Golden state, stupid state

June 30, 2011

Regular readers know I often recommend books in my posts. If you’ve ever clicked on the links, you also sent a few pennies my way, due to my participation in Amazon’s “affiliate program.” I got even more if you actually bought something. It never amounted to much, just a few dollars a year, but it enabled me to get something here and there on Amazon that I might otherwise have passed on, thanks to you.

Now Amazon is shutting that program down, thanks to the State of California:

Unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the bill that we emailed you about earlier today. As a result of this, contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective today, June 29, 2011. Those California residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned before today will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

That was part of an email I received yesterday from Amazon. The law in question is AB 27 X1, part of a budget deal to produce a balanced budget as required by law (and so legislators can start getting paid again, once the final budget is signed). Brown and the Democratic majority expect this extension of the sales tax to bring in about $200 million. I’d like to know what they were smoking, because Amazon hasn’t needed the revenue from Affiliates in years, but kept the program running as a way to build goodwill and customer loyalty. Since they didn’t need the revenue, and since California has now raised the cost of the program to more than Amazon was willing to pay, the company did what was predictable by anyone except a California Democrat — they pulled the plug. Sacramento won’t see a dime of that $200 million.

But wait, it gets better!

While my earnings were small potatoes (1), quite a few people made a business out of sending customers to Amazon. According to Moe Lane, California collected about $124 million in income tax revenue from people in the referral program. So, not only will they not get the $200 million, but they’ll lose the income tax money, too.

Genius, sheer genius. 

I’ve long said that to be a liberal Democrat requires one to forget even the basics of  economics; this would be the tax policy equivalent. Common sense tells you that, if you make the cost of business too high, the business will go away. We’ve already seen a lot of that in California, and this is another example because taxes and tax-handling are a cost of business.

California may once have been “The Golden State,” but the people who run it are treating it like the goose that laid the golden eggs, instead. Keep it up, and they’ll soon learn its moral.

The hard way.

LINKS: William Jacobson calls it the Revolt of the Amazon Kulaks. At Afterthoughts, Brandy feels like she’s been fired. Stacy McCain says Amazon has “gone Galt” and left Zimbabwe-on-the-Pacific. Katy Grimes of The Washington Examiner thinks this bill will cost California 25,000 small businesses. Way to go, Democrats! 

Footnotes:

(1) Well, really just a single, tiny potato…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The UN takes “farce” to a whole new level

June 30, 2011

Really, I thought they couldn’t get any more ridiculous than naming Iran, a Sharia-enforcing fascist state, to the Commission on the Status of Women, but they did it. Meet the new President of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament:

North Korea

Despite numerous breaches of arms embargoes and continued threats to expand its nuclear weapons program, North Korea has assumed the presidency of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. In a speech to the 65-nation arms control forum in Geneva, the newly-appointed president, North Korean Ambassador So Se Pyong, said he was “very much committed to the Conference.”

Appointing a North Korean to chair the UN’s only multilateral disarmament forum is like “asking the fox to guard the chickens,” says Hillel Neuer, of the UN watchdog organization UN Watch. Neuer is calling on the U.S. and European governments to protest the appointment, which he says, “damages the UN’s credibility.”

When asked about the controversy over North Korea’s new leadership role, UN spokesman Farhan Haq pointed out that the head of the Conference on Disarmament is selected by the member states that sit on the conference, not the UN secretary general.

Haq added that when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke at the Conference on Disarmament this January, he urged the states who sit on the conference to do more to advance its work, so that it “does not become irrelevant.”Aware that many nations see the Conference on Disarmament as a place of talk rather than a forum that does substantive work, Secretary General Ban warned: “The very credibility of this body is at risk.”

“At risk?” I’d say whatever credibility the conference still had has been taken out back and shot.

Claudia Rosett is appalled. After rattling off the serial illicit arms-dealing (including passing nuclear tech) that makes this appointment a joke, she explains the real harm this does:

Except, it isn’t harmless. It gives the lie to everything the UN pretends to stand for, and emboldens North Korea’s regime to believe that monstrous misconduct, at home and abroad, is actually no bar to a seat at the table with civilized governments. The UN promotes itself as a defender of world peace and security, a champion of human dignity. Under the banner of such promises, the UN enjoys billions in funding from the world’s leading democracies — especially the United States, which for the entire UN system foots roughly one-quarter of the bill for all 192 member states. And with the facilities thus lavished upon it, the UN then hands North Korea the presidency of its Conference on Disarmament.

Worse, scroll down past the UN press release, to the statements of member states upon the handover of this presidency to North Korea. There you can peruse the praise and good wishes for North Korea of China, Nigeria, and — yes — Portugal, whose envoy is “looking forward” to working with North Korea in coming weeks. Worse still, is what the world’s governments, including the US. administration, are not saying. Apparently, diplomatic politesse is more important than speaking out to protest the monstrosities that should be obvious here to anyone with an ounce of integrity or sense. Where’s the outrage?

Dead, I imagine, along with the pretense that the United Nations does anything worthwhile.

By the way, a couple of weeks ago the US intercepted a ship suspected of carrying contraband missile technology to the tyrants who rule Burma.

A ship from North Korea, the new President of the UN Disarmament Conference.

Memo to Congress: If you’re looking for ways to cut the budget, let me make a suggestion

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Kabul hotel attack: a warning for America?

June 29, 2011

News broke yesterday of a horrific attack by jihadi terrorists on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul:

Kamel Khan, 32, a businessman, was chatting with two friends on the poolside terrace of the hilltop Intercontinental Hotel Tuesday night when he heard a burst of gunfire and looked up. A man carrying a machine gun, with an ammunition belt across his chest and a knapsack on his back, was standing a few feet away.

“He stared at all of the guests like he wanted to kill us, and he had enough bullets to do it, but for some reason he just turned and kept going,” Khan said. After a moment of shock, Khan and dozens of other guests made a dash for the garden wall and fled downhill, while heavy shooting erupted behind them.

At about the same time, Maulvi Mohammed Orsaji, head of the Takhar Provincial Council, was dining with a judge in the hotel’s formal dining room when several other gunmen entered and started shooting. Both officials were visiting Kabul for a governor’s conference that was scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

“I got down and hid behind a pillar, and I stayed there for the next five hours,” the shaken, elderly cleric recounted Wednesday morning. “There was shooting and explosions. By the time it was over, both my guard and my friend the judge were dead.”

“I was a fighter in the [anti-Soviet] jihad when I was young,” Orsaji continued. “But I never saw such a wild kind of attack in my life.”

The siege of the Intercontinental by a squad of Taliban suicide bombers and heavily armed gunmen was one of the most sophisticated and audacious attacks on the capital in years. It took the lives of at least nine civilians, including hotel staff and visitors, and wounded a dozen more, ending only when surviving attackers were shot dead by NATO helicopter gunships during a pre-dawn last stand on the hotel roof.

The Long War Journal identified the probable attackers:

Today’s suicide attack was likely carried out by the Kabul Attack Network, which is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and cooperates with terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate as well. The network’s tentacles extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Ghazni, and Zabul, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

The Kabul Attack Network is led by Dawood (or Daud) and Taj Mir Jawad, military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Dawood is the Taliban’s shadow governor for Kabul, while Taj Mir Jawad is a top commander in the Haqqani Network.

Note: Our friend and ally Pakistan may well be connected to these goons. Gee, thanks guys! Have another $8 billion!

Analysis of the attack focused on its timing, coming soon after Obama announced a bug-out hard timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan and while a meeting was taking place at the hotel to discuss the handover of security responsibilities for Kabul. Opinion is that two messages were being sent: one to Obama (“We’re still here and unbeaten!”) and one to non-Taliban Afghans (“When the Americans leave, we’ll be back in power. You are secure nowhere, even in your capital!”)

But there’s another message here, too, not deliberately aimed at us by the Brave Knights of Allah swine who perpetrated this attack, but there nonetheless: this kind of attack can all too easily happen here, too.

While TLWJ pointed out that this was part of a series of attacks against hotels in Kabul, the antecedent we should be aware of is the terrorist raid on Mumbai, India, in late November, 2008. Back then, a suicide squad of jihadis attacked downtown Mumbai, before seizing a hotel and going room to room, looking for foreigners to kill. A separate group hunted Jews, capturing a Chabad House and torturing and killing a rabbi and his pregnant wife.

We’ve known for a while that bin Laden was interested in launching Mumbai-style attacks in the West, and that al Qaeda and the Taliban, contrary to common wisdom, are very closely intertwined — almost inseparable. They’ve worked together on attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pakistani jihad-terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which launched the Mumbai assault, has been described as “al Qaeda junior” and trained the Times Square bomber.

They have the desire, they have the means, and they’ve been practicing. Mumbai and Kabul may be on the other side of the planet, but what’s to say a dedicated band of jihadis who love death as we love life couldn’t do the same thing in New York City, or Seattle, or Los Angeles, or… ?

That then is the other message of yesterday’s attack in Kabul: that what happened there could just as easily happen here. And that is why we must be aggressive in hunting these men —and killing them— rather than playing defense, which only guarantees that more innocents will be killed in these maniacs’ quest for Paradise.

RELATED: Michael Yon provides photos from the fighting at the hotel: Cheering for Mass Murder.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Gunwalker: ATF head to tell all?

June 28, 2011

Well, this could get very interesting. Instead of resigning in disgrace and going away quietly so that everything could be swept under the carpet, Acting ATF Director Ken Melson has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a deal between Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA):

The head of the embattled federal agency that combats gun trafficking has agreed to talk with Senate investigators, a potentially important breakthrough as Congress tries to determine whether higher-ups in the Obama administration knew about a controversial sting that let assault weapons flow across the border into Mexico’s drug wars.

The testimony — expected next month from Kenneth Melson, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — was brokered as part of a deal between Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa’s Charles Grassley. Grassley and his fellow Republicans were given full access to ATF documents, Melson, and other key witnesses; and in return, Grassley agreed to release three Obama administration nominees he had been blocking, according to correspondence obtained by Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

So, is Melson the new John Dean, or is this a prelude to being the fall-guy? At Pajamas Media, Bob Owens considers five possibilities:

  1. Melson falls on his sword.
  2. Melson implicates the head of the DoJ Criminal Division, who signed off on a Gunwalker wiretap.
  3. Melson implicates Attorney General Holder, himself.
  4. Melson also names Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano.
  5. Melson does the “full Dean” and implicates Obama.

For various reasons, Bob considers numbers two and three the most likely, leading to the resignation or even impeachment of the officials involved. Be sure to read the piece to find out why. Going a step further, Howard Nemerov makes a plausible argument that Holder and other officials could be charged as accessories before and after the fact to federal crimes.

Regardless, Melson’s forthcoming testimony promises some summer fireworks.

RELATED: Background on Gunwalker.

UPDATE: Welcome Hot Air readers!.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Thomas Sowell on the Constitution and its relevance

June 28, 2011

Thomas Sowell’s July 4th article at Townhall.com is a reply to the cover article in Time Magazine of that same date on the Constitution by editor Richard Stengel. In it, Stengel asks the question “Does it still matter” and then proceeds to answer with a “no,” offering a series of reasons.

Very dumb reasons, which Sowell proceeds to demolish; I’ll let you read that yourselves. What I want to quote here is Sowell’s explanation of the significance of the Constitution and why it is still a revolutionary document 225 years after its writing:

Not only did July 4, 1776 mark American independence from England, it marked a radically different kind of government from the governments that prevailed around the world at the time — and the kinds of governments that had prevailed for thousands of years before.

The American Revolution was not simply a rebellion against the King of England, it was a rebellion against being ruled by kings in general. That is why the opening salvo of the American Revolution was called “the shot heard round the world.”

Autocratic rulers and their subjects heard that shot — and things that had not been questioned for millennia were now open to challenge. As the generations went by, more and more autocratic governments around the world proved unable to meet that challenge.

Some clever people today ask whether the United States has really been “exceptional.” You couldn’t be more exceptional in the 18th century than to create your fundamental document — the Constitution of the United States — by opening with the momentous words, “We the people…”

Those three words were a slap in the face to those who thought themselves entitled to rule, and who regarded the people as if they were simply human livestock, destined to be herded and shepherded by their betters. Indeed, to this very day, elites who think that way — and that includes many among the intelligentsia, as well as political messiahs — find the Constitution of the United States a real pain because it stands in the way of their imposing their will and their presumptions on the rest of us.

More than a hundred years ago, so-called “Progressives” began a campaign to undermine the Constitution’s strict limitations on government, which stood in the way of self-anointed political crusaders imposing their grand schemes on all the rest of us. That effort to discredit the Constitution continues to this day, and the arguments haven’t really changed much in a hundred years.

Sowell focuses on Stengel’s article as just a variation on that century-old attack, but bear in mind that the Constitution and the ideas behind it and the Declaration of Independence are just as threatening to foreign despots now as they were “back then,” whether they be kings, theocrats, dictators, or dictators disguised as democrats. As Michael Ledeen often writes, we are the most revolutionary society on the planet, because we were founded and still largely believe the crazy notion not only that people are capable of governing themselves, but that they should, by right. And the dynamism unleashed by free societies scares the heck out of those who think themselves our “natural rulers,” from Riyadh to Brussels to… the House Progressive Caucus.

It’s something to think about next weekend while enjoying the hot dogs and fireworks.

via Dan Mitchell

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Here’s an idea: let’s abolish the TSA – updated

June 27, 2011

While founded with the best of intentions after 9-11, the Transportation Safety Administration has become a source of outrage for Americans rather than a reassuring sense of security. In the past we’ve seen children groped, a breast-cancer survivor forced to remove her prosthetic breast, and a bladder-cancer survivor left soaked in his own urine. I’m sure you can think of others.

This latest incident had got to be a finalist in the “Let’s humiliate innocent travelers” contest: forcing a 95-year old woman to remove her adult diaper before allowing her on the plane:

[Jean] Weber said the two were traveling June 18 from northwest Florida to Michigan, so her mother could move in with relatives before eventually going to an assisted living facility.

“My mother is very ill, she has a form of leukemia,” Weber said. “She had a blood transfusion the week before, just to bolster up her strength for this travel.”

While going through security, the 95-year-old was taken by a TSA officer into a glassed-in area, where a pat-down was performed, Weber said. An agent told Weber “they felt something suspicious on (her mother’s) leg and they couldn’t determine what it was” — leading them to take her into a private, closed room.

Soon after, Weber said, a TSA agent came out and told her that her mother’s Depend undergarment was “wet and it was firm, and they couldn’t check it thoroughly.” The mother and daughter left to find a bathroom, at the TSA officer’s request, to take off the adult diaper.

Weber said she burst into tears during the ordeal, forcing her own pat-down and other measures in accordance with TSA protocol. But she said her mother, a nurse for 65 years, “was very calm” despite being bothered by the fact that she had to go through the airport without underwear.

Eventually, Weber said she asked for her mother to be whisked away to the boarding gate without her, because their plane was scheduled to leave in two minutes and Weber was still going through security.

TSA defended itself against complaints by saying its agents were following proper procedure, and it’s true that explosives have been smuggled in underwear before, as Ed Morrissey points out. But it’s not just the lack of common sense in the application of those procedures, as Ed argues, but the procedures themselves.

TSA screening procedures focus on the device, the means of attack, rather than the attacker himself. The myriad ways al Qaeda has dreamed up to deliver the explosives to their targets (shampoo, shoes, ladies’ lingerie, breast and rectal implants) have lead the TSA to increasingly invasive and outrageous efforts to find the weapon. And with each new means of attack, our response is yet another regulation that annoys and humiliates.

Let’s face it: while these procedures are incredibly effective against little old ladies in wheelchairs and young children, they don’t seem to be all that good against potential terrorists on a dry run.

What would be much more sensible and less intrusive would be the dread “P-word:” profiling. By looking at patterns of behavior indicative of a potential terrorist, we would concentrate on the person, not the weapon, an approach the Israelis have shown to be very effective.

The Transportation Safety Administration is in need of serious reform if it is to be able to actually carry out its mission, which, the last time I checked, was to make air travel safe, not leave innocent people crying.

And if it can’t be reformed, then it should be abolished and replaced with something that can do the job.

UPDATE: Courtesy of International Liberty, here’s video of Senator Rand Paul, who’s rapidly becoming a favorite of mine, taking a TSA representative to task for these stupid search policies:

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Pat Condell: name the poison

June 26, 2011

Pat Condell returns and opens this video with a correction: When he mentioned in an earlier video that news from Norway had shown that 100% of the rapes in Oslo over the last five years had been committed by Muslims, he failed to distinguish between date-rape and marital rape on the one hand, and violent assault on the streets on the other. It’s this latter category that apparently is the special province of Muslims in Norway.

Having confessed that error, Condell takes out a rhetorical baseball bat and uses it to beat Islam and its Leftist apologists for the misogyny and mistreatment of women that forms a key pillar of the faith. He’s in fine form:

Condell touches on one point that’s crucial to understand a woman’s burden under Islam and Sharia: the woman must remain clothed and veiled with only the barest features showing, if at all, because the mere sight of her flesh might drive a man into uncontrollable lust. In other words, the woman is made responsible for the the man’s sexual misbehavior. One Islamic cleric infamously compared this to leaving uncovered meat out for the cat — what else could the cat do in that case, but take it?

Good Muslim women who follow the rules are inviolable, but if she breaks the rules, then she is guilty of adultery and punished — in some case by whipping. Unless, of course she can produce four male witnesses to say it was really rape, but, um… As Condell points out, who other than the rapists are likely to be witnesses?

And non-Muslim women? Whores by definition for going about uncovered and, by Muhammad’s own example, they are prizes of jihad.

Just ask the women of Oslo.

RELATED: Earlier posts on Islamic misogyny, and an article by Robert Spencer on the rape jihad.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


When did the Wisconsin Supreme Court become Fight Club?

June 26, 2011

This is one of the weirder stories I’ve seen in a while, and it’s illustrative of how heated Wisconsin politics have become in the wake to the government’s efforts to rein in public employee union privileges: either newly-reelected Justice David Prosser tried to strangle a colleague in her chambers in front of witnesses, or she attacked him and he was defending himself. Byron York has the story(ies):

Over the weekend, a Madison-based liberal journalism group reported that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser “allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck in an argument in her chambers last week.”  Prosser, a conservative, was recently re-elected in a contested election in which he was the target of an intense union-funded effort to defeat him.  The argument was said to be about the court’s 4-3 decision allowing the Walker budget law, with its restrictions on organized labor, to go into effect.

The report said details of the incident were “sketchy” and came from three sources who insisted on anonymity, “citing a need to preserve professional relationships.”  Neither Prosser nor Bradley commented.

But wait, there’s another version:

As the activist press was running with the story, new evidence emerged in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report to suggest the matter was more complicated than originally reported.  Whatever happened, happened during a meeting of six of the court’s seven justices; in other words, there were several witnesses.  One witness supported the original accusation.  But another witness said that during a heated conversation, Bradley “charged [Prosser] with fists raised” and that Prosser had put out his own hands defensively.  According to one of the paper’s sources, Bradley then accused Prosser of choking her, to which another justice reportedly replied, “You were not choked.”

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, first: whatever did happen up there, it’s evident one of the two justices physically attacked the other. This is unacceptable in any case, but particularly from people who are supposed to be sober interpreters of the law and upholders of the rule of law. Whoever is at fault should resign and allow Governor Walker to appoint a replacement. (1)

As much as it is about the conflicting stories of what happened, York’s article also shows how, for the Left and Big Labor, the Battle of Madison is not yet over. Leftist papers and web sites, while piously saying Prosser should not be judged before all the facts were out, were quick to paint him as the aggressor and to point out ways he can be removed from office. (You may recall Prosser’s vote was crucial to upholding the controversial collective bargaining law passed over union screeching a few months ago.) In other words, fearful that the reforms Wisconsin enacted will spread, as they already have in Ohio and Tennessee, the Left is taking any shot it has to overturn election results and quash democratically enacted laws. And when you look at the groups involved and who’s funding them (2), it’s likely there’s coordination at well-beyond the state level.

And we’re going to see many more efforts like this as other states try to right their finances, while public unions and their Democratic allies try to keep the money-train rolling.

Footnotes:

(1) Which the Left should not want, since Walker would almost certainly appoint conservative justices. Be careful what you ask for, progressives…

(2) Both the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, which broke the original story rumor, and the Center for American Progress, parent of the web site Think Progress, which described ways to remove Prosser from office, receive money either from George Soros as an individual, or through his Open Society Institute. While not probative, it’s certainly suggestive.

UPDATE: Some good discussions at both Althouse and Legal Insurrection. At the latter, Professor Jacobson points out that only one justice is saying a crime was committed: Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, accusing Justice Prosser. She should either back up her charge with evidence, or retract it and apologize.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The “Being There” president

June 26, 2011

It’s been common on the Right to compare President Obama to another awful president, Jimmy Carter (indeed, Glenn Reynolds famously said that’s a best-case scenario). The Left (and some on the Right) instead compared him to FDR or Kennedy — and even God.

Michael Barone sees another similarity, one that’s amusing because, on reflection, it seems so apt: Obama as Chauncey Gardiner, the passive little man from the book and movie “Being There,” whom everyone thought was brilliant, but just “liked to watch:”

As you may remember, Gardiner is a clueless gardener who is mistaken for a Washington eminence and becomes a presidential adviser. Asked if you can stimulate growth through temporary incentives, Gardiner says, “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well in the garden.” “First comes the spring and summer,” he explains, “but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.” The president is awed as Gardiner sums up, “There will be growth in the spring.”

Kind of reminds you of Obama’s approach to the federal budget, doesn’t it?

In preparing his February budget, Obama totally ignored the recommendations of his own fiscal commission headed by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. Others noticed: The Senate rejected the initial budget by a vote of 97-0.

Then, speaking in April at George Washington University, Obama said he was presenting a new budget with $4 trillion in long-term spending cuts. But there were no specifics.

Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf was asked last week if the CBO had prepared estimates of this budget. “We don’t estimate speeches,” Elmendorf, a Democrat, explained. “We need much more specificity than was provided in that speech for us to do our analysis.”

Evidently “first we have the spring and summer” was not enough.

Read it all, as Barone finds more evidence of “Chauncey-ism” in Obama’s approach to governing.

Of course, while I said it was amusing and I did enjoy both the book and the movie, Obama’s passive, detached style is absolutely what the nation does not need when it faces such daunting problems at home and abroad. We need a president who’s actively involved, not one who’s content “being there.”

Unfortunately, we have to wait until at least November, 2012, to find that person.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Giving public employees raises disguised as bonuses

June 24, 2011

Here’s an interesting (and maddening) video from the California branch of Americans for Prosperity that shows how city governments disguise raises for public employees as “incentive bonuses,” often given for meeting the basic requirements of their job. For example, a licensed veterinary technician can get a $3,132 bonus for… being a licensed veterinary technician, which is prerequisite to even getting the job.

Oh, and it gets better than that:

Now, I usually have nothing against public employees (1), except when they try to treat the public treasury as a piggy bank. However, I reserve the bulk of my ire for public officials who are supposed to be responsible stewards of the public’s money (2) and instead use that money to buy votes, favors, and election help. And I have no respect for the dishonesty required to disguise a pay raise as a bonus because the elected official is too scared to honestly ask his bosses, the voters.

While this video is local to Los Angeles, we can be sure this dishonest graft-by-another-name goes on in other cities. It’s wrong at any time, but it is especially galling in an age when many municipalities are facing bankruptcy. And who would be surprised to find similar shenanigans at the state level?

The age of pigs-at-the-trough is coming to an end, and it’s past time to treat a public trust –the power to spend the people’s money– as a trust. Los Angeles can start by putting a stop to its ridiculous bonus system.

Footnotes:

(1) Being one myself, that is. But I do have to wonder how I missed out on the gravy train. Must’ve picked the wrong agency to work for. Danggit.

(2) Yeah, I rolled my eyes at that one, too.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Getting out of Dodge… er… Kabul

June 23, 2011

It was as inevitable as the sun rising in the east: on the heals of President Obama announcing our acquiescence to defeat a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Brave Sir Robins of the NATO governments are rushing for the doors:

This morning NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has told reporters today that one-third of NATO forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by next year.  In Paris President Nicholas Sarkozy said France would begin a “progressive withdrawal” from Afghanistan.

Everyone is rushing for the exits.  The President was warned this could happen if it looked like America was about to cut and run.

In fact over the last few weeks during his worldwide farewell tour, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that the worse thing to happen is for NATO to “rush to the exits” in Afghanistan. This, he said, would jeopardize military progress.

Gates is right. Obama committed only a portion of the “surge” forces his commanders recommended, and so they were only able to secure the south of Afghanistan, instead of simultaneous operations to secure the south and northeast. The plan had been for follow-up operations to secure the northeast along the Pakistan border this next year, but, well, that was sacrificed to the gods of reelection. With last night’s news, there will likely be no offensive in the northeast and, as withdrawals progress, holding on to the gains made will be harder and harder. And it will be all the more difficult with our allies vanishing over the horizon, encouraged to do so by Obama’s speech.

“Just words,” eh?

All al Qaeda and the Taliban have to do now is wait us out, and Afghanistan will likely fall into their hands in just a few years. I never thought I’d see another  “helicopter on the embassy roof in Saigon” moment, now I have a hard time imagining it not happening.

I only hope there will be visas for all the women who want to escape the coming nightmare.

PS: I’ll have further thoughts on Afghanistan later this weekend, after I’ve had some time to read and get past my disgust.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Predictable, really

June 22, 2011

The marketing divisions of the Democratic Party, aka The New York Times and The Washington Post, have launched a vigorous defense of the Obama administration in the wake of scandalous revelations about Operation Fast and Furious (“Gunwalker”) by launching a smear campaign against Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the committee investigating this fiasco. Patrick Richardson at PJM’s Tatler blog has the story:

Issa of course has been holding hearings on the fiasco that was Operation Fast and Furious, where the ATF allowed thousands of guns across the border into the hands of the drug cartels, weapons which then began showing up at crime scenes, including the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

The NYT is continuing to tell the lie that most of the weapons which end up in Mexico came from the U.S. They also show their complete ignorance when they say the weapons sold were military rifles. They were not. Whatever the semiautomatic rifles sold may look like, they are not true assault rifles. They do not have a selective fire capability, meaning they cannot fire full auto, as military rifles will. The NYT is merely using these hearings in order to push for the re-enactment of the so-called assault weapons ban while doing the administration’s dirty work.

The WaPo is perhaps more thoughtful in their attack, attempting to look like real reporting. Using anonymous sources to take potshots at Issa, claiming he was briefed in on the operation last year.

Let’s keep in mind that not only have two US federal agents been killed by guns that were allowed to “walk” over the border with the full knowledge of the ATF, but at least 150 Mexican soldiers, federal agents, and civilians. And Mexico is an ally.

If they were real newspapers truly concerned with the pursuit of the truth, the Times and the Post would be demanding to who knew what when and who gave the okays. They’d be digging into the serious foreign policy implications for the United States (1), and they’d be giving wall-to-wall coverage of the grotesque human tragedy caused by gunwalker — on American orders — something Representative Issa has described as “felony stupid;” an understatement if there ever was one.

But that would only happen if there were an (R) after the president’s name.

Real newspapers are mostly gone, at least at the national level. (2) Now, instead, we have PR flacks disguised as newspapers trying desperately to distract us from a trail that seems to lead directly to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, if not to the Oval Office itself.

Heckuva job, guys!

Footnotes:

(1) Supplying weapons to groups that threaten to destabilize a foreign state. Y’know, those little things we used to call “acts of war.”

(2) One exception is the Washington Examiner, which has a great lineup of journalists and analysts. Among the legacy media, CBS deserves real credit for following “Operation Fast and Furious” almost since the story first broke.

RELATED: Background and links

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


God bless Texas

June 21, 2011

…for telling the federal government to take their incandescent light-bulb ban and shove it:

Texas could soon be in a position to turn the lights off on a federal plan to phase out certain light bulbs.

State lawmakers have passed a bill that allows Texans to skirt federal efforts to promote more efficient light bulbs, which ultimately pushes the swirled, compact fluorescent bulbs over the 100-watt incandescent bulbs many grew up with.

The measure, sent to Gov. Rick Perry for consideration, lets any incandescent light bulb manufactured in Texas – and sold in that state – avoid the authority of the federal government or the repeal of the 2007 energy independence act that starts phasing out some incandescent light bulbs next year.

“Let there be light,” state Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana, wrote on Facebook after the bill passed. “It will allow the continued manufacture and sale of incandescent light bulbs in Texas, even after the federal ban goes into effect. … It’s a good day for Texas.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group, is calling on Perry to veto the bill.

I suspect Perry will sign the bill, since it would be popular given the increasingly “small l” libertarian mood of the country these days, and those folks would be Perry’s core audience in a presidential run. The article goes on to quote an NRDC spokesman arguing that the bill cannot be implemented in a practical manner (What? They can’t build a light bulb plant in Texas?) and that it wouldn’t be in the “best interests” of Texans.

How… patronizing and condescending. We can’t let people decide for themselves what kind of lighting is best, after all. That’s better left to bureaucrats and panels of experts. That’s the “progressive way.”

To which I reply,  “go Texas!” 

Anyway, this law poses interesting constitutional issues, and I fully expect it to wind up in the courts. There’s the much-abused Commerce Clause, which has been stretched into near-meaninglessness to allow Washington to do whatever it wants. If the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 rests even in part on regulating interstate commerce (i.e., because the bulbs are manufactured in one state and shipped to another), then strict constructionists could argue that, since the economic activity (manufacturing and sale) takes place within one state, Congress has no power to regulate it. Under the 10th amendment, therefore, the power to do so is reserved to the states, and Washington can take a hike.

Given the legal history of Commerce Clause interpretation, and especially with horrible precedents such as Wickard v Filburn, I doubt this argument would win, but it sure would be interesting to watch. I will note, however, that a refining of the Commerce Clause to clearly prohibit Congress from regulating intra-state activity is one of the amendments in Professor Randy Barnett’s proposed Bill of Federalism.

Meanwhile, I may be looking at a quick trip to Texas to pick up a case of 100-watts.

via The Jawa Report

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


America, Islam, and democratic tolerance

June 20, 2011

There’s an interesting post by Roger Kimball at Pajamas Media on Governor Romney’s problem with religion. No, not his Mormonism, though some blockheads might want to make that a problem, but his inability, thanks to the shackles of political correctness, to articulate why Islam poses a problem in America. And it’s not just Romney’s problem, but one shared by most politicians.

In his essay, Roger discusses the principle of religious tolerance and why it does not work when Islam is added to the mix:

Religious tolerance is a nifty idea.  As a Catholic, I’m pleased it exists. But here’s the rub: tolerance only works when practiced by all parties to the social contract.  It’s one thing for a Unitarian and a Catholic to tolerate each other.  They have  some important doctrinal differences.  But they do not endeavor to kill or enslave one another on account of those differences.

The friction of difference works differently when you add Islam to the equation.  Why?  Because Islam does not — in principle as well as in practice  — acknowledge a legitimate sphere of operation for the secular as distinct from the sacred realm.  There is no “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” in Islam because Islam — that’s mainstream, garden-variety Islam, not just its wacko Wahhabist allotropes — regards everything as subordinate to the will of Allah.

Romney, like many well-meaning liberals, wants to regard Islam as a religious phenomenon.  The thought process goes something like this:

  1. We’re in favor of religious toleration.
  2. Islam is a religion.
  3. Ergo, we should tolerate Islam. (Q., isn’t it, e. demonstrandum?)

The problem with this syllogism is what it leaves out of account — namely, as McCarthy puts it, that Islam is a “totalitarian political program masquerading as a purely spiritual doctrine.”

As with all systems of belief in a liberal democratic regime, Islam deserves tolerance to the extent that it extends tolerance. That syllogism really should begin:

  1. We’re in favor of religious toleration for those religions that practice toleration.

And therein, as Shakespeare said, lies the rub. By misunderstanding the mutualism required for genuine tolerance, muddleheaded Westerners turn what originated as a pact into unilateral intellectual disarmament, refusing to think critically about Islam lest they be labelled “judgmental,” “intolerant,” or, worst of all, “Islamophobic.” And that in turn leaves us vulnerable to the cultural or  “civilizational jihad” that the Muslim Brotherhood is waging here and elsewhere through front organizations, the goal of which is the imposition of Sharia law on us all.

While I do sympathize with Romney’s plight (this is delicate, difficult ground for Americans to cover, and rightly so), particularly since he himself was slammed by religious bigotry in the last campaign, it is nonetheless essential for would-be American leaders to grasp, wrestle, and explain to the public then dangers of tolerating the intolerant. Seeing who does it best should be one of our criteria for choosing a nominee and future president.

PS: I urge you to read McCarthy’s article, linked above in the quote, but I disagree with his description of Islam as a political system “masquerading as a religion.” This is a misstatement; Islam is a religion, for it does what any religion does, arranging the relationship between Mankind and the Divine. It is, however, a religion that encompasses a totalitarian and aggressive political program. The distinction may seem minor or semantic, but I think it’s important, for to frame it as McCarthy does would be to ignore the spiritual appeal it has for those who find relief in submission to a higher authority.

PPS: And before anyone asks, no, I am not saying “ban Islam” or “deport all Muslims.” What I am calling for is an open, critical discussion of what Islam is and what its goals are, as opposed to the platitudes we’re fed by politicians and the media. And that includes challenging American Islamic leaders to defend what’s clearly in their scriptures.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Say it with me: “If Bush had done this…”

June 19, 2011

Granted it’s gotten to be a cliché, but, really, just how many times did George W. Bush set the stage for a constitutional crisis?

President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military’s activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to “hostilities.” Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20.

But Mr. Obama decided instead to adopt the legal analysis of several other senior members of his legal team — including the White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department legal adviser, Harold H. Koh — who argued that the United States military’s activities fell short of “hostilities.” Under that view, Mr. Obama needed no permission from Congress to continue the mission unchanged.

Presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and to act in a manner that is contrary to its advice, but it is extraordinarily rare for that to happen. Under normal circumstances, the office’s interpretation of the law is legally binding on the executive branch.

A White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, said there had been “a full airing of views within the administration and a robust process” that led Mr. Obama to his view that the Libya campaign was not covered by a provision of the War Powers Resolution that requires presidents to halt unauthorized hostilities after 60 days.

“It should come as no surprise that there would be some disagreements, even within an administration, regarding the application of a statute that is nearly 40 years old to a unique and evolving conflict,” Mr. Schultz said. “Those disagreements are ordinary and healthy.”

Oh, please. First off, the OLC’s opinion is considered a gold standard for determining what’s legal and what isn’t, and presidents and attorney generals have given it great deference. Even the Times article says that their opinions are rarely disregarded. And the process used in this “determination” was suspiciously hinky: typically, the OLC solicits opinions from other departments, weighs them, then gives its opinion as to a proposed action’s legality to the AG and the president.

In this case, however, The White House solicited the opinions itself, making OLC one among many. Obama then accepted the opinion that was most convenient for him. The Times tries the “Obama is a constitutional scholar and is qualified to judge for himself”  argument, but… give me a break. The man was non-tenured faculty and never authored a law-review article nor, as far as I can find, any scholarly article on constitutional questions — and particularly none on the War Powers Act. The idea that he knows the intricacies of the law in this matter, both statutory and constitutional, better than career professionals at the Department of Justice is risible.

That Obama should set aside the opinion of the OLC and the weight traditionally given to it is neither “ordinary” nor “healthy.”

What I don’t get is the “why” behind this bizarre refusal to get Congress’ acquiescence. It’s not as if they’ll say “no.” I guarantee you, the majority of representatives and senator would never, ever want to be seen denying funds to forces in the field. All Obama has to do is provide the reasons why we need to be involved in Libya, and the Congress will practically fall all over itself to give him authorization.

Maybe that’s it? Maybe he isn’t asking for it because he can’t come up with any justification for an operation that has no basis in US national interests or treaty obligations?

Or is this just more of Obama’s arrogance, the Munificent Sun King who refuses to be hobbled by a rabble?

Regardless, he’s potentially buying himself trouble here. While I believe the War Powers Act is unconstitutional, until ruled as such by the Supreme Court, it is the law of the land and Obama is required to obey it. Instead, he shoves a political grapefruit in John Boehner’s face — and that of the left wing of the Democratic Party, supposedly his base. When it comes to the point that Republicans and Democrats are proposing legislation to cut off funds unless the president explains just what-the-heck it is we’re doing there, you know he’s crossed a major line with Congress.

What can I say? He’s a uniter, not a divider.

Of course, the reaction is still relatively mild, so far. I don’t think anyone’s said the nuclear word “impeachment”… yet. But I’m sure Dennis Kucinich is warming up in the wings. And the MSM articles to date have been  relatively mild, more expressing puzzlement and offering tissue-thin explanations (like the Times piece), rather than foaming at the mouth in outrage.

I guess The One still has a reservoir of credit with them, because, had W dissed Congress like this, the press and the networks would have been screaming murder.

And, regardless of the press coverage, this is another example of the anti-democratic arrogance of this Democratic administration, which time and again has bypassed the clearly expressed will of the people’s representatives to do whatever it wants, whether through the EPA, the FCC, the NLRB, a whole raft of czars — or parsing into meaninglessness  words like “hostilities,” in the case of the War Powers Act.

2012 can’t come fast enough.

(Crossposted at  Sister Toldjah)


Pat Condell on Islamic cultural terrorism

June 17, 2011

There’s a category here at Public Secrets called “cultural jihad,” referring to the efforts of Islamic supremacists to condition Westerners to accept sharia law through grievance mongering and the exploitation of our generally tolerant customs and multicultural guilt. Robert Spencer has called this the “Stealth Jihad,” while former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy examines it at length in his book “The Grand Jihad.”

In Europe, the process is farther along, now involving intimidation, violence, and even enclaves run by Islamic supremacists in which the police refuse to enforce the law. Hence the reason why, in the video below, British comic Pat Condell calls what’s happening in Europe “cultural terrorism.”

Pat really shouldn’t be so shy about his feelings.

NOTE: Keep in mind that when Condell refers to Islamic extremists as “the far Right,” he’s doing so in a European context, where “far Right” means “fascist.” In the US, on the other hand, I believe we’re coming to a more correct understanding — that “Right” means “limited government,” while Fascism is part of the statist, totalitarian Left. See Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” for an excellent discussion.

via The Jawa Report

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Sharia has come to America: resistance is futile

June 17, 2011

Give up now, kuffar; as Shariah for America shows, we’ve already lost:

As you might guess, my answer involves the word “nuts” and a single finger.

via Big Peace


Klavan on the Culture: Paul Ryan vs Barack Obama — link fixed!

June 17, 2011

It’s on:

UPDATE: Hmmm… This video is suddenly not available, locked up by the uploader. That would be Pajamas Media. I’m willing to bet that’s because of a certain joke at the end that oversensitive types might take wrong. Guess we’ll know if a revised video takes its place. Sorry for the inconvenience, folks.

UPDATE II: We have a new link, thanks to LarryG in the comments. Not sure why the original was pulled, as there’s no revision I can see. Regardless, enjoy. 

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The war on lemonade stands

June 17, 2011

What is it with petty little bureaucrats and children’s lemonade stands? First it was some martinet in Oregon who made a 7-year old girl cry, and now a county inspector in Maryland not only shut down some kids’ stand, but he fined their parents $500:

You can make a fortune selling parking spots outside the US Open, but don’t even dream of setting up a lemonade stand.

A county inspector ordered the Marriott and Augustine kids to shut down the stand they set up on Persimmon Tree Rd, right next to Congressional. And after they allegedly ignored a couple of warnings, the inspector fined their parents $500.

“This gentleman from the county is now telling us because we don’t have a vendors license, the kids won’t be allowed to sell their lemonade,” Carrie Marriott told us, her voice trembling.

The kids can’t seem to understand it. “I don’t agree, I think the county is wrong.” “We’re sending the money to charity.”

A county official claimed there was some sort of risk because of traffic in the area, but the fact is that any vendor in the county, even a child selling ice-cold lemonade from his front lawn, has to register and get a license.

Give me a break. Is common sense that alien to government?

And yes, that was a rhetorical question.

via Tim Carney

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The fruits of Smart Power: Czechs walk out on missile defense

June 16, 2011

It may come as a surprise to the Smartest President Ever(tm) and his brilliant foreign policy team, but when you pull the rug out from under an ally in order to appease the guys they fear, they aren’t likely to want to play with you anymore:

The Czech Republic is withdrawing from U.S. missile defense plans out of frustration at its diminished role, the Czech defense minister told The Associated Press Wednesday.

The Bush administration first proposed stationing 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic, saying the system was aimed at blunting future missile threats from Iran. But Russia angrily objected and warned that it would station its own missiles close to Poland if the plan went through.

In September 2009, the Obama administration shelved that plan and offered a new, reconfigured phased program with an undefined role for the Czechs. In November 2009, the Czech Republic was offered the possibility of hosting a separate early warning system that would gather and analyze information from satellites to detect missiles aimed at NATO territory.

Defense Minister Alexander Vondra told the AP that the Czech Republic wanted to participate but “definitely not in this way.”

“Shelving the plan” is much too antiseptic a description for what really happened. As I wrote at the time:

This is an utter, craven appeasement of Moscow, which has never wanted this system installed in its former empire, making ridiculous claims that it somehow threatened Russia. As originally conceived, the radar stations and roughly a score of interceptor missiles were to protect Europe from a growing Iranian threat. They represented no threat to Moscow. In fact, the Bush administration offered to cooperate in a partnership with the Russians on a European missile shield. Russia’s outrage was in fact a cover for their fear of a continuing loss of influence over their former subject peoples in Central and Eastern Europe.

Poland and the Czech Republic saw this in a similar manner. They cooperated with the US over Afghanistan and Iraq (even sending troops to both places) and agreed to the missile-shield proposal. This was done not just out of a sense of interests shared between fellow democracies, not just out of a sense of worry over Iranian ambitions, but out of a very real geopolitical calculation that closer military ties to the world’s remaining superpower would protect them from a resurgent Russian bear. For the last eight years they have stuck their necks out to help us, and now President Obama has made fools of them.

And Washington expected Prague to accept a consolation prize? Seriously? Why not give them some DVDs, too?

Way back when, Ed Morrissey points out, the Obama Office of the President-Elect (1) transition team promised to “restore our standing in the world.” This is just the latest example of how that’s working out in practice.

The building of alliances and friendships between states is the result of painstaking diplomacy in which each side not only seeks to meet its own best interests, but to assure the other side that such an alliance is in their best interests, too. It’s a mutual exercise in trust-building that includes confidence that one party won’t stick a knife in the other’s back.

And like the husband who comes home to find someone else in his bed, it only takes one betrayal to wreck all that effort. As with Britain, as with Israel, and as with Poland, Obama administration foreign policy seems to be all about pimp-slapping our friends to appease our rivals, going out of its way to betray that trust, as if telling these nations “you won’t leave us; you’ve got nowhere else to go.”

Except the Czech Republic decided otherwise and left. As Team Obama pursues the “Welcome Back Carter” (2) style of diplomacy, don’t be surprised to see other nations decide their best interests are served elsewhere, too.

Footnotes:

(1) I’d forgotten about this bit of egoism.

(2) Glenn Reynolds famously worried that “Jimmy Carter, part two” might be the best-case scenario. I’m worried he’s right. Though, while reading Schweizer’s book “Reagan’s War,” the resemblance between Carter and Obama’s approach to national security is stunning.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)