Tag: Barack Obama

Obama Ignores Courts, Constitution, Decency … Again

Good Lord. Can you imagine the outcry if a Republican did this:

The Obama administration has asked a secret surveillance court to ignore a federal court that found bulk surveillance illegal and to once again grant the National Security Agency the power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans for six months.

The legal request, filed nearly four hours after Barack Obama vowed to sign a new law banning precisely the bulk collection he asks the secret court to approve, also suggests that the administration may not necessarily comply with any potential court order demanding that the collection stop.

US officials confirmed last week that they would ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court – better known as the Fisa court, a panel that meets in secret as a step in the surveillance process and thus far has only ever had the government argue before it – to turn the domestic bulk collection spigot back on.

Justice Department national security chief John A Carlin cited a six-month transition period provided in the USA Freedom Act – passed by the Senate last week to ban the bulk collection – as a reason to permit an “orderly transition” of the NSA’s domestic dragnet. Carlin did not address whether the transition clause of the Freedom Act still applies now that a congressional deadlock meant the program shut down on 31 May.

So let’s walk through this. The Second Circuit concluded that the Patriot Act did not allow bulk collection of phone records. Congress then passed a law restricting bulk data collection, allowing a six-month transition period. But they did not actually restore Section 215 yet, so it’s a bit in limbo. Obama is now asking the secret FISA court to ignore the Second Circuit and ignore Congress and reauthorize bulk data collection anyway, using the sunset provision in the USA Freedom Act as cover.

I guess we should just trust Obama when he ignores the courts.

PC Eats Itself … Again … And Again

Right now, our Congress is debating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between 12 countries across the Pacific. Battle lines are forming up much like they did with NAFTA. Pro-business Republicans, some Democrats and the President claim it will open up economic opportunities. Pro-union Democrats and protectionist Republicans claim it gives too much power to foreign countries and corporations. Since many of the details are unknown, I don’t feel qualified to comment at this point.

But one funny thing emerged during the debate. Barack Obama chided Elizabeth Warren, who is one of the most vocal opponents of TPP. And now he’s being branded as sexist:

President Obama is facing criticism from his liberal base over what they say are “disrespectful” and even sexist comments about Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has led the opposition against a White House-backed trade bill.

“I think the president was disrespectful to her about the way he did that,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told reporters Tuesday, a few days after Obama referred to Warren, who is a Democrat, as “Elizabeth” and “a politician.” Shortly after that, Senate Democrats successfully blocked the trade bill, which would give the president expanded authority to negotiate a trade pact.

Brown made his comments as the liberal-leaning group the National Organization for Women said Obama’s remarks had sexist overtones.

“I think it is sexist,” NOW President Terry O’Neill told The Hill newspaper. “I think the president was trying to build up his own trustworthiness on this issue by convincing us that Senator Warren’s concerns are not to be taken seriously. But he did it in a sexist way.

So what did he say?

Obama told Yahoo in a story published Saturday: “The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else. And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that.”

O’Neill also said the “subtext” of Obama’s comments are “ ‘the little lady just doesn’t know what she’s talking about’. … I think it was disrespectful.”

Oh. Come. On. This is standard political debate. This is what Obama says about Republicans all the time. Maybe you could take an issue with him calling her “Elizabeth” rather “Senator Warren”. Some women find it belittling to be addressed by their first name by default instead of by a formal title. But some women don’t. I have no idea what Senator Warren thinks and neither do any of the people getting offended on her behalf.

McArdle:

However, I have to point out that not every use of a first name is sexist. Not every political disagreement secretly is about the gender or race of the participants. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes calling a senator by his or her first name is just, well, calling a senator “Sherrod.” Conservatives will attest that Obama does not reserve condescending and dismissive statements about his opponents and their motives for female politicians; this is pretty much par for the course when Obama discusses the Republican Party.

People who carelessly toss around the “s” word are trying to have things both ways: They want sexism to be something very, very bad that forces the refs to stop the action and pull you out of the game, and they also want to be able to level this charge at every minor verbal tic that might be sexist. Even if it might just be, you know, politics. In this and other contexts, this is not a bargain that a modern society will strike. If you make the punishments draconian, people will hesitate to apply them widely. This is true in law enforcement, and it is true of social sins as well. To claim “sexism” too often just robs the word of its power.

As was pointed out on Twitter:

Sexism is stupid. Racism is stupid. But invoking them by reflex is even stupider. Obama and Warren are having a disagreement over policy. And Obama has a tendency to be condescending when he disagree with anyone (as, frankly, does Warren). You don’t have to read any hidden agenda into it.

For goodness sake, does everything in our society have to be dissected like this? If you’ve been following the rise of political correctness, the answer for them is, “Yes. Yes it does.” But for the rest of us, it’s just exhausting.

Surviving the New Cold War

As you have probably heard, Yemen has collapsed into chaos. The President we were backing had fled the country and Iran-backed Shia rebels appear to be establishing control. Saudi Arabia is intervening and it looks like Egypt may get involved as well.

All this is a sign of Obama’s failed foreign policy according to … holy crap … Vox?:

Read more… »

Bergdahl To Be Charged

Well, knock me over with a feather:

On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life.

In announcing the charges against Sergeant Bergdahl, the military reignited the political firestorm that took place last summer after the sergeant was released in a swap for five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

For President Obama, it reopens the contentious political question of whether the United States should have agreed to the exchange. Administration officials have steadfastly maintained that even if Sergeant Berdahl did voluntarily walk off his remote base in Afghanistan, it was the duty of the United States to take all appropriate steps to free him.

The president’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, was harshly criticized when she said last summer that Sergeant Bergdahl had served “with honor and distinction” at the same time that his former platoon members were appearing on television accusing him of deliberately leaving the base, an act that they said put in danger the lives of the American military members who searched for him.

Sergeant Bergdahl is charged with misbehavior before the enemy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison, and with desertion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He could also face a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and forfeiture of the pay he was owed while in captivity if he is tried and convicted, Army officials said during a news conference in Fort Bragg, N.C.

A few things to unpack here:

First, getting Bergdahl back was justified. We don’t leave men behind and the idea, currently promulgating in liberal circles, that Republicans would rather he have been left to rot, is garbage. The criticism that Obama faced was for the way this went down — releasing five Taliban detainees in exchange for Bergdahl, not informing Congress of the deal, trying to pretend that Bergdahl served with honor and, in the case of one Administration official, branding his accusers as psychopaths.

Second, it’s amazing to watch the pretzels the sufferers of Obama Defense Derangement Syndrome are twisting themselves into. When Bergdahl was first released and the criticisms of his conduct emerged, the Left took the “how dare you!” narrative. When he was returned to active duty, they pilloried Republicans for having had the temerity to have questioned his honor. Republican criticism of the deal was labelled as placing party above country (even though many Democrats agreed that Obama broke the law in brokering the deal). Now that he’s been charged, we’re back to, “we don’t leave a man behind.”

Berdahl is innocent until proven guilty, obviously. But let’s not pretend the Republicans are the only ones who used his release as a political football. And let’s not pretend that this was a great deal. As David Burge noted on Twitter the other day, it’s becoming clear that this Administration couldn’t negotiate a 99-cent deal with a dollar store.

Trying Their Hand at Diplomacy

Barack Obama has been negotiating with Iran for a potential deal that would delay their nuclear ambitions while lightening sanctions. We’ve been debating the wisdom of this in the comments for a while. The Republicans oppose any deal without more sanctions and invited Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the President, an unusual move (although I found Netanyahu’s speech itself to be reasonable and conciliatory).

But this week, things took an interesting turn:

A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

As a matter of law, the Republicans are right. Any deal will not be a formal treaty ratified by Congress. As a matter of practical politics, however, I find this meaningless. If, two years from now, Iran is violating the terms of the deal, there will no problem in revoking it. However, if the deal is working, I don’t see how a Republican President could possibly revoke it and basically put Iran on a faster path to a nuclear weapon. If we were to unilaterally back out, Iran would be able to resume a nuclear program without international sanctions, which is a worse situation than we have right now. In fact, I would argue that issuing this threat at this time is likely to make the Iranian situation worse. Doug Mataconis:

First of all, as several observers have noted since the letter was released yesterday, the threat that an agreement reached with the Obama Administration might not be honored by the next President, or that it could be undermined by Republicans in Congress through a variety of methods is likely to reinforce the position of Iranian hardliners who are against any agreement at all. This letter reinforces exactly what they already believe, that the United States cannot be trusted and that Iran must move forward with a nuclear program to protect its national interests. Second, the current sanctions regime is working largely only because the other major nations in the world are on board with it because they believe that it will help in the ongoing negotiations in Geneva to persuade the Iranians that there could be a benefit to agreeing to limits on their nuclear program, namely the gradual lifting of sanctions. Even the Russians and Chinese have signed on to this strategy, for now. If these other nations start to see the U.S. as taking a hard line position that makes diplomacy impossible, though, it’s unlikely that they are going to stick with the program or that they will agree to the kind of tougher sanctions that Republicans, and the Israeli Prime Minister favor. If the international sanctions regime is undermined, then there goes the pressure on Iran to come to the negotiating table. Finally, the simple fact of the matter that these Republicans seem to be ignoring is that Iran is not going to give up its nuclear program the way that nations like Libya and South Africa, to pick two examples that Senator Cotton cited this morning, did simply because history has shown them what happens to regimes who give up their WMD programs, such as Libya and Iraq, and those that do not, such as North Korea. Rather than aiming for an impossible objective, then, it strikes me that the best alternative is to try to get the Iranians to agree to confine their research to peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Senator Cotton and his colleagues just helped to undermine that objective.

I would also add that it endangers the cooperation Iran is giving us in fighting ISIS, which I regard as the greater of two evils at the moment.

Iran’s foreign minister has responded to the letter quite forcefully, indicated the letter is having the effect of encouraging Iranian hardliners. And parts of the Left Wing is accusing the Republicans of sabotaging Obama on foreign policy. I’m inclined to somewhat agree.

Foreign policy is one of the few arenas where the President has primary authority. Congress has some say — funding the President’s initiatives and ratifying treaties and so on. But it is not the job of Congress to act like amateur diplomats. Acting like amateur diplomats is the job of Obama’s bumbling State Department. I said as much when Nancy Pelosi went to Syria to meet with Assad: that was not her damned job. It was not the job of Congressmen to undermine the President’s foreign policy then; it’s not the job of Congressmen to undermine the President’s foreign policy now.

As is their wont, the Left is taking a reasonable point and becoming absurd, accusing the Republicans of “treason” for this. This isn’t treason, no matter what you think of it. I’d reserve that to … say … a sitting Senator negotiating with a hostile foreign power to influence an American election.

It’s one thing for Congress to influence policy through the power of the purse or the power of law. But this sort of direct communication with a foreign government during negotiations is a bridge too far. They need to cut it out. If they want to cancel any deal with Iran, they can try to pass a law over Obama’s veto. Or they can the election in 2016 and abrogate it then. But they need to leave off the theatrics. The situation with Iran is delicate enough without 47 senators barging into it.

They Don’t Want a Welfare State; They Want a Plunder State

The strange thing about the 2014 election is that Obama seems to have taken it as a mandate … for more liberal polices. In addition to unilateral immigration “reform”, he has just released his budget proposal, which has massive tax hikes and spending hikes, no hint of entitlement reform and claims it will find $640 billion in deficit reduction (a paltry amount over the time frame) from tax hikes, immigration reform and, I believe, money imported from Narnia. It’s a fantasy budget that is making the hard-core liberals at Vox swoon but has connection to reality. And it puts the lie to the idea that Obama is a “conservative” as one newly-retired blogger has argued.

Here’s the thing, though. Liberals have long said that what they favor is a European-style welfare state (such as the one that imploded in Greece). Obama says this and his budget makes noises in this direction and is being praised as a step in that direction.

But the Democrats do not want a European welfare state. As much as they claim they do, that’s not what they want and not what they are advocating. If they really wanted a welfare state, they would be proposing something very different: huge tax hikes on the middle class.

The United States has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world, being very reliant on the wealthy for revenue. The European welfare states, by contrast, are more regressive, having flatter taxes and relying on VATs and sales taxes that are regressive. They have to be that way because you simply can’t finance a welfare state by taxing the 1%.

A welfare state financed by the rich doesn’t even work politically. When everyone is paying taxes, there is more support for a welfare state because everyone is pitching in. The perception is that you’re getting out something related to what you paid in, which is why Social Security and Medicare are popular in this country (both financed by a regressive tax that is denounced by Democrats for not soaking the rich enough). But a system that is dependent on taxing the rich isn’t a welfare state, it’s a plunder state. And as I’ve pointed out before, most people don’t want that. They don’t want to feel like they’re living on someone else’s dime or on stolen property. The Communists discovered this 70 years ago when they tried to “redistribute” estates to the commoners only to discover that the commoners didn’t want that wealth if it was stolen.

The gripping hand, of course, is that there isn’t any support for a huge middle-class-funded welfare state either, which Vermont discovered when they had to abandon their experiment in single-payer healthcare. And so the Democrats keep trying to sneak their welfare state through the backdoor. First it was taxes on the savings in 529 plans, which was quickly killed. Now it’s a tax on overseas earnings. Tomorrow, it will be more sin taxes.

(And if that fails, I expect them to embrace Modern Monetary Theory, currently being pushed by Bernie Sanders. This theory says that government shouldn’t worry about deficits; it can just print money. Taxes only exist to keep the rich from getting too rich. Seriously, that’s what it says. It’s like a politician’s wet dream: spend whatever you like and never worry about the bills.)

Thankfully, none of this is going to fly with the Republican Congress. But Obama’s absurd tax-and-spend proposal is a sign that we are still running out of other people’s money.

Obama, Man of Contradictions

Last week, Alex put up a good takedown of the talking points from Obama’s State of Union Monarchial Address. But I’ve thinking about it for a week and there’s one thing I keep circling back to:

Almost everything that Obama claims credit for has come from policies he opposed.

A list of the things that Obama is claiming credit for it too long for a blog post since I’m pretty sure he’s now claiming credit for the sun continuing to rise. And that’s understandable: a good job description of “President of the United States” would be “someone who takes credit for anything good that happens”. But you can burrow down to several specific things he’s crowing about. And the striking this is that almost all of them are the result of policies he has opposed.

First, Obama took credit for the shrinking budget deficit. Putting aside that it’s easy to shrink a deficit after you’ve exploded it, the progress on the deficit, such as it is, has come from things Obama or his liberal travelers opposed — budget rescissions and the sequester. And it came without the thing they insisted was needed: massive tax hikes on the rich. The reason the deficit is smaller is because Republicans held the line on spending, keeping the level of spending flat for the last four years despite endless and repeated demands from Obama and the Democrats for ever more “stimulus” spending. The Keynesians out there, having caught their breath from screaming about how sequestration would wreck the economy, are now screaming that the 2009 stimulus finally worked, six years down the road. Whatever supports their bias, I guess.

(It should also be noted that the deficit may start rising again as soon as next year because of the failure to address entitlement spending.)

Obama also took credit for falling gas prices and booming oil production. But oil production on Federal land has actually fallen over his tenure. And he has opposed new energy projects like Keystone XL. His party has opposed fracking and just got it suspended in New York on dubious environmental justification. This is the man who, in 2012, specifically said we couldn’t drill our way out of this and that $2 gas was a fantasy. To be fair, I think the low in gas prices is temporary and prices will start rising again. But the overall point remains: increased oil production was not supposed to either be possible or to help with the energy crunch. And how does Obama reconcile this energy boom with his demand for restrictions on fossil fuel exploitation to combat global warming? He doesn’t. He simply talks out of both sides of his mouth.

(Speaking of global warming, Obama touted the agreement with China. But as I pointed out at the time, the CO2 reductions under that agreement are ones we were likely to meet anyway due to things that having nothing to do with Barack Obama: increased fracking and improvements in energy efficiency in the private sector.)

The biggest boast from Obama was about the economy, which had its healthiest quarter in 15 years. Obama is spiking the football on the economy and that’s understandable, given the howling recession he inherited. But the improvement of the economy came not when we got the stimulus, not when we got Obamacare, not when we passed Dodd-Frank but when we stopped persuing Obama’s agenda. Stimulus spending stopped. Subsidies stopped. Keynesian bullshit stopped. And suddenly, we’re doing better.

In fact, we’re just now finding out that a particularly vital piece of liberal received wisdom may have been garbage:

How much did cutting unemployment benefits help the labor market?

Quite a bit. There is a new NBER Working Paper on this topic by Hagedorn, Manovskii, and Mitman, showing (once again) that most supply curves slope upward, here is one key part from the abstract:

In levels, 1.8 million additional jobs were created in 2014 due to the benefit cut. Almost 1 million of these jobs were filled by workers from out of the labor force who would not have participated in the labor market had benefit extensions been reauthorized.

There is an ungated copy here (pdf). Like the sequester, this is another area where the Keynesian analysts simply have not proven a good guide to understanding recent macroeconomic events.

You see that? When the Republicans said that extended unemployment benefits were keeping people out of work, they were pilloried for it as heartless ignorant savages. We were told it was cruel to cut off unemployment benefits based on half-baked theories of labor. Now this is only a working paper, not a refereed one. But the simple fact is that the labor market has surged as unemployment benefits were cut off.

I’m willing to give Obama credit for some things. It’s true that more people are insured. But that tends to happen when you make being uninsured against the law (excuse me, subject to a tax). And the expense of insuring those people has proven as steep as skeptics predicted. And I’ll give him some credit for drawing down our overseas commitments (although the idea that we are out of Afghanistan is laughable). And … um … I’ll even give him credit for part of the achievements above. He did, after all, agree to the sequester. I’ll agree that the stock market is booming. But it wouldn’t be if Obama had gotten his demands for more taxes on capital gains, a financial transactions tax and a push to address income inequality.

But Obama’s biggest achievements are not his … or at least not his alone. The lion’s share of the credit has to go to the Republican Congress for ignoring everything he wanted to do. They didn’t restrict energy exploration, they didn’t pass more dunder-headed stimulus spending, they did hold spending flat, they did cut off unemployment benefits. Every single one of those things was predicted to be a disaster and yet none of those disasters have materialized. And now Obama and his Keynesian allies want to claim credit.

I don’t expect this to matter to the Democrats. Keynesian economics, command-and-control regulation, the wisdom of the welfare state — these things are articles of faith. But the evidence that they work — least of all that they deserve credit for the “Obama economy” — is scant to say the least.

A Recovery About Nothing

As you know, there are signs — tentative ones — that our economy is beginning to recover from Great Depression II. It’s about on schedule — I thought we would need about five years to crawl out of the hole we were in. But we had 5% growth in Q3 and unemployment continues to edge down (although the U6 remains high). Projections for 2015 are cautiously optimistic, barring a major war or something (which, with Obama, is always on the cards).

I have noted, however, that this recovery runs against the dogma we’ve been hearing from the Keynesians and pseudo-Keynesians on the Left Wing. According to them, the “austerity” of the last few years (i.e., flat spending) should have caused us to have a double-dip recession. David Harsanyi expands on this:

But if activist policies really have as big an impact on our economic fortunes as Washington operatives claim, I only have one question: What policy did Barack Obama enact to initiate this astonishing turnaround? We should definitely replicate it.

Because those who’ve been paying attention these past few years may have noticed that the predominant agenda of Washington has been to do nothing. It was only when the tinkering and superfluous stimulus spending wound down that fortunes began to turn around. So it’s perplexing how the same pundits who cautioned us about gridlock’s traumatizing effects now ignore its existence.

For instance, Paul Krugman wrote a column titled “The Obama Recovery.” The problem is that the author failed to justify his headline. It begins like this:

“Suppose that for some reason you decided to start hitting yourself in the head, repeatedly, with a baseball bat. You’d feel pretty bad. Correspondingly, you’d probably feel a lot better if and when you finally stopped. What would that improvement in your condition tell you?”

Suppose you tell us what the bat represents, because spending in current dollars has remained steady since 2010, and spending as a percentage of GDP has gone down. In 2009, 125 bills were enacted into law. In 2010, 258. After that, Congress, year by year, became one of the least productive in history. And the more unproductive Washington became the more the economy began to improve.

Krugman argues that the recession lingered because government hadn’t hired enough people to do taxpayer-funded busywork. The baseball bat. But then he undercuts this notion by pointing out that there was an explosion of public-sector hiring under George W. Bush—the man he claims caused the entire mess in the first place. Krugman also ignores the stimulus, because it screws up his imaginary “austerity” timeline. He then spends most of the column debunking austerity’s success in Britain.

Britain’s “austerity”, incidentally, was called austerity when the UK economy was stagnant. When it began to recover, the exact same budgets were described as having abandoned austerity. With the Keynesians, it’s always heads they win, tails we lose.

This recession was not about a lack of demand or a lack of spending. It was about the huge amount of debt that the American people had dug themselves into. That debt has declined — mortgage debt is down and consumer debt is down. Student and public debts have risen but not as sharply. In short, we’re finally getting out from under the 16,000 pound boulder that was the Housing Bubble. And, who knows? Maybe things would be better if we didn’t have the 10,000 pound boulder of federal debt and the 2,000 pound barbell of student loans.

OK, I’m letting that metaphor get away from me.

Anyway, our gridlocked do-nothing Congress has failed to pass a “jobs” bill, has failed to enact “temporary” stimulus and has cut programs to “build the economy”. And the result is the healthiest economic numbers in a decade.

Funny how well we can do when our government stops “helping” us. Now imagine if we could get them to stop giving us “free” healthcare and regulating our every move.

I am CRomnibus, Hear Me Roar!

While we weren’t watching, Congress quietly passed a continuing resolution/omnibus bill to avoid a government shutdown and fund the government through FY 2015. The bill basically keeps spending flat and funds everything except the Department of Homeland Security, which will be the stage for a fight over Obama’s immigration orders.

I don’t have a problem with the budget, per se. Flat spending is OK, especially with revenues growing. Addressing the long-term problem is going to require entitlement reform, which is unlikely to happen while Obama is in the White House. But, as I said a month ago, I’d prefer the Republicans put together a reform package to balance the budget long term and force Obama to veto it.

What’s really gotten attention, however, are the riders on the bill, which are laws unrelated to the budget itself. I’ll go through them quickly.

  • The most controversial is the effort to block marijuana legalization in DC. It forbids the DC government from funding marijuana regulation. I think you can probably guess that I hate this provision. The DC voters decided to legalize pot. It’s ridiculous for Congress to override them like this and a worrisome sign that Republicans are going to fall on the wrong side of history. Again.
  • The bill increases the limits on what people can donate to political parties. I don’t really have a problem with this since organizations can give tens of millions if they want.
  • They have given some schools flexibility in how they meet the new nutrition requirements for school lunches. Considering that I think these new requirements are based on junk science and are going to leave active kids starving, I’ll take this baby step on the way to repealing the regulations completely.
  • They blocked the EPA from adding the sage grouse to the endangered species list. I don’t know much about this issue, but my impression is that the grouse is declining but not in danger of extinction.
  • They forbad the government from spending money painting portraits of government officials and committee chairs. Good. Let them pay for their own damn portraits. We pay them enough.
  • They extended the time that incandescent bulbs can be manufactured. Considering that I’m typing this by the dim light of a worthless CFC bulb, I’m fine with this.
  • They required the WIC program to include more fresh veggies. Sure.
  • They forestalled requiring truckers to get more sleep. I’m supportive of this law because I know someone who was nearly killed by a sleepy long-haul truck driver. This is one of those rare times I think the incentives are lined up badly and we need a regulation. Not that I expect truckers to obey it anyway; a trucker friend once showed me how to fake the logs to make it look like you’re getting the required sleep.
  • Some clean water rules are delayed in farming areas. Sure.
  • Gitmo prisoners can’t come to the United States. I’ve indicated that I would prefer these guys be tried, but that idea isn’t going anywhere.
  • They rolled back a provision of Dodd-Frank that forbids banks from using FDIC-backed money to trade in derivatives. This was one of the few Dodd-Frank provisions I liked. If banks want to play financial games, that’s fine. But I don’t want to have to bail them out when it inevitably blows up in their faces.
  • The bill blocks the IRS from targeting certain groups. This is fine, but I don’t see any reason why the IRS would obey a second law forbidding them from doing what they’re already doing.
  • The bill mandates sexual harassment training for Hill staffers. Sure. Everyone else in the country has to get sexual harassment training. Why should Congress be exempt?
  • So, a mixed bag overall. But what’s hilarious is that the liberals are screaming bloody murder over this, as if attaching unrelated riders to a budget bill is something that was invented this week. Our government has constantly done this. There’s even a phrase for it: land-mine legislation. Huge encroachments on our liberty are passed this way all the time.

    And to complain about the DC marijuana initiative being shut down this way is blazing hypocrisy. Yes, I think it was a bad thing to do. But when Barack Obama used the “stimulus” bill to shut down the DC Voucher program, we didn’t hear a peep out out of the liberals. So should the government of DC only have sovereignty when they’re doing something you like?

    I think we know the answer to that.

    What Really Matter to the Media

    We’ve frequently complained about the media’s reluctance to cover Obama fuckups and scandals. From IRS harassment to the inflation of Obamacare numbers, they’ve shown a reticence to take him on until they basically have no choice.

    Well, you’ll be pleased to find out that the media has found a scandal they can get exercised about: some staffer saying something dumb:

    Five days after Elizabeth Lauten published a Facebook post criticizing the outfits worn by President Barack Obama’s daughters, the previously obscure Republican Hill staffer is being inundated with threatening messages and major media outlets are pouring resources into tracking her moves and digging into her past.

    Two network news vans camped outside of Lauten’s parents home in North Carolina on Tuesday, one day after she resigned as communication director for Rep. Steven Fincher (R., Tenn.) due to the controversy. Lauten was not at the house.

    That morning, the Washington Post also assigned one of its foreign affairs correspondents to comb through an archive of columns Lauten wrote for her college newspaper in 2006 and 2007. The investigation found that Lauten had supported intervention in Darfur, criticized Facebook as an invasion of privacy, and warned people against “making race an issue.”

    Lauten must have done something really awful to merit this kind of attention. Here is the entirety of what she said:

    Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.

    The response was a storm of criticism and threats on social media, segments on major news networks and a resignation from her job.

    Look. I get that the children of politicians are off limits. I’ve never said anything about Obama’s daughters. And there really hasn’t been much to say. They’ve been mostly out of sight and have always crossed me as fine young ladies. They did have a bit of “daaaaad” body language going on during the turkey pardoning. I joked about it (at Obama’s expense) but I didn’t see anything worthy of criticizing. Lauten’s comment crosses me as a dumb over-reaction to nothing.

    But what is the reaction to her comment but a dumb over-reaction to nothing. Lauten’s comment is not racist or particularly cruel. It’s certainly not as harsh as the kind of criticisms that were frequently thrown at, say, the Bush daughters or John Robert’s kids:

    Hemingway:

    Now, Lauten is in communications and her job presumably included an assumption that she wouldn’t embarrass her boss. Besides, in a city where you can keep your job even if you’re involved in serious scandals at the IRS, State Department, Veterans Affairs or the Department of Justice, an actual job loss is refreshing, in its own way. She even gave a full-throated apology — within hours of the initial post — for being mean, not one of these “I’m sorry if” constructions that politicians frequently use.

    Still, what in the world was the media doing reporting on this non-story and firing up the mob? The Washington Free Beacon reported that “major media outlets are pouring resources into tracking her moves and digging into her past.” This included two network news vans camping outside of her parents’ home in North Carolina and a search of Lauten’s leaked juvenile records and college writings.

    This is insanity and each and every person involved should be ashamed of himself or herself. If you were involved, you are a big part of what’s wrong with journalism and you need to check yourself.

    Hemingway goes on to compare WaPo’s non-coverage of the Kermit Gosnell mass murder and their non-coverage of the HRC head’s arrest for child molestation charges to nearly a dozen articles about someone no one had ever heard of sniping on Facebook. She notes the hours of media coverage against their non-coverage of Jonathan Gruber. She notes, as I did, their hypocrisy when it came to criticizing the Bush daughters. Or Bristol Palin. Or Willow Palin. Hell, the Left Wing Echosphere just erupted in a huge feeding frenzy over a drunken brawl the Palin family got into because … Palin! The gleefully played audio of Bristol tearfully talking to the cops.

    I have really come to hate these social media jihads against people who say something dumb. We all say dumb things. Probably thousands of people have said something dumber or meaner than what Lauten said. But all it takes is for one comment to “go viral” and someone’s life gets wrecked.

    Enough. It’s one thing to call someone out and ask for an apology. It’s another to hound them relentlessly. With someone in a position of real power, fire away. But let’s stop singling out random individuals for unending harassment because their particular dumb comment, in the sea of dumb comments out there, happened to get our attention.