can be employed safely dare not recommend its use.
DDT is a victim of its success, having so thoroughly eliminated malaria in wealthy nations that we forget why we once needed it. But malaria kills Africans today. Those worried about the arrogance of playing God should realize that we have forged an instrument of salvation, and we choose to hide it under our robes.
As Josh Billings once wrote (but is often attributed to Mark Twain), it ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that just ain’t so. We know that DDT is dangerous, but, used properly, it just ain’t so.
POSTSCRIPT: In a Terry Gross interview I had the misfortune to hear on the radio, she alleged that DDT was toxic to humans. Not so. (That’s not even what Carson charged! Carson accused DDT of being bad for birds, not humans.) In fact, the best use for DDT is to use it precisely where humans reside. Alas, the interviewee failed to correct Gross, perpetuating this misinformation.
As I’ve often said, the thing that was hardest to take about the Plame-Armitage was watching the left pretend that they cared about the identities of covert CIA agent being leaked. Now we have the opportunity to prove their hypocrisy, when we observe whether or not the left gets upset about this:
The CIA’s top officer in Kabul was exposed Saturday by the White House when his name was inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with U.S. troops. The White House recognized the mistake and quickly issued a revised list that did not include the individual, who had been identified on the initial release as the “Chief of Station” in Kabul, a designation used by the CIA for its highest-ranking spy in a country.
In the Plame-Armitage affair — the left’s mythology aside — Plame was only technically covert (she worked in America), and her name was accidentally leaked by the State Department. Here we have the CIA station chief in Afghanistan, a real target if there ever were one, being leaked by the White House. Of course, there’s no suggestion that his name was leaked out of malice, but that didn’t happen in the Plame-Armitage affair either.
Then there’s this:
The only other recent case came under significantly different circumstances, when former CIA operative Valerie Plame was exposed as officials of the George W. Bush administration sought to discredit her husband, a former ambassador and fierce critic of the decision to invade Iraq.
This is technically true, insofar as the Bush administration wanted to discredit Joe Wilson’s lies and contemporaneously Plame was exposed. But the clear implication, that the two events were connected, is an OUT-AND-OUT LIE.
The Washington Post, where the offending article appeared, knows this perfectly well. They ran this editorial lamenting the Democrats “myth-making” in 2010, so they have no excuse for signing onto the myth now.
UPDATE: “When Bushies blew a CIA cover, it was ‘treason’; now, it’s a mistake.” Indeed.
Ken White makes an interesting argument about censorship. It’s thoughtful, but ultimately dead wrong. Let me excerpt the start of it:
1. The First Amendment protects you from government sanction, either directly (by criminal prosecution) or indirectly (when someone uses the government’s laws and the courts to punish you, as in a defamation action). It is currently in vogue to exclaim “NOBODY IS ARGUING OTHERWISE” when someone makes this point. [Expletive.] People are consistently saying that private action (like criticism, or firings) violates the First Amendment, either directly or through sloppy implication. . .
2. The phrase “the spirit of the First Amendment” often signals approaching nonsense. So, regrettably, does the phrase “free speech” when uncoupled from constitutional free speech principles.
(This is all in the context of the A&E network’s brief cancellation of Duck Dynasty last year when it turned out that the Robertson family patriarch disapproved of sodomy.)
In regard to #1, he has a point. People often say “my First Amendment rights are being violated” when what they really mean is “I am being censored.” Some people with a weaker understanding of civics may actually be confused on this point, but most I think are just speaking sloppily.
But White goes wrong in #2. I’ve never heard the phrase “spirit of the First Amendment” used, and when I google it, the first hit is to a Cato Institute article that is clearly talking about government censorship, so let’s skip that point and move on to his next one: that “free speech” is nonsense when uncoupled from constitutional principles.
He is wrong on two levels. The first is legal. The First Amendment reads (in relevant part):
Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech. . .
Note the wording: “the freedom of speech”. The freedom of speech already existed in English law, and the First Amendment merely writes it explicitly into the US Constitution. (It’s a pity the English never did that!) It’s manifestly untrue that free speech is meaningless apart from the Constitution.
I think White would say that he already knew that, and was writing sloppily. But more substantially, he’s wrong a a philosophical level. White believes that free speech is coextensive with the First Amendment, but I think most Americans understand otherwise. Certainly I do. We ought not to conflate free speech with the First Amendment, because free speech is much broader than the First Amendment.
The First Amendment (together with the 14th) protect us from government censorship, but that doesn’t mean that government censorship is the only kind. So what is censorship?
Let’s go back to White’s straw man:
These terms [that is, “spirit of the First Amendment” and “free speech”] often smuggle unprincipled and internally inconsistent concepts — like the doctrine of the Preferred+ First Speaker. The doctrine of the Preferred First Speaker holds that when Person A speaks, listeners B, C, and D should refrain from their full range of constitutionally protected expression to preserve the ability of Person A to speak without fear of non-governmental consequences that Person A doesn’t like.
I haven’t heard of this doctrine, and the first four pages of google hits all refer to White’s article or derivatives of it (or are random junk), but I’ll assume that it’s a real, obscure legal concept, and not something that White just made up. Anyway, I don’t think that’s what “free speech” means.
I think free speech means this: If person A wants to communicate with person B, who is willing to receive the communication, it is wrong for person C, a third party uninvolved in the communication, to interfere.
This is just a first-cut; it may need some refinement (national security, juveniles, crowded theaters, etc.), but I think it works pretty well. If Alice asks Charlie to carry a message to Bob, Bob has every right to refuse. But if Alice is speaking to Bob, Charlie has no right to stop her. Similarly, if David agrees to carry a message from Alice to Bob, it is wrong for Charlie to stop him.
This applies whether or not Charlie is the government. If Charlie is the government, the First Amendment applies. If Charlie is just an ordinary busybody, Alice doesn’t have any First Amendment protection, but it’s still wrong for Charlie to interfere with her speech.
That’s what was going on in the Duck Dynasty affair. Phil Robertson critics were trying to censor him; they had no part in his communication with Duck Dynasty’s audience. On the other hand, A&E was involved, so they had a right to cancel his program. (If the audience dwindles, they surely will.) Nevertheless, by doing so in that situation, they were knuckling under to censorship. As Americans they should have done better.
This will come as no surprise to actual Tea Party people, but a major shock to the left:
Yale Law professor Dan M. Kahan was conducting a n analysis of the scientific comprehension of various political groups when he ran into a shocking discovery: tea party supporters are slightly more scientifically literate than the non-tea party population.
Shocking? Well, maybe to readers of the New York Times and the Huffington Post (i.e., liberals):
I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.
But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party. All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the “paper” (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).
I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.
(Via Monster Hunter Nation.)
In related news, conservative republicans are the most likely to know that the earth revolves around the sun, and the least likely to believe in astrology. Liberal democrats are the most likely to believe in astrology. Conservative and moderate Democrats are the least likely to know the earth revolves around the sun. (In fairness, liberal Democrats do decently well on heliocentrism.)
POSTSCRIPT: And, for the record: a rebuttal to a rebuttal of the Democratic astrology result.
I’m catching up on a big backlog of articles to remark upon. Some of these aren’t very timely any more, but I still want to note them.
Fox News reports:
Thailand’s new military junta announced it suspended the country’s constitution Thursday. The news came a few hours after Thailand’s army chief announced a military takeover of the government, saying the coup was necessary to restore stability and order after six months of political deadlock and turmoil.
But, unlike the 2009 non-coup in Honduras, in which Democrats demanded that the ousted president be returned to office, no one seems to care much. Evidently coups (or, in Honduras’s case, extraordinary legal steps) are only a problem when communists are being turned out of office.
Okay, so get this:
A Michigan branch of the powerful Service Employees International Union saw its membership and revenues plummet after the reversal of a measure that forced caregivers tending to friends or relatives to be members with their dues paid by those they cared for.
More than 44,000 home-based healthcare workers parted ways with SEIU Healthcare Michigan after learning they did not have to join the union or pay dues, according to reports the union filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. Thousands of the employees were allegedly forced into the union under a plan the SEIU successfully lobbied for that classified even unpaid family members caring for their elderly parents as “home health care workers.” Dues were then automatically collected from the care recipients’ Medicare or Medicaid checks.
“Family members were told they were public employees,” Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, a Michigan-based policy group, told FoxNews.com. “They are not public employees and this was not proper” . . .
Wright’s organization estimates that the SEIU reaped nearly $35 million from Michigan’s elderly and disabled from 2006 to last year. Of some 59,000 residents classified as home-based caregivers, about 80 percent stopped paying when they learned they did not have to.
The most charitable way to look at this scheme (promulgated by the former governor — Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat — and now repealed) is as a cynical scheme to allow a big Democratic interest to steal tens of millions of dollars from the elderly and disabled. Because if you suppose they were actually in earnest then what they’re saying is much, much worse.
If they were really in earnest, what Granholm’s policy was saying is that caring for people is the exclusive province of the government. The government will permit you to care for your family, but if you do, you work for the government. Implicit in that is the corollary: If you work for the government (by caring for your family), they can tell you what to do. Your family belongs to them.
Doubtless there are some progressives who see it that way, but I prefer to the Democratic party, in the main, is not yet fascist. I prefer to believe they are merely thieves.
I don’t understand how this can be happening. They told us John Kerry made Syria get rid of its chemical weapons!
Independent tests have confirmed that Syrian forces have used chemical weapons on civilians in several attacks over the past three weeks, a British newspaper reported Wednesday.
There’s always the big national stories, like Obama taking away your health insurance, but the government attacks the people though malice or indifference in myriad smaller ways. Smaller, except for the people affected. Here’s a couple of stories from today alone. In Pennsylvania:
A widow was given ample notice before her $280,000 house was sold at a tax auction three years ago over $6.30 in unpaid interest, a Pennsylvania judge has ruled. . . The property sold for about $116,000, and most of that money will be paid to Battisti if further appeals are unsuccessful.
She owed $6.30, so the government sold her home out from under her, for $164,000 less than it was worth.
And in Florida:
A Florida mother is “beyond outraged” and still awaiting an explanation from school officials some two weeks after her son was allegedly ordered off a bus while in the throes of a diabetic seizure.
Cynthia Shepard of West Park, Fla., said her 16-year-old son, Andrew, suffered the seizure as he rode home from school. His 14-year-old sister, Jazmen, who was also aboard the bus saw her brother “twitching,” and promptly alerted the driver, who “did nothing,” according to Shepard.
“He was not helping her. She [Jazmen] went to the back of the bus to pick him up,” she told FoxNews.com. “The driver turned around and looked at him in his face and then told my daughter, ‘It’s your stop. You have to get off.'”
Once off the bus, Andrew continued to have a seizure on the side of the road, Shepard said. Paramedics were eventually called, and Andrew spent two days in the intensive care unit of a nearby hospital.
And there’s this postscript:
Each school bus is equipped with a security camera. But Shepard claims she was told footage from her son’s bus is “supposedly blank.”
I’m sure it was.
Paul Krugman, doing the old Paul Krugman thing, explains that nothing but racism can explain Republicans’ otherwise-inexplicable political views. He can produce two examples, the first of which is:
We are told, for example, that conservatives are against big government and high spending. Yet even as Republican governors and state legislatures block the expansion of Medicaid, the G.O.P. angrily denounces modest cost-saving measures for Medicare.
Now, let’s pretend, just for a moment, that the politics of Medicare isn’t much more easily explained by age politics than race politics. Krugman doesn’t specify what “modest cost-savings for Medicare” Republicans have angrily denounced. I assume he is referring to Obamacare’s deep cuts to Medicare Advantage, which — not modest at all — virtually kill the program. Krugman really can’t think of any reason other than racism why any Republican might oppose Obamacare.
In fact, he’s being even more dishonest than that, if you consider what Medicare Advantage is. Medicare Advantage allows the elderly to obtain private health insurance using Medicare. By killing Medicare Advantage, Obamacare forces all those people back onto the government plan, thereby increasing the reach of big government. But sure, the only reason a small-government Republican might oppose that would have to be racism. . .
Krugman’s other example is simply an outright lie:
Or we’re told that conservatives, the Tea Party in particular, oppose handouts because they believe in personal responsibility, in a society in which people must bear the consequences of their actions. Yet it’s hard to find angry Tea Party denunciations of huge Wall Street bailouts, of huge bonuses paid to executives who were saved from disaster by government backing and guarantees.
This is utter nonsense. It’s not remotely difficult to find Tea Party denunciations of the financial bailout. (Here’s a link, but no one who identifies with the Tea Party will have any need to click it.) Obviously Krugman has never been to a Tea Party rally, and doesn’t watch Fox News, and I’m sure doesn’t have any Tea Party friends either. But that doesn’t let him off the hook; as a prominent political commentator, he ought to know something about the body politic, or at least he should find out before slinging spurious accusations of racism.
Unless he doesn’t care whether it’s true. After all, most of his readers don’t have any Tea Party friends either, so they won’t know any better.
The Russian Navy Some people having no connection to Russia whatsoever has sunk an old Russian warship to block the exit from Ukraine’s naval base in Crimea.
In government-run schools, bureaucratically dictated procedures reign supreme, and common sense is nowhere to be found:
A Minnesota public high school was so committed to obeying its fire drill policy to the exact letter of the law that it forced a female student–dressed only in a swimsuit, and sopping wet–to stand outside in the freezing cold for ten minutes. As a result, she suffered frostbite.
Administrators wouldn’t let the student retrieve her clothes, sit in a car or wait inside another building, according to WCCO.
Someone ought to be prosecuted, but I expect no one will even be fired.
Years ago, liberals made an ideological commitment to the idea that missile defense was impossible. It’s easy to understand how: Reagan was for it, and liberals were against everything he was for. Why they’ve never been able to shed that position in the ensuing decades is truly a puzzler. Despite all the things modern technology has accomplished (including successes in missile defense!), missile defense is the one thing that liberals believe is impossible.
But while America’s implementation of missile defense has been desultory, Israel hasn’t had the luxury of being able to accommodate its defense nay-sayers. They have implemented a system, and it works. Their Iron Dome system shoots down incoming rockets from Gaza, allowing their citizens to live normal lives while under constant attack.
But it’s expensive, so the Israelis have developed a cheaper solution:
At $100,000 a pop, missile interception isn’t cheap. And that’s why Israel is investigating lasers. Last week Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd, the company behind the Iron Dome, unveiled its new Iron Beam system, a less expensive and more versatile laser-based addition to Israel’s defensive arsenal. The Iron Beam, which could be deployed as early as 2015, will reportedly vaporize short-range rockets, mortars, and even drones using high-kilowatt lasers.
“It’s exactly like what you see in Star Wars,” Amit Zimmer, a company spokesperson, told the Associated Press. “You see the lasers go up so quickly, like a flash, and the target is finished.”
I’ll be watching this with interest. The liberals have been very clear that shooting down missiles with lasers is impossible.