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Friday, April 30, 2010

Dreams Really Do Come True In Washington

I said it:
Oh, please. Obama's multi-trillion dollar spending spree is a lobbyist's wet dream. More money will be made by more lobbyists divvying up this pork than in the collective history of the United States.
And they dreamed it:
I can't believe I put "wet dreams" in a post title, but it has come to that.
And now they all have big smiles on their faces:

Hordes of hired K Street guns are in high demand as President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats seek to implement grand legislative plans.

And a Center for Responsive Politics review of lobbying reports recently filed with the Senate Office of Public Records indicates companies, trade associations, unions and other groups spent nearly $1 billion on lobbying during the first three months of 2010. That puts the current year on an early pace toward exceeding the record amount of money -- about $3.47 billion -- spent last year on federal lobbying efforts.

The $903 million spent between January 1 and March 31 is larger than overall lobbying expenses in three out of four quarters last year, and it represents an 11 percent increase from the $811 million spent on lobbying during the first three months of 2009.

Related Posts:
Why Don't We Just Move To Casablanca
Wet Dreams From My Lobbyist
Shocked To Find Lobbying In Obama Administration (Part 2)

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Goldman Sachs Must Capitulate And Confess

The Justice Department has commenced a criminal investigation of Goldman Sachs:

Federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into trading at Goldman Sachs, raising the possibility of criminal charges against the Wall Street giant, according to people familiar with the matter.

While the investigation is still in a preliminary stage, the move could escalate the legal troubles swirling around Goldman.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, which two weeks ago filed a civil fraud suit against Goldman, referred its investigation to prosecutors for the Southern District of New York, which has now opened its own inquiry.

I saw this coming. The SEC, having been called out by Goldman Sachs and others for the weakness of its legal theories and case, is bringing in the big hammer, the threat of criminal prosecution.

The government's push to bring Goldman Sachs to heel is no kabuki.

The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress want Goldman Sachs to capitulate and confess.

This is not about Goldman Sachs' conduct or the law. This is about whipping up populist emotions in the run-up to the 2010 elections and crushing one of the few private-sector entities still willing to defy the administration.

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Goldman Sachs Suit The Latest Crisis Not To Be Wasted

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Do NOT Read This Supreme Court Decision

... if you want to be able to continue using terms like Nazi, Communist and Apartheid to describe the new Arizona immigration law. Or if, like President Obama, you want to claim that the law would allow people to be questioned merely for going out for ice cream. Because none of these accusations have a basis in reality.

Some quick research, available to all the people screaming about the Arizona law, reveals that the U.S. Supreme Court has reviewed the issue of questioning potential illegal aliens regarding citizenship or immigration status, and has found such questioning permissible provided that the "characteristic appearance" of the person was not the sole factor giving rise to a "reasonable suspicion" that the person might be here illegally.

In U.S. v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873 (1975), the Supreme Court unanimously (with various concurring opinions) held that "roving patrols" by the U.S. border patrol (which by regulation had to be within 100 miles of the border) could not stop vehicles and question the occupants as to immigration status based solely on the occupants appearing to be Mexican. (I assume this case is why the Arizona statute forbids using race, color or national origin as the sole factor.)

Rather, the Supreme Court held there had to be other articulable factors which formed a reasonable suspicion under a "totality of the circumstances" test.

The Supreme Court provided a non-exhaustive list of some possible factors which could contribute to the formation of a reasonable suspicion, including characteristic appearance (emphasis mine):

"Any number of factors may be taken into account in deciding whether there is reasonable suspicion to stop a car in the border area. Officers may consider the characteristics of the area in which they encounter a vehicle. Its proximity to the border, the usual patterns of traffic on the particular road, and previous experience with alien traffic are all relevant ....

They also may consider information about recent illegal border crossings in the area. The driver's behavior may be relevant, as erratic driving or obvious attempts to evade officers can support a reasonable suspicion....

Aspects of the vehicle itself may justify suspicion. For instance, officers say that certain station wagons, with large compartments for fold-down seats or spare tires, are frequently used for transporting concealed aliens....

The vehicle may appear to be heavily loaded, it may have an extraordinary number of passengers, or the officers may observe persons trying to hide....

The Government also points out that trained officers can recognize the characteristic appearance of persons who live in Mexico, relying on such factors as the mode of dress and haircut....

In all situations the officer is entitled to assess the facts in light of his experience in detecting illegal entry and smuggling....

In this case the officers relied on a single factor to justify stopping respondent's car: the apparent Mexican ancestry of the occupants. We cannot conclude that this furnished reasonable grounds to believe that the three occupants were aliens." [case citations and footnotes omitted.]

Just a year later, the Supreme Court held that no reasonable suspicion was needed to engage in limited questioning of citizenship or immigration status at fixed checkpoints (unlike the roving patrols). U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976). Take a look also at this Congressional Research Service memo discussing the reasonable suspicion (to stop someone and ask questions) and probable cause (to conduct a search) standards, to get an idea of how the courts have struggled with these concepts.

There have been attempts to distinguish these cases, for example, where the questioning was done far away from the border area, or by state police not federal border patrol agents, and so on. And there may be other challenges to the Arizona law unrelated to the stopping and questioning. That's fine. That's why we have courts, to decide such matters.

Just don't claim that the Arizona legislature has done something government was not already empowered to do, or invented some new standard called "reasonable suspicion," or by failing to exclude "characteristic appearance" from being taken into consideration engaged in a clear constitutional violation.

In many ways, we have been there and done that judicially when it comes to the standards for questioning people as to their citizenship or immigration status.

The issue really is whether we want to push right up to these legal limits, or do we want to stop short out of political, philosophical or other concerns. There also are issues as to whether the policy will be effective, and other aspects of the law which may be challenged.

Regardless, the notion that the Arizona immigration law allows the police to question someone's immigration status just because the person "looks Mexican," or is "driving while Brown," or has a particular accent, has no basis in the Arizona statute or the clear history of the law in this area.

So if we were not Nazis and Communists and Apartheidists the day before the Arizona Governor signed the immigration law, we did not become any of those things the day after.

Update: Desmond Tutu picks up on Obama's theme, and wrongly claims that looking or sounding Hispanic is a ground for questioning:

I am saddened today at the prospect of a young Hispanic immigrant in Arizona going to the grocery store and forgetting to bring her passport and immigration documents with her. I cannot be dispassionate about the fact that the very act of her being in the grocery store will soon be a crime in the state she lives in. Or that, should a policeman hear her accent and form a "reasonable suspicion" that she is an illegal immigrant, she can -- and will -- be taken into custody until someone sorts it out, while her children are at home waiting for their dinner.

Glenn Reynolds posts an e-mail from a federal immigration agent who argues that border security is not enough. If and when the courts deal with the Arizona statute, I expect the State of Arizona to argue that the illegal immigration situation has become so bad that the entire state now serves as the equivalent of the 100 mile border area discussed in the Brignoni-Ponce case.

Update No. 2: The Arizona legislature is in the process of amending the law to clarify certain terms, which should insulate the legislation from some of the anticipated challenges:

Another change replaces the phrase "lawful contact" with "lawful stop, detention or arrest" to apparently clarify that officers don't need to question a victim or witness about their legal status.

(h/t HotAir)

Related Posts:
I Thought We Were Supposed To Be Boycotting California
Just Say It - "All Immigration Laws Are Racist"
Obamacare Requires You To "Show Your Papers"

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Thought We Were Supposed To Be Boycotting California

This whole boycott thing is getting really confusing.

California is boycotting Arizona because of the Arizona immigration law.

But weren't we already supposed to be boycotting California because of Prop. 8?

Or if not the entire State of California, then at least the counties which voted for Prop. 8 and everyone who supported Prop. 8?

And the Mormons and the entire State of Utah , including the Sundance Film Festival.

And Florida, because of farm worker conditions, voter i.d. laws, to Save the Everglades.

If we keep boycotting domestic vacation destinations, pretty soon we'll have to go to Mexico for vacation. [fn.]


Footnote: Connecticut is not a vacation destination, so that boycott is okay.

Update: Cross Mexico off the vacation list, there may be an Australian boycott which we would be obligated to honor under ANZUS.

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Just Say It - "All Immigration Laws Are Racist"

There is a fundamental disconnect in the arguments being mounted against the Arizona immigration law. What many of the critics want to say, but do not, is that they view all immigration laws as inherently racist because most illegal immigrants are non-white.

There are some legitimate civil liberties concerns regarding the standard by which police can require someone to produce identification or other information. These concerns are not unique to the Arizona immigration law. Much of the history of our criminal laws is an attempt by the courts to set forth standards for police conduct regarding searches and seizures, and questioning of suspects.

But a point I have made before is that a law which may end up being tossed by the courts on civil liberties grounds does not make the law racist. Issues such as random DWI checkpoints have posed serious legal issues for reasons completely unrelated to race.

That a racially neutral law may be enforced in a racially discriminatory manner also does not make the law, or supporters of the law, racist. Our traffic laws are a prime example.

Police often are accused of singling out minorities for traffic stops based on race, but that does not mean we stop enforcing traffic laws altogether, or accuse proponents of speed limits and stop signs of being racist. Rather, we implement policies which prohibit racial profiling and do our best to enforce such policies.

I realize that this may be too nuanced for some. But the distinction is important because of all the hyperventilated charges that Arizona now is a Nazi, Communist and Apartheid state (quite a combination).

At its heart, the accusations of racism stem from the view which many critics of the Arizona law share, but will not state: All our immigration laws are racist because the vast majority of illegal immigrants are non-white, and of those, a majority are Mexican. Immigration laws, therefore, must be racist, and those who seek enforcement of the laws are racists.

This is the argument which is not made, because it inevitably leads to an open border policy which is a non-starter politically. Open borders are advocated by many groups, but not explicitly by any major political party or politician.

Hence the tension. You will hear charges of racism no matter what is done to enforce the immigration laws.

If the federal government took steps to fully control the Mexican border and stop people before they entered the U.S. , so that Arizona police did not need to ask for identification, you still would hear charges of racism.

I do not believe that most Americans share the view that controlling the border -- whether along the Mexican border or at JFK airport or at crossings from Canada -- is inherently racist; so too, it is not racist to enforce the immigration laws against people who violate the border controls.

Rather, the issue is sovereignty. Is the United States, like every other country in the world, entitled to control its borders, to determine who can enter and under what terms, and to enforce the laws which protect this sovereignty.

That is the debate we need to have, because the debate over the Arizona immigration law is just a sideshow in the larger national debate over sovereignty.

Update: Michelle Malkin just discovered, I am not white! And JammieWearingFool discovered that Our Road Signs Aren't In Chinese.

Meanwhile, Pat at And So It Goes In Shreveport documents how students at universities are disrupting classes in protest, including "faux immigration and customs enforcement agents coming through the lecture hall demanding papers of students who didn't 'look American.'"

Related Posts:
Obamacare Requires You To "Show Your Papers"
Saturday Night Card Game (The Arizona Immigration Bill Is Not Racist)
Voices of Hate

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Right-Wing Bloggers Are Rugged Individualists, Left-Wing Bloggers Need Hand Holding

That's my synopsis of this report by the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Here is the chart of their findings as to right-wing (red) and left-wing (blue) blogs. Note particularly the second column, showing the high percentage of solo right-wing bloggers:

Here is the Berkman Center's explanation:
Sites on the left adopt more participatory technical platforms; are comprised of significantly fewer sole-authored sites; include user blogs; maintain more fluid boundaries between secondary and primary content; include longer narrative and discussion posts; and (among the top half of the blogs in our sample) more often use blogs as platforms for mobilization as well as discursive production.
One of the authors of the study has more nuanced thoughts in this interview.

Here is my version of the findings:
Sites on the left are echo-chambers in which like-minded individuals come together to tell each other how smart they are, in the comfort of a platform provided to them by ideological gurus (can you say Arianna, Markos and Jane) who lead these bloggers to pre-determined fundraising and political action while deluding the bloggers into thinking they are part of a grassroots movement so they can feel good about themselves. Right-wing bloggers, by contrast, exhibit the rugged individualism that built this country, defeated fascism and communism, and put men on the Moon.
James Joyner has some other observations worth noting, including:
In terms of “participatory technical platforms,” they’re talking about the use of Scoop and other diary-based platforms that allow dozens or even hundreds of users to create their own subblogs, often with a chance of being bumped to the main page by a group of editors, and commenting systems like Disqus that are hosted off-site and allow integration with other social media sites, sharing with the commenter’s own community, and so forth.
Conservatives tend to be less likely to experiment with such models because they necessarily mean giving up control.
Left-wing blogs, through their collective action, were more effective politically in the short run, i.e. 2006 and 2008 elections.

This success will end for the left-wing blogosphere in November 2010, because an effective platform cannot make up for an unpopular message, in the long run.

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They Have Bitter Clingers In Britain, Too

Gordon Brown is a man of the people. When the people are around.

When alone with aides, he dismissed as bigoted a woman who expressed concerns about how immigration from Eastern Europe would affect the economy. But moments earlier, in public, he praised the woman.

As reported in The Telegraph:

Gordon Brown has been caught unawares calling a Labour-supporting pensioner who confronted him on the election campaign trail a "bigot".

Gillian Duffy, a 66-year-old widow, told the Prime Minister that she was concerned about immigration from Eastern Europe.

Mr Brown chatted to her for five minutes and appeared to end the conversation amicably, telling her she came from a "good family".

But he was unaware that his microphone was still on as he got into his car and sped away, and was heard berating his staff for allowing the encounter.

I guess they have bitter clingers in Britain, and politicians who love you in public and hate you in private. Just like us.

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People In Small Towns Clinging To Their Bartering

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Obamacare Requires You To "Show Your Papers"

Remember when Democrats fell all over themselves trying to prove that Obamacare would not cover illegal aliens? When Joe Wilson shouted "you lie" about coverage for illegal aliens, Obama and Democratic leaders assured the nation that illegal aliens would be excluded.

Under the final Senate health care bill signed into law (unlike the earlier House version), illegal aliens are screened out. Only persons who can prove they are "a citizen or national of the United States or an alien lawfully present in the United States" get to participate.

In other words, when you try to buy a policy through an exchange, or seek a subsidy, or receive any of the other supposed benefits, you will be told "show me your papers."

Just like in Arizona now. If you are contacted lawfully by the police. And if the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that you are here illegally. And if you cannot produce any of the specified common forms of identification. And in that case, the officer has to try to confirm your status with the federal immigration authorities.

The burden of producing identification under the Arizona law is no more intrusive than the documentation you need to fly; or ride an Amtrak train; or check into a hotel; or rent a car; or cash a check.

It certainly is less intrusive than the health care mandate, which forces people to spend money or be penalized, and requires that employers and taxpayers report to the government about insurance status. I find it quite interesting that the same people who insist that the federal government can control virtually all aspects of our health care find it so horrid when a state government seeks to protect its citizens by verifying immigration status.

In a perfect world, perhaps we could go through our lives without ever being told "show me your papers." And there would be no problems with foreign drug gangs and terrorist groups. And immigration would be controlled at the border.

But this is not a perfect world, as the people of Arizona can attest.

But it also is not the equivalent of being in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, or apartheid South Africa, as is being claimed by opponents of the Arizona law. Anymore so than a molehill is a mountain.

If being told "show me your papers" under the Arizona law constitutes the equivalent of any of those evil forms of government, what does that make Obamacare? And the Democrats who voted for it? And the President who signed it? And the bureaucrats who will implement it? And the doctors who will provide services under it? And the patients who will participate in it?

Are they all now Nazis, and Communists, and Apartheidists? Just like the people of Arizona.

Update: Talk about having to show your papers, Michelle Malkin: Police state: How Mexico treats illegal aliens.

Byron York has an even longer list of things for which we already have to show our papers:

No, we are not confronted by actors with heavy German accents demanding our papers.

We are instead confronted routinely by people of all stripes asking to see our driver's license. When we board an airplane, we are asked to produce a government-issued photo ID, usually a driver's license. When we make some credit- or debit-card purchases in department stores, we are asked to produce a driver's license. When we enter many office buildings, both private and government, security guards often ask us to produce a driver's license. When we go to doctors' offices and hospitals, we are asked to produce a driver's license. When we check into hotels, we are asked to produce a driver's license.

When we purchase some over-the-counter drugs, we are asked to produce a driver's license. If we go to a bar or nightclub, anyone who looks at all young is asked to produce a driver's license. And needless to say, if we have any encounter with police or other authorities, we are asked to produce a driver's license.

Some situations involve an even higher level of scrutiny. When we get a new job, we are asked to provide not a driver's license but a passport or birth certificate to prove citizenship. In other situations, too: When I renewed my District of Columbia driver's license last year, I had to produce a passport to prove citizenship, even though it was a valid, unexpired license I was renewing. And in many places, buying a gun -- a constitutionally-protected right -- involves enormous scrutiny.

Related Posts:
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Saturday Night Card Game (The Arizona Immigration Bill Is Not Racist)
The "Section 246 Proves Joe Wilson Is A Liar" Lie

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dave Weigel Receives PDS

Dave Weigel now blogs at The Washington Post covering "the conservative movement and Republican Party."

I'll leave an assessment of Weigel's prior blogging aside for the moment.

At least now he knows what it is like to experience Palin Derangement Syndrome first hand (emphasis mine):

Last night I appeared on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann to talk about a story that had been driven into the mainstream by the blog PalinGates. The story: Palin made three statements that PalinGates believed may have been false, and therefore grounds for perjury....

Today, PalinGates published a lengthy attack on me, including a screenshot of a friendly email I sent them before I went on the show, after my own reporting had convinced me that their first post was mostly baseless.

Welcome to the club. And thanks for being fair-minded in the face of Olbermann, whose dumbfounded reaction at 2:55 of the video -- upon hearing the bad news -- was priceless.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Health Care Cost Report Deliberately Held Back? Update: Denial.

I previously posted about a recent report by the Office of Medicare Actuary which found that Obamacare would increase costs, and that the final health care bill made numerous unrealistic cost assumptions.

I also made the follow observation as to why the report came out so late:
Now it makes sense. The Democrats refused to delay the vote on Obamacare even though the Medicare Actuary was not able to complete his analysis and cost estimates in time for the vote. In light of this report, it is clear why the Democrats didn't want to wait. They could game the CBO, but not the Medicaire Actuary.
I may have been wrong in giving Democrats the benefit of the doubt as to the vote being rushed prior to the report. The vote may not have been rushed to avoid the completion of the report, the report may have been completed but withheld from the public.

According to this article (via David Freddoso), the report was completed prior to the vote, but held back to avoid the obvious problem with a report which questioned the political sales pitch and the plausibility of the CBO scoring:

The economic report released last week by Health and Human Services, which indicated that President Barack Obama's health care "reform" law would actually increase the cost of health care and impose higher costs on consumers, had been submitted to the office of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius more than a week before the Congressional votes on the bill, according to career HHS sources, who added that Sebelius's staff refused to review the document before the vote was taken.

"The reason we were given was that they did not want to influence the vote," says an HHS source. "Which is actually the point of having a review like this, you would think."

If accurate, this reflects a level of cynicism and deceit beyond what even I had attributed to the Democrats.

I'll be interested to hear Sebelius go on record about this.

Update: The Office of Medicare Actuary denies any delay in the release of the report.

Related Posts:
The Numbers Were A Lie All Along
CBO Credibility The First Victim Of Obamacare
Inconvenient Words In CBO Report

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Did The Danish King Wear An "I Could Be Illegal" Button?

It is over-the-top and out-of-control when it comes to the Arizona immigration bill recently signed. Not the law itself, but the reaction.

Linda Greenhouse's opinion piece in The NY Times epitomizes the absurd rhetoric (emphasis mine):

I’m glad I’ve already seen the Grand Canyon.

Because I’m not going back to Arizona as long as it remains a police state, which is what the appalling anti-immigrant bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last week has turned it into....

Wasn’t the system of internal passports one of the most distasteful features of life in the Soviet Union and apartheid-era South Africa? ...

So what to do in the meantime? Here’s a modest proposal. Everyone remembers the wartime Danish king who drove through Copenhagen wearing a Star of David in support of his Jewish subjects. It’s an apocryphal story, actually, but an inspiring one. Let the good people of Arizona — and anyone passing through — walk the streets of Tucson and Phoenix wearing buttons that say: I Could Be Illegal.

Actually, Linda, not everyone remembers the Danish King driving around wearing a Star of David. Because it is not true. It is a myth. [see note below] But it sure does sound good when making a hyperventilated argument on the pages of The New York Times.

And isn't the opposition to the Arizona law based on mythology and hysteria. Yesterday Last week Arizona was a great place, now it is the last bastion of Nazis, Communists and Apartheid-ists.

And why? Because Arizona decided to implement procedures which have the effect of forcing the federal government to enforce existing immigration laws.

Under the Arizona law, the State of Arizona will have no power to deport anyone, only to turn them over to the federal immigration officials.

To say that the Arizona law requires internal passports, or creates an apartheid state is absurd. We already require identification for a whole host of day-to-day activities (see Byron York's piece today) such as checking into a hotel or boarding an airplane. Check out this Georgetown database of federal immigration laws to see the sweeping scope of the immigration laws already on the books.

There are procedural aspects of the law (such as the provisions which make violation of federal law also a violation of state law) which will be challenged, perhaps successfully so. But overzealous state enforcement of the law (if that is what it is) hardly changes the substance of the federal laws.

If Arizona is a fascist, communist, racist, apartheid state because it has decided to hold the federal government to the letter of the federal immigration laws, then wouldn't that of necessity make the federal immigration laws racist?

And isn't that really the point here. The people screaming about the Arizona law really are screaming about the substance of the federal immigration laws, demanding that such laws not be enforced in any meaningful way.

Update: Greenhouse uses the term "apocryphal" in her article, signifying that the story was not true. Yet she builds her call to action on mythology, which is the point.

Heh: It appears that Greenhouse was using the wrong version of the bill for her article. I can sympathize with that fault, because many of us on Saturday had trouble sorting through the various versions being linked by news organizations, until Allahpundit resolved the problem. If Greenhouse had read HotAir or here, she would have been alerted to the problem.

Related Post:
Saturday Night Card Game (The Arizona Immigration Bill Is Not Racist)

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Politico: Yeah, Barack Got Enemy

Politico has figured out that "Obama the uniter" never existed.

Obama created momentum by identifying enemies against whom to campaign, and has continued that practice in office. The only change is that in an earlier incarnation, the enemies were groups, whereas now the enemies are individuals.

As characterized by Politico:

Once chastised for not being tough enough, President Barack Obama has lately been getting personal with his political adversaries — singling them out for scorn in speeches, interviews, asides and even in his weekly radio address.

Rather than just going after big groups of bad guys — insurance companies, lobbyists, the media — Obama has adopted a strategy that gives a face to the enemy.

By setting himself up against specific opponents, he provides a point of contrast that’s useful in invigorating a base hungry for bare knuckles and bravado — and forces those in the middle to choose between him and his villain du jour.

None of this is news to anyone who has read this blog. Some of us saw it for what it was at the outset:
As to Politico, better late than never.

Update 4-28-2010 - via HotAir, an Editor at CNBC flails away:

Will someone please rein in our relentlessly hectoring President? Barrack Hussein Obama has taken his gift for inspirational oratory—one of the traits that got him elected—and turned it into something darker and more insidious.

Bam is a bully.

Is this a watershed moment in MSM coverage of Obama? Or just a slow leak?

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Voices of Hate

There are many voices of hate, but the voices most ignored by the mainstream media come not from Tea Parties or maligned conservative groups, but from the intolerant left.

After someone who did commercial voice-overs for Geico was fired for leaving threatening messages at FreedomWorks (which has supported the Tea Parties), a call went out for others to leave threatening messages.

As a result, FreedomWorks has been inundated with threatening phone calls, leading blogger Tabitha Hale, who also works at FreedomWorks, to put together this video (via Right Wing News):

In light of GeicoGate and the recent accusations from the media regarding the violent rhetoric of the conservative movement, I've taken the liberty of editing together the voicemails and emails we've received as a result of DC Douglas' call to contact FreedomWorks. Here's the result.

WARNING: This is intense. Violent language is an understatement. I haven't censored - only edited to remove names and phone numbers.

Don't think FreedomWorks is alone. Here is a copy of an e-mail I received last year, routed through a service in Italy which provides an anonymous IP address to hide the source:
In Treblinka, there were privileged prisoners called kapos, whose duty it was to escort other prisoners to the gas chambers.

After a kapo had done his deadly work, the guards often rewarded him in some fashion--they gave him an extra ration of bread, or soup; a usable piece of underwear, a sliver of soap.

But when the guards grew irritated with a kapo--and sooner or later, they always did--a team would lash the kapo to the ground, face up, and prop open his mouth with two sticks, one vertical, one horizontal.

At the same time, another team of guards would inject enemas into a dozen prisoners.

And when the moment came, when the dozen prisoners could no longer contain themselves, the guards would have the twelve squat over the open mouth of the thirteenth.

You are a kapo; so that is what I wish for you: that a dozen prisoners shit in your mouth till you choke, and that your parents, and your children and your brothers and sisters lick up the excess shit.
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So, Mr. Krugman, Who Incited This Violence?

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Mimi and Pop-Pop Say Thanks For The Stimulus Gelt

Your stimulus dollars in action, buying high-efficiency refrigerators, low-flush toilets and a windmill for the Shalom Apartments (run by the Jewish Seniors Agency of Rhode Island) in Warwick, RI.

As reported in The Providence Journal:

Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is in Warwick this Monday morning to announce $1.4 million in stimulus funding that the Shalom Apartments will use to improve energy efficiency.

As part of the project, a wind turbine will be installed to generate 80 percent of the electricity for common areas. High-efficiency refrigerators and low-flush toilets will also be installed.

The work is expected to lower utility costs by 50 percent.

Shalom I and II provide 153 units of affordable housing, according to the Web site of the Jewish Seniors Agency of Rhode Island, which manages the apartments. The apartments house people 62 or older and those 18 or older with handicaps.

Why is this stimulus?

Sounds like a good thing for people to get new refrigerators, low-flush toilets (maybe not so good), and a windmill. But there is no indication the old ones were broken. To the contrary, according to the Annual Report of Shalom Towers, the facilities are "maintained meticulously." The facilities may be outdated, but must we upgrade everyone's toilet with federal dollars?

The JSA does good work, and already receives funding from HUD for affordable housing. There also was a prior stimulus grant of $208,808 for "rental assistance payments."

There is nothing "stimulative," however, about these stimulus funds. No new permanent jobs will be created, and the energy cost savings will take decades to recoup, if ever.

This simply is social spending under the guise of stimulus. If the social spending were justified, then make the case, but don't spend money under the false pretext of stimulus.

But rest assured, Mimi and Pop-Pop say thanks for the gelt.

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Stimulus -- Just $99.99 While Supplies Last

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Did You Hear The One About The Senior National Security Advisor Who ...

Retired General James Jones, who is a senior national security advisor to the Obama administration, told a joke at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, regarding a Jew in the desert of Afghanistan who outwitted a member of the Taliban. The joke plays upon stereotypes of Jews being sharp in business.

I had received that joke via e-mail from someone a few weeks ago, and like so many e-mailed jokes, put it in the electronic trash bin. While I can't remember who sent it, it clearly was not sent to me intended as an insult, but rather, some light-hearted humor.

I have no problem with the joke. I think we have to be able to laugh at ourselves, including laughing at stereotypes; in humor we often expose the stereotype rather than build upon it.

That said, this is another one of those "can you imagine" moments. Substitute blacks or latinos or gays or almost any other group for Jews, and the joke playing on old stereotypes never would have been told by Jones. And if it were, Jones already would be gone from the administration.

The predictable response will be condemnation, but I think a little introspection more is in order.

Why have we reached the point that good-natured, non-malicious joking around is a career killer? Why can't we laugh at ourselves anymore?

And without further ado, the video (via Breitbart via Drudge):

By the way, did you hear the one about the Priest, Minister and Rabbi who ....

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History Started On January 20, 2009

President Obama's outreach to Russia constitutes a "strategic reset," according to Spencer Ackerman.

The proof? The recent Joint Statement issued by the U.S. and Russia commemorating the meeting of U.S. and Soviet troops at the Elbe River during WWII (emphasis mine):

Now this is something you don’t often see from American and Russian leaders. Presidents Obama and Medvedev have released a joint statement of international partnership in commemoration of the “Spirit of the Elbe,” when the western and eastern allied offensives in Europe converged. That meeting was typically understood through the Cold War as a tragic reminder that total war ought never break out, even as NATO-Warsaw Pact tensions persisted. Obama and Medvedev are taking it as a symbol of a new chapter in geopolitics...

Prediction: the Chinese abstain from a Security Council vote on Iran sanctions, out of unwillingness to be the sole power that scuttles a sanctions package now that the Russians place a higher priority on establishing a more constructive relationship with the United States.

This Elbe River commemoration is a new chapter in the history of U.S. - Russia relations, if you think that history started on January 20, 2009.

If history actually started before Obama became President, then the commemoration really is no big deal:

PRESS-RELEASE № 13, April 29, 2005

Joint Statement by Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush made on the 60th anniversary of Soviet and US troops meeting on the Elbe, Germany

... The century starting now has seen new challenges to our countries' security, terrorism and mass destruction weapon proliferation among them. However, the chances are building up to achieve lasting peace based on the law and on shared values of freedom and democracy. Russia and the United States are working for ever-closer partnerly ties. In this situation, the meeting on the Elbe reminds us of the vast benefits we can provide to our two countries and to the whole world, when we are at one in the face of global challenges to use our newfound opportunities for progress and partnership.

At least he didn't tweet about it.

Update: Some reset in relations. What a rube. The Russians now are aggressively marketing ballistic missiles which can be hidden in shipping containers, and the primary receipients will be enemies of the U.S.. From The New York Times:

A Russian company is marketing a devastating new cruise missile system which can be hidden inside a shipping container, giving any merchant vessel the capability to wipe out an aircraft carrier.

Potential customers for the formidable Club-K system include Kremlin allies Iran and Venezuela, say defense experts. They worry that countries could pass on the satellite-guided missiles, which are very hard to detect, to terrorist groups.

This assessment from DEBKAfile echoes The Times' report:
Able to wipe out an aircraft carrier up to 400 kilometers away, the system's manufacturer, Novator, is directing its marketing tactics at anyone under threat of military action from the United States. One expert accused the Russians of proliferating ballistic missiles on an unheard-of scale.
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"Thou Shall Not Bet Against A Bubble"

Nothing in the civil suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Goldman Sachs caused the housing bubble or burst it.

The transaction at issue in that case was between highly sophisticated investment firms, and had no more to do with the housing market collapsing than your office pool had to do with who won the NCAA basketball tournament.

The housing bubble was created by Washington policies which created cheap money and lax lending practices, and millions of individual home buyers, mortgage brokers, and lenders who were all too willing to go along. Each of these people bet in favor of the bubble not only continuing, but growing.

Wall Street helped grease the wheels by packaging mortgages for resale, sometimes in confusingly (and sometimes misleadingly) structured products, which mostly were resold to sophisticated institutional investors. But as I have pointed out before, the mortgages were the core problem; no bad mortgages, no bad mortgage-backed securities.

The housing bubble burst for the same reason economic bubbles always have burst, since time immemorial: There were no greater fools left to pay higher prices. Only then did the people who bet in favor of the housing bubble, including most politicians, realize they had bet wrong. And the entire economy paid the price.

Some people, however, saw that a bubble was a bubble was a bubble, and that it only was a matter of time before it burst. And that appears to be the political crime for which Goldman Sachs is being charged by the Congress and Democratic politicians.

Goldman Sachs hedged its bets, and took short positions with regard to mortgage-backed securities (meaning that Goldman Sachs would make money if the value of the securities dropped).

But none of these short positions caused a single homeowner not to meet a mortgage payment, or a single buyer to walk away from the inflated sales price on a home.

Goldman Sachs is being vilified by Carl Levin (D-Mich) and the Obama administration because Goldman Sachs put in e-mails that its short positions proved profitable in a dropping housing market:

In a Nov. 17, 2007, email, Goldman's chief executive officer, Lloyd Blankfein, wrote to his top lieutenants in response to an upcoming New York Times story about how the firm had profited off the souring subprime market: "Of course we didn't dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts."

Blankfein is one of the top executives to be questioned Tuesday by Levin.

In an Oct. 11 email that year, one Goldman employee, reacting to news that Moody's Investors Service had downgraded $32 billion in mortgage-related securities, wrote to a colleague: "Sounds like we will make some serious money."

"Yes, we are well positioned," the colleague responded.

Is this a crime? Is this even wrong?

All of the sudden, Democrats hate short sellers? Democrats don't seem to mind taking money for their think tanks and media operations from George Soros, who made billions by betting against currencies.

And why shouldn't Goldman Sachs have hedged its bets?

Should Goldman Sachs have been Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns or AIG and so mismanaged its risk exposure that it either went out of business or was bailed out by the government? (Goldman Sachs received TARP money, which it paid back, but was not one of the failed institutions which led to the credit crisis.)

Are we now punishing those who engaged in intelligent and honest assessments of the economy, and acted responsibly despite the irresponsibility of Washington politicians?

Now about those e-mails. How about releasing all the e-mails of each Senator and staffer on the committee which will interrogate Goldman Sachs' executives? I would be willing to bet (long not short) that there would be far more scandalous material in the Congressional servers than anything said in the Goldman Sachs e-mails.

And while we're at it, can we please see the Congressional e-mails in which Democrats bet against the surge working in Iraq?

We really have reached the "silly season" of which Barack Obama has warned time and again, but the silliness is being perpetrated by this administration in its zeal to instigate class warfare and create enemies against whom to campaign.

We now are rewarding corporate failures with government bailouts, and berating and belittling the successful companies which were smart and honest enough to see that a bubble was a bubble was a bubble.

If we had more companies run like Goldman Sachs, and fewer run like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we would not be in the mess we are in.

If we had more traders who made non-political assessments of economic viability and creditworthiness, and fewer Barney Franks and Chris Dodds whose political demagoguery was the air which filled the housing bubble, we all would have been better off.

The war being waged by the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats against Wall Street is nothing more than psychological projection, whereby the irresponsibility and recklessness of Washington politicians are attributed to the people who were least irresponsible and least reckless.

Worse yet, the new diktat in Washington appears to be, "Thou Shall Not Bet Against A Bubble."

Which is about the worst advice anyone could give, but not surprising considering that it comes from the same politicians who created the bubble in the first place.

Update: A good discussion of the nature of the securities at issue is set forth in an article by my colleague, Prof. Charles Whitehead, Shorting the SEC’s case against Goldman Sachs.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Rising Conservative Star - From Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is approaching a plebiscite on statehood, pursuant to congressional legislation which is under consideration. Pat at And So It Goes In Shreveport has a good post summing up the current politics of statehood for Puerto Rico.

One person to keep an eye on is the current Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, who is active in the Republican Party (although technically he ran on the New Progressive Party).

Fortuño is someone to watch, as evidenced by his speech at Cornell in March, in which he set forth both his conservative philosophy and the politics of statehood in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately the embed code is not working, but you can view the speech here.

In the speech, Fortuño laid out his successes in cutting the budget in Puerto Rico, and his faith that only fiscal discipline can rescue the economy:

Fortuño also detailed economic reforms he has made to restore fiscal health and cut a budget deficit, and other challenges facing the commonwealth, in light of its territorial status and relationship with the United States.

"Since June of 2008, our priorities were to put our fiscal house in order … to spur private sector growth and lay the groundwork for economic growth," the governor said, adding that he had "cut my own salary and that of all government employees, incentivized voluntary retirement, and cut staff and expenses." He said that over the next three years, his programs will generate $7 billion in revenue and "tens of thousands of jobs."

"The toughest times are the prelude to renewal," Fortuño said.

Fortuño also expressed his unabashed patriotism:
“I see a bright star on the horizon,” he said. “I see a bright star in the constellation that is ‘Old Glory,” Fortuño said in a prepared speech.
Fortuño also appeared on The Right Angle show with Mark Finkelstein (who writes for Newsbusters), in which Fortuño addressed the issue of whether Puerto Rico automatically would vote Democratic. The interview is here.

I also was a guest on the show as we discussed not only Fortuño but also financial reform and health care. The full show, with my brilliant commentary, is here (takes time to load; btw, it's true, the camera adds 10 lbs.).

Luis Fortuño is a rising conservative star. And he is from Puerto Rico.

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Just Another Government Health Care Failure

Move along, nothing to see from the government's failure as to cancer treatment clinical trials.

The clinical treatment system run by the National Cancer Institute has become so burdened with bureaucracy and paperwork that even the Editors of The New York Times are complaining (emphasis mine):
The nation’s most important system for judging the clinical effectiveness of cancer treatments is approaching “a state of crisis.” That is the disturbing verdict of experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences to review the performance of clinical trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute....

The most shocking deficiency highlighted by the report, issued by the academy’s Institute of Medicine, is that about 40 percent of all advanced clinical trials sponsored by the Cancer Institute are never completed. That is an incredible waste of effort and money, and a huge obstacle at a time when researchers are developing promising new therapies that must be rigorously tested....

So it is especially worrying to hear the experts say that the system — run by the Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health — is so mired in cumbersome procedures that it needs to be completely overhauled....

Yet a series of reviews in recent years found that the testing operation is mired in bureaucracy and poorly coordinated. A typical trial must navigate past dozens of overlapping reviews by different boards and agencies that must approve the original concept for the trial and then the protocol that will govern how it is conducted before the investigators can start enrolling any patients.
These are the same Editors of The New York Times who want government to regulate all aspects of health care, which is what will happen under Obamacare.

Under the legislation passed by the Democrats, there will be dozens of new commissions and boards created, and virtually every section of the legislation requires that new regulations be promulgated. The paperwork burden on the health care system will be staggering.

The Institute of Medicine found that a complete overhaul of the clinical trial system was necessary (emphasis mine):
Improved treatments for cancer will be delayed and patient lives will be lost unnecessarily unless the efficiency and effectiveness of the clinical trials system improves. The implementation of the report’s collective recommendations will reinvigorate the NCI Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Program and strengthen its position as a critical component of the translational pathway from scientific discovery to improved treatment outcomes for patients with cancer. Modifying any single element of the Program or the clinical trials process will not suffice; changes across the board are urgently needed.
I do not dispute the necessity of the National Cancer Institute; it is important to coordinate studies and to inject a measure of scientific neutrality into clinical testing.

But given how government bureaucracy has failed on this small scale, why would we expect any different result when the government regulates the entire health care system?

The problem will be even worse than experienced with the National Cancer Institute because the bureaucracies under Obamacare will be dispersed throughout hundreds of aspects of health care, making it impossible for organizations like the Institute of Medicine to keep track of it all.

We are being set up for failure on a "historic" scale by people who refuse to see the obvious, or who see it but do not care.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Night Card Game (The Arizona Immigration Bill Is Not Racist)

This is the latest in a series on the use of the race card for political gain:

The Governor of Arizona just signed a bill which, in the words of opponents, is the equivalent of the Japanese internment during WWII, the Nazi Nuremberg laws, and a host of other racist or allegedly racist wrongs which have been committed since the dawn of mankind. Cassy Fiano has a good roundup of the reaction.

I then did something almost no one else has done. Certainly not the people claiming the bill is racist. I actually read the bill, not just the news reports.

The bill does raise public policy issues as to whether we really want to enforce the immigration laws, but it is not racist.

The bill amends existing law to prevent the type of "sanctuary city" resolutions which have passed elsewhere in the nation which seek to restrict local authorities from enforcing federal immigration laws, reporting illegal immigrants to the federal government, and a host of other restrictions:
11-1051 A. No official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may limit or restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.
What follows after this introductory provision are specific provisions which empower (but do not mandate) law enforcement to enforce the law, including asking for proof of legal immigration status if there is an otherwise lawful stop of the person.

Again, the law does not authorize unlawful stops, but only permits verification of immigration status once a lawful stop has been made (emphasis mine):
11-1051 B. For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state of a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation....
The law also does not attempt to supplant or expand federal law, contrary to what many people have claimed, and specifically states that it does not change federal civil rights laws (emphasis mine):

11-1051 E. Except as provided in federal law, officials or agencies of this state and counties, cities, towns and other political subdivisions of this state may not be prohibited or in any way be restricted from sending, receiving or maintaining information relating to the immigration status of any individual or exchanging that information with any other federal, state or local governmental entity for the following official purposes....

K. This section shall be implemented in a manner consistent with federal laws regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens.

Nothing in the law authorizes stopping people because of their skin color. The law simply provides guidelines as to what is permissible in accordance with federal law, and the procedures that should be used.

Could the law be abused? Sure, so can any law.

Claims of "driving while black" and other racial profiling have abounded for decades. But we don't eliminate the enforcement of traffic laws just because some police racially profile; instead we educate and discipline police who use racially neutral traffic laws for racial purposes. Why should the immigration laws be any different?

If you want to argue that the law is not sound on civil liberties grounds, do so. If you want to argue that as a matter of public policy local governments should not enforce the immigration laws, then make that argument.

But the one argument which is not legitimate is that the law is racist. Because it is not.

Update: In hindsight, I probably used the term "enforce" too loosely. The State of Arizona is not enforcing the immigration laws directly, it is reporting and/or turning over illegal aliens to federal authorities who then will enforce the immigration laws (in theory):
11-1051 C. If an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States is convicted of a violation of state or local law, on discharge from imprisonment or on the assessment of any monetary obligation that is imposed, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement or The United States Customs and Border Protection shall be immediately notified.
To the extent the bill does seek collateral enforcement such as through employer sanctions, it does so in a manner not contrary to federal law. So the Arizona bill does not, to me, present constitutional issues as to the supremacy of federal law; but even if there were a valid constitutional challenge, that would not render the bill racist.

Also, I have corrected some of the section citations and bill wording from the original post, none of which made any difference to the argument. There have been a number of different final versions of the bill linked by various news organizations, but the wording above should be the final final version.

Update 4-30-2010: The Arizona legislature is in the process of amending the law to clarify certain terms, which should insulate the legislation from some of the anticipated challenges. (h/t HotAir) For a discussion of prior Supreme Court precedent, proving that many of the claims of critics are outlandish, see Do NOT Read This Supreme Court Decision.

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Has Marc Ambinder Gone Mad?

"Marc Ambinder is the politics editor of The Atlantic. He has covered Washington for ABC News and the Hotline, and he is chief political consultant to CBS News."

Given Ambinder's shoulder-deep mainstream media plumage, I was shocked to read that Ambinder thinks conservatives have gone mad.

Much as I contemplated giving you a flavor of Ambinder's post through some selective quotations, selective quotation cannot do it justice.

Ambinder's post is a full out concern troll attack. As if Ambinder really, really wanted to take Republicans "seriously" but just couldn't seem to do so. And he even quoted a couple of conservative critics of conservatives to prove his good intentions.

Ambinder lives is a fantasy world where left-wing commentators (including Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow) are serious policy wonks, while all conservative commentators are "entertainers shouting slogans;" where hyperbole is the exclusive refuge of the right-wing; where the vile language and defamation hurled at George Bush for eight years never existed; where the equally vile attempts by Democratic leaders to equate health care protesters to terrorists never happened.

Every day Democratic politicians and left-wing bloggers hurl epithets like "teabagger" and "racist" and "extremist" at political opponents, yet none of that exists in Ambinder's precious little world.

Ambinder cannot seem to understand that being mad is not the same thing as madness. The true madness is the direction in which the Obama administration is taking this country.

The deceptive and destructive policies of this administration have been picked apart by people who do not live in Ambinder's world, and do not watch CBS News.

And if Ambinder were honest with himself, he would admit that the loss of control over the news cycle and the debate is what bothers him most. Hence the gratuitous statements in Ambinder's post about Fox News and the "conservative echo-chamber."

The loss of relevance must be a frustrating thing. It can drive some people mad.

Update: Sissy Willis caught the big fish in her Twitter net.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

The Real British Obama Has Arrived

Seems like someone is learning from the Obama campaign, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Sheldon Whitehouse and other American Democrats.

From last night's debate among candidates in Britain (emphasis mine):
[Liberal Democrat candidate Nick] Clegg, tried to tie [Conservative candidate David] Cameron to right-wing extremists, a standard debate tactic against conservatives in American politics. "How on earth does it help anyone in Bristol or anyone else in the country for that matter, David Cameron, to join together in the European Union with a bunch of nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists, homophobes -- that doesn't help Britain," Clegg said.
Because the "nutters" were the ones who bombed the buses in London, blew up a plane over Lockerbie, and tried to blow up another plane with a shoe bomb, right Nick?

Ironically, Clegg was correct that the threat to Britain comes from anti-Semites and homophobes, but he is too ideological to understand that they are of the Islamist, not "nutter," variety.

I think there are more than just five reasons to be afraid of Nick Clegg.

Move aside, Gordon Brown, the real British Obama has arrived.

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