Archives for: May 2014

Putting A Face On It

Well, the politicians in Washington got what they wanted, Shinseki resigned, they can all pat themselves on the back with a collective ,”See, the system works, this administration does in fact hold people accountable, and heads did roll, now, can we get back to talking about the Redskins?”, thereby washing their hands of the whole affair. Who says life is complicated on The Hill?

So, Shinseki resigned? BFD as far as I’m concerned, since this does nothing in solving the problem. Was he a colossal failure at his job? Not any more than his boss, both knew for the last 5 years that the VA was a dysfunctional, corrupt, big government nightmare that served only the bureaucrats running it (more bonuses all around, thank you), yet, is was always convenient to ignore it since reforming it would ruffle too many feathers.

Here is something else I don’t get, we kept hearing that Shinseki was a “war hero”, how is stepping on a land mine and getting half your foot blown off heroic? I looked at his wiki page, I found nothing there that speaks to heroism, mostly staff and post work followed. Sure, butting heads with Rumsfeld over troop numbers in Iraq earned him a feather in his cap with this administration.

But what to do now? Is the whole VA culture, the way it runs it’s affairs, handles claims and deals with our veteran’s needs, is it at all salvageable? Not with this current crop;

Along those lines, he called on the Senate to pass a bill giving the VA more authority to quickly discipline and fire officials.

The House passed a version of this bill, but Senate Democrats delayed consideration of it before leaving for a week-long break last week.

Maybe putting a face on the problem might spur some action;

His parents provide some specifics on his maladies;

He suffered from fibromyalgia and PTSD and killed himself last year after he received treatment from the Phoenix VA hospital. He wrote that his body had become “nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems.”

Somers’ parents read an excerpt of his suicide note on CNN Friday afternoon: “Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the State of the Union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic but rather by our system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.”

An exercise in futility is listing all the Obama scandals in terms of relative importance, since he has two more years in office, the list will almost certainly need revising, but this must rank near the top. Not danced on the international stage (we know how much he fears leading and locks up with paralysis of analysis), not some spontaneous demonstration, a result from a video, and not some wrongdoing he can blame on a rogue auditor out of Cincinnati, this problem was ongoing from his first days in office. If the IG report is to be believed, incidents of fraud took place, certainly some folks need to go to prison over this. I’m sure Holder will jump right on that.

They have been doing that for 5 years now!

What’s the “THAT” that I am referring to? I wrote before about that snow job they tried to use to hide the damage done by the left’s policies. Well, others are also pointing out that the members of the DNC controlled LSM have been desperately spinning ever worsening economic data in order to help their incompetent marxists-fascist nanny stater fellow travelers ruining the economy from receiving their due:

The big news Thursday was that America’s economy shrank during the first quarter of 2014, its worst performance in three years — but reporting that news apparently didn’t sit well with several major media outlets.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis revised the numbers downward from prior estimates to show the nation’s GDP contracted at an annual rate of negative 1 percent. It was the first negative quarter since 2011, and one more three-month stretch in the red would put the U.S. is back in recession. But nightly newscasts sought to present the data as a blip, blaming it on the weather — if they mentioned it at all.

“All that snow and ice froze business, but most economists believe it sets the economy up for rebound this quarter and there are some encouraging signs in the numbers,” CBS News’ Anthony Mason reported.

Neither ABC nor NBC reported the disappointing numbers at all. The preliminary quarterly estimate from the U.S. Department of Commerce had been that the economy grew at a modest 0.1 percent rate.

Economists, including those at the Federal Reserve, generally agree that unusually brutal weather played a role in the economy contracting by a full percent for the first three months of the year. Some say President Obama’s economic policies didn’t help, either. But while that kind of analysis has a place in fair and balanced reporting, such rosy spin rarely found its way into headlines during the economic doldrums of the Bush administration.

“When the media aren’t ignoring bad economic news to protect Obama, they’re spinning it into good news,” Media Research Center’s Brent Baker, who drew attention to the apparent double standard on the MRC’s NewsBusters site, told FoxNews.com. “That sure wasn’t a favor the press corps ever provided George W. Bush.”

The New York Times used the double entendre “Frigid First Quarter” to characterize both the lack of economic growth and the reason for it, while media outlets more versed in economics, such as Forbes, simply stated the facts up front and allowed informed sources to provide commentary below.

Brutal weather my ass. The real brutality against our economy is five plus years of deficit spending that make the worst Boosh years look like peanuts, and all while passing a slew of economy destroying pie-in-the-sky leftard laws that have devastated any chance for growth, culminating with the biggest economy damaging piece of garbage to ever slam the American people: Obamacare.

There must be an election soonish….

How Do You Spell Tie?

All right, time for something to pick you up on a Friday. Here’s something you don’t see every day:

Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe correctly spelled so many words Thursday that the Scripps National Spelling Bee had to declare them both winners.

Why? Because there weren’t enough words left on the competition’s list for them to keep facing off until only one was left standing.

In the bee’s final round, Hathwar, 14, an eighth-grader from Painted Post, New York, correctly spelled the word “stichomythia” — dialogue especially of altercation delivered by two actors.

Sujoe, 13, a seventh-grader from Fort Worth, Texas, correctly spelled the word “feuilleton” — part of a European newspaper.

It’s the first time the bee has ended in a tie in more than 50 years. The last time there were co-champions was in 1962, organizers said. Ties also ended the bees in 1950 and 1957.

There’s been some hay made about some racist comments appearing (e.g., why can’t “real Americans” win the spelling bee). I think that’s mostly trolling. Almost everyone else is expressing nothing but admiration for these two young men. The reason the bee has come to be dominated by first- and second-generation American in recent years is probably because immigrants appreciate the opportunities of this country and the value of education a little more than most other Americans do. In the high-pressure environment of spelling stichomythia on a national stage, that can be the difference.

I’m damned proud of these two young men who, in their words, took on the dictionary and won.

The Latest Triumph of Obamanomics

You remember the “Summer of Recovery”? That was back in 2010 when the combination of fiscal stimulus and Obama frisson was supposed to get the economy moving again. Since then, we’ve been waiting and waiting for a full recovery, bumbling along at 2% growth with job creation barely keeping up with population. But I’m sure an economic boom is just around …

Oh:

The Commerce Department said on Thursday that the nation’s overall output shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent in the first three months of the year, revising downward its initial estimate from late April, which showed a very slight gain for the period. It is the first quarter in three years in which the nation’s output of goods and services has contracted.

The figures are bad news for the White House as well as for Democrats running for Congress in November’s midterm elections. Although there’s still time for growth to rebound before then — and recent data on hiring has been more encouraging — little room remains on the runway for an economic takeoff this year.

This is being blamed on the unusually cold winter. That’s not a ridiculous explanation but it’s not enough to explain everything. Gross Domestic Income fell a whopping 2.3% which could indicate that further revisions will be even worse.

Yeah, I know. Austerity! Republicans! Libertarians! Uh … no:

It has been six years since the financial crisis. Federal government spending is still around 21 percent of GDP, up from 19 percent in 2007, and the Federal Reserve still has a very expansive monetary policy. Under those circumstances, a quarter of negative growth is pretty unsettling.

Exactly. The “austerity” we’ve enjoyed has been a huge increase in FY2009 followed by flat spending. It has included a massive quantitative easement from the Fed. You simply can not look at all that and call it austerity, no matter how much Paul Krugman stamps his foot.

Parents Into the Machine

Lenore Skenazy recently put up this story out of DC. The basics are that two girls, ages 6 and 7, went into their backyard. Without the permission of their parents, they wandered away and ended up in a nearby mall. A stranger spotted them and called the police. If you’re familiar with how our legal system works, you know what happened next:

The police came with admirable speed. Somewhat less admirably, they chose to put the girls in the cruiser (with no car seats) rather than, again, resorting to the completely available option of calling their parents to come get them. They brought the girls back to us a total of twenty minutes after they first walked out of the door. They could have just told us what happened and admonished us to keep better tabs on our children. They could have just handed over their official-looking little card about age restrictions (which they incorrectly believed to be law, but which in fact were only county recommendations) and told us not to let it happen again. But you see, when you call the police, this creates pressure on the police to Do Something. So what they did was arrest us—one parent from each family, our choice, with no chance for private conference to decide. They tried to arrest us for felony neglect of a minor, but apparently even the magistrate thought that was ridiculous, so they went for misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor instead. They informed us that we would be reported to the Department of Social Services and probably contacted by Child Protective Services — which we have been.

The families are now in the hell of CPS, facing trial, racking up thousands of dollars in legal fees and facing the possibility of losing their children. Oh, yeah, the children. Remember them?

I find it difficult to imagine that you know what it’s like to be afraid that your own government will punish you for having done your best to be a good parent. To be arrested for absolutely nothing anyone is even claiming that you did, in the middle of a peaceful afternoon of sewing and childcare. To jump every time the phone rings, every time a car slows down. To forget for a few minutes or an hour, as the days go by, and then suddenly remember with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. To have to let a stranger into your house—a stranger with the virtually unchecked power to take your children away from you—so that she can poke around and interrogate your child and decide whether you are fit parents. To see your confident, strong-willed child afraid to play outside or let her little sister do so, because the lesson she has taken from this is to “never go outside.”

This is not an isolated incident, by the way. Parents are routinely being harassed or arrested for letting any kid on the fair side of puberty out of their sight. Our legal system is making a clear statement: kids must be manacled to their parents at all times.

The fundamental problem is that too many Americans think of the police as being like Andy Taylor. They think that if you call the police in this situation — in any situation — they’ll just give the people a good talking to. Some of them do. But the system is heavily canted against anything approaching common sense. In the initial phases, it is designed to treat everyone like a criminal. There are massive disincentives to just let something slide. And there no disincentives to going to the wall and wrecking someone’s life over something trivial.

Let’s say the judge decided this was a stupid case and threw it out. Would the cops be punished? Would CPS? No. They would be praised for “doing their job” and giving the last full measure to make sure kids are safe even if what they did traumatized kids who were doing perfectly fine. Our system sees CPS investigation as something that only does good — it is pure benefits without costs. It doesn’t care about the people whose lives it turns upside down.

The whole system is set up to make a literal federal case out of everything. And it can be even worse. Out in Texas, the cops responded to a noise complaint with a SWAT-style raid, tasering a grandmother five times and dousing kids with pepper spray. We have built a legal system that believes that you can never go too far in executing the law, only not far enough.

Frankly, if I were in charge of DC, I would see this — as I see all law enforcement excesses — as a clear indication that someone’s budget needs to be cut. If CPS has so much time on their hands that they can waste resources on a case like this, they clearly have too many people in their employ and too few cases of genuine abuse. If law enforcement has so much jail space that they can arrest some parents because their kids wandered out of the backyard, they clearly have too much time on their hands.

The only way to stop these abuses is for there to be consequences. There won’t be, of course. So you can expect the next abuse to be even worse.

Obamacare will be worse than this…

As with everything about this administrations, people were rewarded for mismanagement while we had rampant abuse of power, I mean frightening abuses like this one, and of course, delays in care correctly pointed out as death panels.

The left is desperate to pretend that this is a preview of Obamacare. Yeah sure. That’s because the bureaucrats that will run Obamacare are not the same low rent, power hungry, delusions of grandeur having dirt bags that now run the VA and screw over vets. “I told you so” is very appropriate at this time, but the profit haters that think government should run healthcare won’t care as long as their envy of other people making money is satisfied. After all, profits are evil and healthcare is a right. These people will make excuses for the most horrible dysfunctional system possible as long as it allows them to avoid having to submit themselves to the laws of economics and human nature. Of course, their delusion can only be maintained for so long as countless fortresses of lefty belief are finding out these days when they run out of other people’s money to spend.

The best thing that can come from Obamacare is that we roll it back and learn for at least a few generations that collectivism is a disease best avoided.

An Unsession

This sounds like a really good idea:

It’s no longer a crime in Minnesota to carry fruit in an illegally sized container. The state’s telegraph regulations are gone. And it’s now legal to drive a car in neutral — if you can figure out how to do it.

Those were among the 1,175 obsolete, unnecessary and incomprehensible laws that Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature repealed this year as part of the governor’s “unsession” initiative. His goal was to make state government work better, faster and smarter….

In addition to getting rid of outdated laws, the project made taxes simpler, cut bureaucratic red tape, speeded up business permits and required state agencies to communicate in plain language.

I’ve written before about why removing obscure out-of-date laws is important: such laws give law enforcement the ability to harass and arrest anyone they don’t like for trivial legal violations. They leave citizens in a state of perpetually violating some law somewhere. But Dayton’s changes go beyond that with real cutting of red tape and tax laws.

Notice that he didn’t “gut regulation” or anything else. He simple cut away the cruft that accumulate on any legal system over time.

This sort of thing is needed at every level but especially at the federal level. I would vote for any President who would stop making laws for a few years and overhaul the ones we have. We have a legal system where hundreds of billions, possibly over a trillion dollars, are lost to regulation and tax code every year. We have a regulatory structure that doesn’t make us any safer and caters to powerful interests. Democrats talk big on new energy sources but see nothing wrong with a regulatory system for just running a power line can run into a decade of legal bullshit.

An unsession for America. We need one. Badly.

The Purge

For the last few months, Stephen Bainbridge has been talking about “the Purge”, what he perceives as an increased effort to rid campuses of ideas and people that the Left does not approve of. It has manifested in universities cutting funding for conservative groups and preventing them from hosting speakers that some students don’t approve of (lest anyone be “offended”). It has manifested in Rutgers withdrawing an invitation to Condi Rice to speak at their commencement (a precedent followed by other schools). It has manifested in Brandeis withdrawing a speaking invitation to Ayan Hirsi Ali. It has manifested in Charles Murray’s speech at Azusa Pacific being postponed indefinitely.

In isolation, these things wouldn’t be a concern. No one has a right to speak, after all (although I doubt the people who objected to Rutgers hosting “war criminal” Condi Rice would object to hosting a member of the Administration that has droned American citizens to death without trial). But we’re now seeing the second stage: legal harassment of people who may harbor politically incorrect views:

Douglas Laycock, School of Law faculty member and husband of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, is one of the country’s leading experts on religious liberty, and is well-known for a legal stance that often puts him on opposite sides of polarizing political issues: He supports individual religious rights, but also a total separation of church and state, and he’s argued several Supreme Court cases from that position, defending conservative Lutherans and Santería sect members alike.

Some of his recent writings have been heavily cited by members of the religious right, and now he’s facing the ire of activists on the other end of the political spectrum.

“His work, whether he understands it or realizes it or not, is being used by folks who want to institute discrimination into law,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of Berkeley, California-based LGBT activist group GetEQUAL.

Through the activist group Virginia Student Power Network, GetEQUAL found two UVA students willing to take up the cause of calling out Laycock: rising fourth-year Greg Lewis and now-alum Stephanie Montenegro. Last week, the pair sent an open letter to Laycock asking him to consider the “real-world consequences that [his] work is having.” They also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking e-mails between Laycock and various right-wing and religious liberty groups.

They say they just want to “start a dialogue”. Many of you will recognize that language. “Starting a dialogue” frequently translates out of Leftese into English as “you will shut up while I berate you.” Bainbridge calls them out:

Bullshit. You don’t start a dialogue with FOIA requests. This is a blatant effort at deterring public participation by anyone who does not hew 100% to the most radical version of the gay rights movement.

FOIA requests should sound familiar. That was the tactic that, when used in an attempt to fish around in Michael Mann’s records, was denounced by the Left as an Orwellian attack on academic freedom. And it was. But now that it is being applied to someone who isn’t even conservative, but is insufficiently liberal, it’s OK again. And that’s not the first time they’ve flipped on this. When Greenpeace used FOIA to go after climate skeptical Patrick Michaels, the academic-freedom-loving Left cheered them on. They then used the information Greenpeace dredged up to attack Michaels. (To be fair, as Walter Olson notes, some conservative groups are also using FOIA to attack profs they don’t like).

Look, you either believe in academic freedom or you don’t. You either believe in the free exchange of ideas or you don’t. And a significant and vocal part of the Left has made it clear, sometimes very explicitly, that they only believe in academic freedom for ideas they approve of.

I don’t think you win arguments by silencing dissenters. Argue … shout … scream … protest … sure. Make your case; make it forcefully; mock your opponents. That’s fighting bad speech with more free speech. But the tenor of these attacks is edging closer and closer to censorship, closer and closer to ridding the academy of ideas that are considered dangerous or subversive (at least by a small group of like-minded people).

The justification is usually given as protecting people from being offended. But no one has a right to not be offended. Hell, it’s good to be offended sometimes. It can motivate you. The most linked blog post I ever wrote was a debunking of Mother Jones’ claim that mass shooting were on the rise. I wrote it because I was infuriated by their abuse of statistics.

Moreover college is where you should be exposed to a broad array of ideas, some of which may offend you. Being taken out of your comfort zone is how you learn. Sometimes, you learn that you were wrong (of course, nothing offends people more than being wrong). Sometimes you learn that you were right. I always despised communism. It wasn’t until I was exposed to communist writings in college that if found it offended me with its awful understanding of economics and explicit embrace of totalitarianism.

Another justification given is that we don’t want to contaminate impressionable young minds with bad ideas. More garbage. The best time to encounter bad ideas is when you’re in college, when your entire life revolves around ingesting and either accepting or rejecting ideas.

You don’t immunize people from “bad” ideas by hiding them away. You argue, you debate, you explain why those ideas are wrong, you put forward better ideas. If you think Douglas Laycock is wrong on religious freedom, file your own amicus briefs. But don’t abuse the FOIA laws to try to harass and intimidate him. That’s not “starting a dialogue”. That just thuggery.

Post-Memorial Day Quick Hits

My browers tabs are filling up faster than I can empty them. So here are some quick reads going into this week:

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George Will has a great piece on the Presidential candidate we need. The problem is that we’ve had people run like that. They don’t get as far as someone promising the American people the world for free.

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Bjorn Lomborg reminds us that Paul Ehrlich is a pathologically wrong doomsayer. We should continue to ignore anything he says.

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More on Operation Chokepoint. Money quote:

The ability to destroy legal industries through secret actions to deprive them of banking services has obvious political consequences. For example, it was reported last week that firearms shops are alleging that Operation Choke Point is being used to pressure banks into refusing to providing financial services. There are also reports that porn stars (and here) have had their bank accounts terminated for “moral” reasons related to the “reputation risk” of banking individuals in the porn industry. IRS officials must already be salivating about ways to apply Operation Choke Point to tea party groups.

In principle, of course, the logic of Operation Choke Point could be extended to groups not currently targeted. Notably absent from the FDIC’s hit list, for example, are abortion clinics, radical environmental groups, or, well, marijuana shops, for that matter. Something similar was done to cut off credit-card payments to support the operation of WikiLeaks.

The larger legal and regulatory issue here is the expansive use of the vague and subjective standard of “reputation risk” to target these industries. In a letter to Janet Yellen, the chair of the Federal Reserve, last week, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling expressed concern over the growing use of “reputation risk” as a vehicle for attacking legal businesses. Is there any discernible principle as to why, for example, a payday lender or firearms dealer poses a “reputation risk” and an abortion provider does not?

Nope.

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The White House has either deliberately or mistakenly outed the CIA’s top officer in Kabul. I was virtually alone on this blog in supporting to pursuit of the Valerie Plame affair. This should be pursued with similar fervor.

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One final thought. Over the weekend, we had a horrible mass killing in California by a 22-year-old. There was a lot at play here: clear mental issues and violent tendencies, social emotional and sexual isolation, an attitude of entitlement and narcissism. And it exploded in seven deaths.

I don’t know that this could have prevented. But I would like, just once, for the Left Wing in this country to not to bathe in the blood of the slain every time this happens. Mass shooting are thankfully rare, despite the mathematically-challenged efforts of rags like Mother Jones to convince us otherwise. They constitute a tiny portion of the violence in this country. This kid stabbed three people to death, tried to run over others with his car and then shot a few more. In doing so, he used small arms with low-capacity magazines purchased in compliance with California’s strict gun control laws. This isn’t about gun control. Nor is it about Men’s Right or Pick-Up Artists or whatever other group of men you want to demonize. This isn’t about finding some group you’ve never liked and pinning this on them. This is about a deranged adult with severe issues and an unrelenting anger against women (and men, for that matter) who did something unspeakably evil.

Just for once, could we wait maybe a few hours before people start grinding whatever political ax they want to grind? Men’s rights, pick-up artists, gun rights, sexual harassment, men who feel “entitled to sex … come on. There are a couple of hundred million gun owners in this country. There are millions of men who have some sort of resentment toward women (and virtually all have gone through some stage where they were bitter about their relation with the fair sex). There are tens of millions who are sexually, romantically or socially frustrated. There are tens of millions who have untreated mental health issues. You know how many of them went on a murder spree this weekend? One.

In a nation of 3000 million people, there are inevitably going to be people where the right alchemy of mental illness, resentment, anger and lack of empathy will come together to produce this sort of thing. Sometimes they are caught before they happen; sometimes they aren’t. Blaming groups of millions of people for the actions of one is just stupid.

Cut it the fuck out.

So will the left demand legal redress this time?

Back during the Boosh days, Richard Armitage, a donkey, disclosed the identity of a woman that had once been a low level CIA desk jockey, and the left went bat shit about it because they figured they could use a pretense of caring about national security to nail evil Boosh and his gang. It went nowhere, but they managed to fuck over some guy – Libby – for not playing along nice with the witch-hunt. Well, now Obama’s own WH has revealed the identity of a real CIA station chief in a country we are at war in> How much do you want to bet that Holder and the left all tell us this is nothing to worry about and that this is just a manufactured scandal, huh?

Karma is a bitch you leftards. Do that dance. Squirm. Show us that the only standards you have are double standards. Line up to see the excuse making. This is going to be fun.