Tag: Barack Obama

It’s Garland

Obama has announced his SCOTUS nominee: Merrick Garland.

I think the GOP would be wise to consider the nomination. They don’t have to accept it. They are well within their prerogative to reject it. But I think it should be considered.

For me, I would not support Merrick. He’s yet another product of the Harvard-Yale axis. Yet another nominee who has no experience in criminal defense (he’s been a career prosecutor). He’s yet another nominee who defers to the government and to law enforcement rather than defend our civil liberties. He also opposed Heller.

I won’t form a final opinion just yet. But my initial response is negative. I expect the GOP will like the things I dislike about him.

The Pizza Canard

My position on voter ID is pretty straight-forward:

First, I think it is absolutely reasonable to require photo ID to vote. The claims that there is “no” vote fraud are hollow: we don’t require ID, therefore it is very hard to identify fraud. (That having been said, I don’t think there’s a lot of it, but there is some).

Second, I think it needs to be easy for law-abiding citizens to get photo ID. Many states have made it difficult to get voter IDs and for many poor people, especially minorities, acquiring documentation like birth certificates can be difficult. One of the Popehat bloggers recently tweeted about a client, a war veteran, who can’t vote because he can’t produce a birth certificate. Hospitals were segregated when he was born, his certificate was destroyed in a fire and computer records are unacceptable. I’ve heard a number of similar stories.

All that having been said, the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard about this issue was just uttered by our President:

We’re the only advanced democracy in the world that makes it harder for people to vote,” Obama said. “You’re laughing, but it’s sad.” Obama noted that it was “easier to order a pizza than vote. How do we redesign our systems so we don’t have 50% voter participation?” he asked.

First of all, we are not the only democracy in the world that makes it harder for people to vote, not by a longshot. And for photo ID, in particular, it’s not even close. Most countries require photo ID. The vast majority of Americans support it. The Supreme Court decided, 6-3, that this was not a huge burden on voters so long as it was easy to obtain the ID.

But easier to order a pizza than to vote? I fucking hope so. A pizza is a $10 commitment that feeds me for one day; a vote is a multi-trillion dollar commitment that can get us all taxed, regulated or killed for four years. I don’t give a rat’s ass if an illegal alien or a convicted felon or a 15-year-old buy a pizza. I do care if they vote.

(I watched the video and Obama wasn’t joking when he said this. He was being serious.)

He went on to suggest that we need to make it easier to vote, maybe even make it possible to vote online (because we all saw how well Healthcare.gov went). Look, I want to make it reasonably easy for people to vote. But I’ve never understood this burning desire to drag people kicking and screaming to the polls. If someone doesn’t want to vote, the most likely reason is the crappy choices they are presented with.

War of the Memes

This piece of crap has been spreading through my Facebook and Twitter feeds like a particularly aggressive form of gonorrhea.


There’s a lot wrong here. First of all, Clinton raised taxes on everyone, not just the rich. Second, the Clinton economy was a product of Republican budget control, NAFTA (passed with Republican help) and the .com boom (enabled by lots of deregulation). Third, Bush cut taxes for everyone. But a spendthrift administration, a real estate bubble and horrible monetary policy from the Fed wrecked the economy anyway. Sorry, liberals, it’s just not that simple.

But, hey. Two can play this mindless meme game. Here’s mine. And it has the advantage of being a little more grounded in reality (click to embiggen).


The Last Defense

As we mercifully roll into the last year of the Obama Administration, we can expect a slew of articles telling us how great a President he’s been. ThinkRegress takes an interesting first approach, which I would describe as “it hasn’t been as bad as some of the more hysterical critics said!”

Specifically, they focus on:

  • Mike Lee said gas would be $6 a gallon. It’s $2.
  • Mitt Romney said unemployment would remain high. It’s 5%.
  • Donald Trump said stock markets would crash. The Dow is at 17,0000.
  • Rush Limbaugh said the entire economy would crash. We’re still having growth.

I’m … unimpressed. It looks to me like ThinkRegress basically trolled a few months of commentary to find the most inaccurate predictions they could. But hysterical inaccurate predictions are basically the language of politics. One of my earliest political memories is of liberals saying Ronald Reagan would get us into a nuclear war. So pulling out four of the worst quotes is a silly exercise.

(I’m also not clear why the stock market surging is seen by liberals as a good thing. Surely that just increases wealth inequality? I’m also dubious that the economy is in as great shape as ThinkRegress claims but I’ll accept the official numbers are decent.)

And you want to talk about inaccurate predictions? Let’s talk about Obama predicting in 2008 he would cut the deficit in half. Or let’s talk about the stimulus that would cap unemployment at 8% and bring it down to 5% by 2012. Or the prediction that his very presence would make us popular in the world again and bring about an era of international cooperation.

Here’s another exercise: let’s look at what did happen since Election 2012.

  • Obamacare has started to fall apart. Premiums have soared. Deductibles have soared. Networks have contracted. Some companies are even leaving the system. Obama’s claim that “if you like your healthcare, you can keep it” turned out to be so wrong, Politifact labelled it as a Lie of the Year.
  • Iraq, Libya and Syria have descended into chaos.
  • Russia has emerged as a major geopolitical foe. The Left wing mocked Romney when he predicted this in 2012, with Obama saying, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
  • Student debt has continued to swell.
  • The global economy is still in rough shape, with Europe and China now stumbling.
  • Terrorism has gotten worse, with the number of attacks increasing. ISIS is now losing military, but they have expanded their terror network and may continue to act on that front even if they cease to exist as a pretend nation.
  • The debt has continued to grow. To the extend that the deficit has fallen, it is because of evil Republican budget restraint. That restraint, incidentally, was supposed to plunge us back into recession.

I would like to focus on that last point in particular, because this is something I emphasized in my commentary on the 2012 election. Such success as Obama has had has come largely because of a Republican Congress. It has often come because of things he and his party vehemently opposed, such as budget cuts, extended tax cuts and increased oil production. Part of the job of the President is to stand around and claim credit for anything that good that happens. But it’s hard to make that claim while at the same time, whining that the evil GOP has blocked every single part of your agenda. Every stimulus bill, every new spending initiative, every tax hike has found itself DOA. And yet … we’re somehow supposed to credit all this to Obama?

Well, whatever it takes to convince yourself that he’s been a great President, I guess.

The Paris Agreement

You know, I’m getting a little tired of every do-nothing climate agreement being hailed as having saved the planet. This weekend, the media exploded about a “breakthrough” climate agreement signed in Paris; one that is going to “save the Earth” from global warming (as always, remember what George Carlin said about “saving the Earth”). You can read a good breakdown from Ronald Bailey but a good summation could me given by Michael Corleone.

The offer is nothing.

The nations have agreed, in principle, to massively cut global emissions with the goal of going carbon free later in the century. They’ve also agreed, in principle, to provide some assistance to countries negatively impacted by the effects of global warming. It goes into effect if enough nations sign on and will review those goals every five years.

But there’s no enforcement mechanism. There’s nothing binding. The deal is so flimsy that Obama’s not even going to bother sending it to Congress because it doesn’t agree to anything they need to act on (and because Congress would probably overwhelmingly reject it the same way they overwhelmingly rejected Kyoto). It’s a slightly fancier piece of paper and that’s all.

Even if the goals were enacted, the reduction in projected global warming is small, maybe one degree if the countries do everything they say they are going to do. That’s actually less than the reduction in projected global warming that’s resulted from better science: improved models and better analysis of temperature trends that have dropped the projected global warming in this century by several degrees.

If you judge an agreement by its goals — which seems to be the only way the Left ever judges anything — the Paris Agreement is fantastic. But if you judge it by what it actually does, the Paris Agreement is nothing. All it really does is emphasize the dirty little secret of the global warming debate: We don’t have a solution to the problem of global warming.

Oh, there are things we can do to buy time. Better energy efficiency. Using alternative energy as practicable, especially nuclear. Cutting down on industrial methane emissions. Switching to less carbon-intense fuels, like natural gas. Making our energy grid more efficient and responsive. These can slow the process of global warming, possibly for decades. I’ve written previously on how to buy time on global warming without wrecking the economy here and here.

But the simple fact is that we will not solve this problem until we have an energy source that is as reliable, as efficient, as portable and as powerful as fossil fuels. That might be a more advanced nuclear fission. It might be nuclear fusion. It might be sunlight captured in space and beamed down the Earth. It might be efficient energy storage (and no, filling a warehouse with lithium batteries is not efficient energy storage). But we are at least a couple of decades away from being able to go “carbon free”.

When that technology is developed, we won’t need grand international agreements to force everyone to use it. The market will eat that right up. And that brings us to the final dirty secret of global warming: these meetings and these treaties aren’t about saving the Earth. They’re about consolidating power. They’re about lavishing money on special interests. They’re about, for many counties, wealth transfers from rich countries to poor ones (a major sticking point in the negotiations was just how much rich countries should “compensate” poor countries for environmental damage; most environmental damage right now is caused by … poor countries). They’re about having fancy expensive meetings in exotic locales where were world leaders can set nobel goals decades away that they will never have to worry about. They then pat themselves on the back and bask in the worship of the media and environmentalists despite having accomplished fuck all.

The No Fly Fraud, The Donald and the Death of Civil Liberties

In this corner, we present the Democratic Party. Fresh off of Obama’s lackluster Oval Office speech, they are pushing to ban people on the federal no-fly list from buying guns. Never mind that the list is arbitrary and secretive. Never mind that it’s difficult to find out why you’re on the list and almost impossible to get off of it. Never mind that there are several hundred thousand people on the list, including the odd PhD Candidate and the occasional 4-year old. Never mind that this would deprive people of a basic civil liberty without due process. Never mind that terrorists will simply get their guns illegally. There’s an election coming up. Time to sow some panic!

And in this corner, we have the Republican frontrunner. Fresh off making false claims that he saw video of thousands of American Muslims celebrating 9/11, calling for Muslims to be registered and saying that some mosques should be closed, today he said that we should just stop letting Muslims come into the country. He clarified later that this would include US citizens currently abroad although he didn’t clarify if this meant military personnel. In support of this, he cited a bunch of unscientific online polls from anti-Islamic groups. Never mind that we’ve had a total of 40 people killed on American soil by anything remotely Islamic in the last five years (against five million American Muslims and 70,000 total murders in that time). Never mind that it would be unconstitutional. Never mind that there would be no practical way to do it without forcing everyone to declare their religion to the government. Never mind that his campaign is drifting further and further into something that can only be called fascism. There’s panic to sow!

So one party wants to take away civil liberties based on secret lists. The other wants to bar people from the country based on their religion.

And people wonder why I vote libertarian.

There is No War on Cops

Over the last few weeks, we have been subject to a constant stream of stories about the War on Cops. According to these stories, a combination of anti-cop rhetoric, rising violence, disrespect for law enforcement and cultural decay is resulting in cops being gunned down all over the country.

There’s a problem with this narrative, however: it’s not true:

So far, 2015 is on pace to see 35 felonious killings of police officers. If that pace holds, this year would end with the second lowest number of murdered cops in decades. Here’s a graph depicting annual killings of cops with firearms from Mark A. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute:


That’s raw numbers. It doesn’t account for the huge increase in the number of cops out there. If you look at the rate of killings, 2015 will be one of the safest year for cops … ever. The only year that was safer was … 2013. Thanks to this plunge in anti-police violence, law enforcement is no longer one of the most dangerous jobs in America (although police still have a very high rate of suicide).

With the murder of police officers having dropped to thankfully low levels, however, even small changes can appear proportionately large. If ten more cops are killed in one year than the last, the media talks about how cop killings are up 25%. But then they fall eerily silent when killing drop 25% the next year. In fact, as Jesse Walker points out, the media have dragged out the War on Cops every time the numbers have spiked up:

For years now, any cluster of violent attacks on police officers—or even a single attack, if it seems particularly cold-blooded or gruesome—is prone to prompt people to warn that a war on cops is underway. Then the cluster passes and the fear subsides until the next spike begins, at which point, like a hive of amnesiacs, the media start trumpeting a war on cops once more. Yet if you peer past the inevitable year-to-year zig-zags in the numbers and look at the long-term trends, police in the U.S. have been less and less likely to be either killed or assaulted on the job.

So why does this matter? The murder of police officers is awful. Why should we care about whether or not there is a War on Cops? Shouldn’t we be concentrating on reducing the numbers of officers killed, regardless of whether the war exists or not?

Well, there are two reasons this is important. First of all, moral panics bring with them changes in laws and prosecutions. The panic over non-existent satanic cults put innocent people in prison for decades. The moral panic over terrorism, an all too real danger, has given our government the power to track our phones, hack our computers and assassinate us without trial. The current moral panic over sex-trafficking is empowering the government to jail consenting adults and shutdown websites that protect sex workers from violence. And the moral panic over all this stuff is what drives civil liberties violations like warrantless wiretaps and asset forfeiture.

Second, we’ve been here before.

In 1963, JFK was assassinated. Before JFK’s body was cold and continuing into the present day, various pundits have tried to blame his murder on “right wing rhetoric” (which apparently motivated his killing by … a devout Communist).

In 1995, a terrorist blew up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, murdering 168 people. Before the smoke had cleared, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich were being blamed for their “extreme anti-government rhetoric”.

In 2009, census worker Bill Sparkman committed suicide and tried to stage it as a murder. Before the investigation even began, his death was being blamed on extreme anti-government rhetoric.

In 2011, a nut tried to murder Gabby Giffords and did murder six people, including nine-year-old Christina Green. Before the bodies were cold, it was being blamed on right wing rhetoric. Attention particularly focused on an electoral map produced by Sarah Palin’s PAC, which had a crosshair on Giffords’ district. In the end, it had nothing to do with the murders.

Did the Left really think that these tragedies had anything to do with rhetoric? Some, probably, but even lefties aren’t that stupid. The real reason they tried to blame these horrors on “rhetoric” was because they wanted to shut someone up. In all these cases, we were in the middle of intense debates about the size and scope of government, debates the Left was losing. Blaming horrifying tragedies on right-wing anti-government rhetoric was a way to delegitimize the opposition; to make it seem like being in favor of welfare reform meant you were also in favor of blowing up government buildings.

One of the threads of the supposed “War on Cops” has been blaming said war on “anti-cop rhetoric”. Since Ferguson, the country has been engaged in a growing and long-overdue debate about policing. We have 80,000 SWAT raids in the country every year. We’ve sent billions in military gear to every law enforcement division in the country, even to towns of a few thousand residents. We are on pace for over a thousand citizens to be killed by police this year. And people are starting to ask questions about whether all of this carnage is necessary.

The attempt to blame these killing on anti-cop rhetoric is an attempt to silence this debate1. It is, in particular, an effort to silence Black Lives Matter, which has been called a hate group by some and … stop me if you’re heard this before … been blamed for the murder of cops in the immediate aftermath before anything is known (only for it to later be revealed that the killing had nothing to do with BLM).

There have been some anti-cop elements at BLM rallies, no question. But using such assholes to tar the entire movement would be like … oh, I don’t know … taking a picture of some asshole with a racist sign at a Tea Party rally and claiming that represents the entire movement. The thing about BLM, however, is that unlike other Left Wing movements, they’ve put forward actual policy proposals. And as I’ve pointed out, these proposals are quite reasonable. You might disagree with some of them, but you’d be hard-pressed to label them as “anti-cop”.

But the police unions have gotten too used to being pandered to by politicians. The police unions have gotten so used to being immune from criticism, in fact, that their leader has no qualms about suggesting that people who videotape cops should be charged with felonies. In that environment, any criticism sounds like brutal anti-cop rhetoric.

I can’t blame cops for feeling that way. Your average cop doesn’t care about statistics or politics; he just doesn’t want to be killed on the job. But I do blame the politicians — including most of the Republican and Democratic presidential fields — for pandering to this. They’re supposed to look at this more objectively.

When the Left blamed Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich for the Murrah Building being destroyed, I thought it was disgusting. It wasn’t just disgusting because they were trying to milk a tragedy to political advantage; it was disgusting because they were trying to delegitimize a point of view they disagreed with. I take the same attitude toward these feeble attempts to black Barack Obama, Black Lives Matter and anyone other than the shooters for recent cop killings. It’s disgusting not only because it milks a tragedy for politics but because it is a very blatant attempt to delegitimize an important and ongoing discussion about police tactics, police brutality and accountability.

This isn’t a partisan issue, incidentally, even though I’ve “defended” Obama on this. When it comes to police excesses, the Democrats are part of the problem, not part of the solution. It’s the Democrats who have massively expanded the power and scope of government, dramatically increasing the number of times citizens interact with law enforcement. It’s the Democrats who have sent cops out to round up loose cigarettes and make sure guitar makers aren’t using the wrong type of wood. Joe Biden, current Vice President and second in the polls for 2016, has been a huge supporter of the 1033 program and has repeatedly assured police that “Obama has your back”. The Democrats may make sympathetic noises toward Black Lives Matter. But when push comes to shove, they will put their money where it always is: on powerful and expanding government.

There is no War on Cops. During Prohibition, we had a war on cops. Gangsters were gunning down 150-200 cops a year. During the 1970’s, we had a war on cops, when thugs and extremists were killing 100-150 cops a year. But right now, policing is safer than it’s ever been.

That’s a good thing. That’s a very good thing. No level of cop killing is acceptable. But we should be relieved about the immense progress we’ve made, not finding ways to leverage it into yet more power and less accountability.

1. Well, partly. The other part is an effort to tie Obama to the killings with myths about how he doesn’t talk about cop murders, doesn’t call the widows of slain cops, doesn’t send representatives to cop funerals and engages in anti-cop rhetoric. All of these are untrue. Most can be disproven with simple Google search (example). Over the last few months, I’ve been asking people to give me specific anti-cop rhetoric Obama has “spewed”. The most I’ve gotten is that he expressed sympathy for Trayvon Martin’s family (who was, um, not killed by a cop). And he criticized the police in the Henry Louis Gates incident. And, uh, he’s met with Al Sharpton a bunch of times. The latter seems to a big deal to some but the idea that someone murdered a cop because Obama met with Al Sharpton seems as absurd to me as the idea that someone shot Gabby Giffords because Sarah Palin made a map. If you look at what Obama has actually said … with his own mouth … it has been overwhelmingly pro-police.

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.


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?: