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)

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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)