AT AMAZON, bestsellers in Bedding & Bath.
May 24, 2013
The White House insists President Obama is “outraged” by the “inappropriate” targeting and harassment of conservative groups. If true, it’s a remarkable turnaround for a man who helped pioneer those tactics.
On Aug. 21, 2008, the conservative American Issues Project ran an ad highlighting ties between candidate Obama and Bill Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground. The Obama campaign and supporters were furious, and they pressured TV stations to pull the ad—a common-enough tactic in such ad spats.
What came next was not common. Bob Bauer, general counsel for the campaign (and later general counsel for the White House), on the same day wrote to the criminal division of the Justice Department, demanding an investigation into AIP, “its officers and directors,” and its “anonymous donors.” Mr. Bauer claimed that the nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), was committing a “knowing and willful violation” of election law, and wanted “action to enforce against criminal violations.” . . .
Also on Sept. 8, Mr. Bauer complained to the Federal Election Commission about AIP and Mr. Simmons. He demanded that AIP turn over certain tax documents to his campaign (his right under IRS law), then sent a letter to AIP further hounding it for confidential information (to which he had no legal right).
The Bauer onslaught was a big part of a new liberal strategy to thwart the rise of conservative groups. In early August 2008, the New York Times trumpeted the creation of a left-wing group (a 501(c)4) called Accountable America. Founded by Obama supporter and liberal activist Tom Mattzie, the group—as the story explained—would start by sending “warning” letters to 10,000 GOP donors, “hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions.” The letters would alert “right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.” As Mr. Mattzie told Mother Jones: “We’re going to put them at risk.”
A thuggish campaign, foreshadowing a thuggish presidency.
JUST A REMINDER THAT THE “IRS SCANDALS” AREN’T JUST ABOUT THE IRS:
In December 2010 the FBI came to ask about a person who’d attended a King Street Patriots function. In January 2011 the FBI had more questions. The same month the IRS audited her business tax returns. In May 2011 the FBI called again for a general inquiry about King Street Patriots. In June 2011 Engelbrecht’s personal tax returns were audited and the FBI called again. In October 2011 a round of questions on True the Vote. In November 2011 another call from the FBI. The next month, more questions from the FBI. In February 2012 a third round of IRS questions on True the Vote. In February 2012 a first round of questions on King Street Patriots. The same month the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms did an unscheduled audit of her business. (It had a license to make firearms but didn’t make them.) In July 2012 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did an unscheduled audit. In November 2012 more IRS questions on True the Vote. In March 2013, more questions. In April 2013 a second ATF audit.
All this because she requested tax-exempt status for a local conservative group and for one that registers voters and tries to get dead people off the rolls. Her attorney, Cleta Mitchell, who provided the timeline above, told me: “These people, they are just regular Americans. They try to get dead people off the voter rolls, you would think that they are serial killers.”
The rot is general. The cleanout should be, too.
FASTER, PLEASE: Material That Sorts Molecules by Shape Could Lower the Price of Gas. “Refiners typically use a material that can sort molecules by size during a key step in the refining process. To achieve a desired octane rating, this step has to be supplemented with energy-intensive distillation steps, or by the use of additives. The new material, which sorts molecules by shape rather than by size, can better differentiate between different types of hydrocarbon molecules, eliminating the distillation steps and the need for octane-enhancing additives.”
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: The Tyranny Of College. “College isn’t for everyone, and there’s data to prove it. During the 2011-12 academic year, the number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities dropped by 1.6 percent, while the number of degrees awarded increased by 5.1 percent, according to a new study. As colleges attract fewer marginal students who wouldn’t have succeeded in attaining a degree, completion stats go up. This is largely good news. Students who fail to complete their degrees take on the costs of college with none of the benefits of a degree. This is an important lesson we’re just beginning to learn, as a four-year college degree is still a prerequesite for nearly all decent jobs. This is a colossal waste: that degree can be exorbitantly expensive, and it requires young adults to spend their prime working years confined to classrooms, often studying subjects that do little to prepare them for their future careers. For many of them, real-world work experience would be a better use of that time.”
POLITICO: The Sharyl Attkisson Approach. “For years, Attkisson has been one of the few mainstream reporters pursuing critical stories about the Obama administration.”
HARD-HITTING SCANDAL-ERA JOURNALISM FROM THE WASHINGTON POST: White House press secretary Jay Carney discusses favorite band, Guided by Voices.
INFRASTRUCTURE: Washington Bridge Collapse Caused By Truck Hitting Span. John Steakley emails:
So when Obama said “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Was this one of the bridges he meant? If so, I think American taxpayers deserve a refund.
Well, the stimulus money was supposed to go to bridges, until Obama wilted under feminist pressure.
MICHAEL S. GREVE: Conservatives, Condoms, and Compassion. “To put the point in a sentence: while one can perhaps imagine a government that would help ‘average’ people to realize their transcendent hopes and aspirations, our actual government is designed to wring any meaning out of life.”
K-12 IMPLOSION UPDATE: Black and Blue Over Closed Schools in Chicago.
Rather than focus on the school closures, angry residents should look at the blue policies that brought the city to this point. Years of broken and corrupt politics have left the city with a $1 billion budget deficit, a soaring crime rate, and constant tension between the government and unions. The pain has fallen worst on the poor and minority communities, and they are responding by getting out. Over the past decade, Chicago’s black population declined by 17 percent, as blacks fled the for the suburbs or the more promising economies of the South. The windy city is now at its lowest population since before 1920. No wonder the schools are closing.
Chicago’s problems are not unique. Approximately 1.3 million blacks left the North for southern cities between 2000 and 2010. Black populations in Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston have surged. Northern cities, once the promised land for the nation’s black population, have failed to create the kind of economic and social conditions necessary to build a stable black middle class.
We hear lots of talk about how brilliant liberal economic policies are, but we rarely see stories of millions of people emerging triumphantly out of poverty thanks to all the wonderful things expensive government programs are doing for the citizens of these places. Perhaps our President should spare a thought for what’s happening in the city he once called home.
Until the Combine suffers, nothing will happen.
PUNCHING BACK TWICE AS HARD: True The Vote Sues IRS Employees In Their Personal Capacity. “True the Vote is not only suing the IRS, but also taking action against the IRS employees who participated in the harassment of the voter education and election monitoring organization. Those employees could personally be held liable to pay damages that would be established in litigation.”
PROGRESSIVISM’S ENDPOINT: “The police won’t protect the people who work and have their money redistributed to people who don’t work and don’t even like Sweden. It’s the taxpayers who should be protesting, but they’re humbly cowering hoping for police protection, and they can’t even get that.”
UPDATE: From the comments: “The irony of Swedes paying danegeld, and finding it’s not enough…..” The worry, however, is that when the authorities of bourgeois democracy turn into weenies who fail to do their job, people often look for a Strong Leader who will. That seldom ends well, but the weenies don’t understand, or don’t care.
Knoxville, Tennessee. Boyd’s Jig and Reel in the old city — location is in the old Manhattan’s, for the Knoxville expats out there. Nice place, Belhaven on draft. This pic is with the iPhone 5, which I upgraded to awhile back. Not as good a camera as the Lumix, but pretty darn good for a phone. Click on the picture to see it full-sized, and note that you can read the labels on the bottles.
OH, WHAT A LUCKY MAN HE WAS: Tony’s ‘good fortune’: Behind Weiner’s consulting gigs. “Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, recently disclosed some $500,000 in joint income for 2012 — most of it, they said, accruing from Weiner’s ‘consulting’ activities. Nice work if you can get it — but, alas, so few can. It’s certainly an arrangement that needs a long second look, given subsequent disclosures that Abedin provided ‘consultant’ services to private-sector clients while a publicly paid top aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
Even in disgrace, the machine takes care of its own. Makes ‘em less likely to talk.
VIRGINIA POSTREL: Why “Star Trek Into Darkness” Is Smaller Than Life. “In Star Trek, the work is meaningful; the colleagues are smart, hard-working, competent and respectful; the leaders are capable and fair; and everyone has an important contribution to make. Star Trek features what law student Cindy McNew described as ‘a close-knit group of colleagues whose abilities complement one another and who don’t seem to take out their animosities or ambitions on each other.’ Deep friendships develop from teamwork and high-stakes problem-solving. It’s the workplace as we wish it were — and as it too rarely is.”
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Even unlocked iPhones.
Also, today only: The West Wing: The Complete Series Collection, $79.99 (73% off).
SO SEND ‘EM HOME: ‘They don’t want to integrate’: Fifth night of youth rioting rocks Stockholm. “In Sweden you’ve got welfare, access to the educational system – up to university level, you got access to public transport, libraries, healthcare – to everything. And still they feel that they [immigrants] need to riot through stones and Molotov cocktails. It’s ridiculous and a bad excuse.” As Jim Bennett says, democracy, open immigration, multiculturalism: Pick any two.
The classic example was the white bigot who said he couldn’t be a racist because some of his best friends were black — only to have it turn out that those “friends” were his caddy and his shoeshine guy.
When some of your best friends really are black or Jewish, the import is different. People tend to lose this distinction, but I think that’s a combination of laziness and attempt to take unfair rhetorical advantage. As I said earlier, “it’s been morphed into an all-purpose way to ensure that white guys can’t bring up counterexamples when charged with racism.” That’s not fair.
Not even when it’s done to Joan Walsh.
BARACK OBAMA: World’s Greatest Gun Salesman! A lot of the guns sold during Obama’s presidency will still be around 50 or 100 years from now.
HOW’S THAT HOPEY-CHANGEY STUFF WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): The Hill: Poll: Two-thirds say economy in bad shape.
WELCOME TO THE MOST TRANSPARENT ADMINISTRATION IN HISTORY: Commerce Nominee Sails Through Confirmation Hearing Despite Not Reporting $80 Million Income, Offshore Tax Shelters. That stuff’s only bad during an election cycle, and then only when it’s done by Republicans.
IT’S THE KNOWLEDGE PROBLEM AGAIN: Did Financial Services Reform Inadvertently Put a Kink In Obamacare? “The unbanked may have a hard time buying insurance on the exchanges. Too bad we just created more of them.”
IN LIGHT OF OBAMA’S “BULWORTH MOMENT” TALK, somebody on Twitter — I think it was Matt Welch — was referencing this 1998 essay from Suck. “A powerful man casts off his whiteness, and becomes authentic and direct. Take a moment with that one.”
Given Obama’s actual upbringing, he — and his relationship to black America — may be more Bulworth-like than not.
May 23, 2013
ZIMMERMAN TRIAL UPDATE: Gun, drug texts feature in new Trayvon Martin shooting evidence. “The evidence, George Zimmerman’s attorneys say, paints a different picture of the 17-year-old than the one portrayed by his family and supporters. Lead defense attorney Mark O’Mara says he will try to use the evidence if prosecutors attempt to attack Zimmerman’s character during his trial on second-degree murder charges, set to begin next month. Also Thursday, O’Mara filed motions in court. One asks for sanctions against the state for withholding evidence and for saying it didn’t have more evidence when asked. The second requests that his client’s trial be delayed. Much of the new evidence disclosed Thursday in filings by Zimmerman’s attorneys comes from Martin’s cell phone, including photos showing a semiautomatic pistol and ammunition and small marijuana plants growing in pots. In other pictures, Martin is pictured making obscene gestures in an apparent self-portrait.”
YOU DON’T NEED A WEATHERMAN TO KNOW WHICH WAY THE WIND IS BLOWING: Poland Set for Biggest-Ever Increase in Military Spending.
YES, AND THAT WAS ONE OF THE GOALS: “Has feminism made it much harder for lower class men to do well in life?”
As the Insta-Wife notes in her new book, Men On Strike, people shouldn’t be surprised by the response.
THAT’S OKAY, I’M SURE HE’LL DO A FINE JOB OF INVESTIGATING HIMSELF PER OBAMA’S INSTRUCTIONS: Holder Ok’d Search Warrant For Fox News Reporter’s Private Emails.
Meanwhile, Roger Ailes responds:
The recent news about the FBI’s seizure of the phone and email records of Fox News employees, including James Rosen, calls into question whether the federal government is meeting its constitutional obligation to preserve and protect a free press in the United States. We reject the government’s efforts to criminalize the pursuit of investigative journalism and falsely characterize a Fox News reporter to a Federal judge as a “co-conspirator” in a crime. I know how concerned you are because so many of you have asked me: why should the government make me afraid to use a work phone or email account to gather news or even call a friend or family member? Well, they shouldn’t have done it. The administration’s attempt to intimidate Fox News and its employees will not succeed and their excuses will stand neither the test of law, the test of decency, nor the test of time. We will not allow a climate of press intimidation, unseen since the McCarthy era, to frighten any of us away from the truth.
Read the whole thing at the link.
STOP ME BEFORE I KILL AGAIN: Obama pledges to rein in drone use, close Guantanamo.
UPDATE: Questions: “So what the hell just happened? A big deal or almost nothing? I assume Obama wanted to appease the doves, but are they appeased and, more important, should they be appeased? I feel like TPM doesn’t even know what to think. When I heard Obama’s articulation of the drone policy, I thought it sounded like he was trying to say something that the left would like, but that in fact he reserved for himself all the power he needed to do anything he wanted to do, that is, that nothing had changed.”
Here’s a transcript.
WAR ON SCIENCE: Joe Williams Fudges Weather Fact. There’s no IQ test for these talking-head positions.
WHO DOESN’T LIKE FRIED CHICKEN? Why remarks about race and fried chicken elicit such raw feelings.
But here’s a tip: If you have to have taken Race & Gender Studies 101 to undrstand why something is racist, it’s not racist.
MOSTLY SAVAGE: Are Savages Noble?
“It may astonish you readers, as it initially astonished me,” Diamond writes, “to learn that trench warfare, machine guns, napalm, atomic bombs, artillery, and submarine torpedoes produce time-averaged war-related death tolls so much lower than those from spears, arrows, and clubs.” So how can this be? Because “state warfare is an intermittent exceptional condition, while tribal warfare is virtually continuous.”
This shouldn’t be so astonishing, really. Plus:
A 2012 study in The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B noted that the “anthropological record indicates that approximately 85 percent of human societies have permitted men to have more than one wife.” Yet in modern times normative monogamy has become dominant around the globe, increasing social peace by reducing competition among men. The researchers further noted, “Compared to monogamous societies, polygamous cultures see more rape, kidnapping, murder, assault, robbery, fraud, child neglect and child abuse.”
It is not too far of a stretch to think that although societies practicing marital monogamy are historically fewer in number, their comparatively stronger social solidarity has helped them out-grow and out-compete polygamous competitors. And the spread of monogamy has plausibly contributed to the lower levels of violence in the modern societies.
That shouldn’t be so surprising either.
K-12 IMPLOSION UPDATE: Chicago to shutter 50 schools, largest mass closing in major U.S. city. “The country’s third largest school system, Chicago is facing a $1 billion budget shortfall. Declining enrollments have led to inefficient, half-empty schools where too much money has to be directed to maintenance and operations instead of classroom activities, officials said.”
All is proceeding as I have foreseen.
UNDERCOVERED STORIES: Male Military Rape Survivors Speak Out.
And compare these numbers: “The Pentagon estimated about 13,000 of the 1.2 million men serving in the military suffered sexual assault last year, NBC News reported. About 12,100 of the 203,000 women in uniform were sexually assaulted on active duty last year.”
FASTER, PLEASE: ‘Universal’ flu vaccine effective in animals: Self-assembling nanoparticles could make updating seasonal vaccines easier. “Current flu vaccines use inactivated whole viruses and must be regularly remade to target the strains most likely to cause illness in the coming year. But the new nanoparticles would require fewer updates because they induce the production of antibodies that neutralize a wider range of flu strains. They could even protect against varieties of flu that have not yet emerged. . . . The antibodies induced by the nanoparticles provide such broad protection because they latch onto sites in HA that are common to different flu strains — one on the head of the protein that recognizes host cells, and another on the stem that helps the virus to penetrate cells.”
J.D. JOHANNES WRITES:
Normally I don’t find books about the current wars compelling because I’ve lived them in person.
Sixty-seven pages in to Ardolino’s “Fallujah Awakens” and will probably stay up reading it all night.
Ardolino has crafted a fantastic adventure narrative with the definitive history of a crucial part of the Anbar Awakening that changed the course of the war.
Not surprised to hear that.
TERMINATION: “I’m quite surprised that no one has mentioned Section 1203 of the Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, which mandates terminations of IRS employees who commit any of what are known in the Service as the ’10 Deadly Sins.’ . . . At any rate, you’ll notice that several of these provisions could be applicable in the present instance, notably (b) (2), (b) (3) (A), and (b) (7). If I were Ms. Lerner, Mr. Miller (who relied heavily on 6103 in his testimony), or anyone in that chain, 1203 would be a huge concern. It is for every Service employee, which is why I and others were always very cautious about taking unapproved initiative in areas that skated close to 1203.”
Plus, why the delays should have been noticed by higher-ups: “To have a statutory or Internal Revenue Manual deadline like 270 days to process something and to blow past without consequences is inconceivable to me. The day that thing went overage, the manager gets a report, and the employee gets asked why. The manager would keep getting reports until it was fixed, and if it wasn’t fixed soon, the SAC would be on the phone, because he or she is getting the same report, and his or her performance report (and bonuses) is on the line.”
BAD WORSE: Massachusetts Pol Busted For Dealing Meth. He used to chair the Massachusetts Legislature’s Ethics Committee, which seems about right . . . .
EBOOK REVOLUTION CONTINUES: Amazon To Build A Market For Fan Fiction.
Megan McArdle is interested.
Up until now, most fan fiction has been in a sort of legal limbo–regular publishers won’t touch it because of copyright infringement. Amazon proposes a way to get around that problem: cut the rights holders in on the deal. Kindle Worlds will pay authors a lower royalty than writers get for normal ebooks, with some of that profit diverted to the person who create the world.
It’s a brilliant and even fair solution. Some writers are better world-builders than others; why not let them profit off of their imaginations, while also compensating the folks who can do interesting things within that world? Of course, some fan fiction purists may be disappointed in the control that this will give the world-builders over what is done with their work. Amazon will not, for example, publish pornographic or highly explicit fiction. Under those rules, 50 Shades of Grey would never have been published; it started out as slash fiction set in the Twilight universe.
Still, as a writer I’m always glad to see more ways to compensate writers. And as a business writer, I’m excited to see how much innovation is taking place in this new market.
Some related thoughts from John Scalzi, who’s not quite as positive.
I don’t like the terms that are on offer here. And of course I have my own things to write. Likewise, I would caution anyone looking at this to be aware that overall this is not anywhere close to what I would call a good deal. Finally, on a philosophical level, I suspect this is yet another attempt in a series of long-term attempts to fundamentally change the landscape for purchasing and controlling the work of writers in such a manner that ultimately limits how writers are compensated for their work, which ultimately is not to the benefit of the writer. This will have far-reaching consequences that none of us really understand yet.
The thing that can be said for it is that it’s a better deal than you would otherwise get for writing fan fiction, i.e., no deal at all and possibly having to deal with a cranky rightsholder angry that you kids are playing in their yard. Is that enough for you? That’s on you to decide.
WHY THE IRS WENT AFTER THE TEA PARTY, instead of Establishment Republicans. “Isn’t it ironic that the Tea Party now stands for the rule of law and that elements of the United States government and the Washington establishment have become the rogue, criminal element in America?”
It’s not surprising at all. The Tea Party movement is a bourgeois revolution. The Washington Establishment, regardless of party, does not wish to be bound by bourgeois conventions, which limit power most irksomely. Much of the revolution of the 1960s was about overthrowing those constraints on the ruling class, after all.
SO OF POLLS COMING OUT IN THE LAST FEW DAYS, Obama is up in 1 (Gallup) and down in 3 (Rasmussen, Fox, Economist/YouGov.)
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ELECTION-ORIENTED COVERUP: Susan Ferrechio: Emails show how Treasury delayed alerting Congress to Tea Party targeting.
IT’S A DUMB IDEA, OFFERED AS A DISTRACTION BY A PRESIDENT WHO FUNDAMENTALLY DOESN’T LIKE CRITICISM: Roll Call: Old Objections Hang Over New Push for Media Shield Law.
Here’s something I wrote back in 2005. We need protection for journalism, not journalists.
ANNALS OF THE ONE PERCENT: Elizabeth Warren, Angus King among freshmen in Senate ‘millionaires’ club.’
JAMES TARANTO: Why Did Lois Lerner Take The Fifth? “The American people have a right to know both how deep and how high the corruption of our government runs. The White House has an interest in minimizing the scandal, and surely that is Obama’s objective if he is trying to throw Lerner under the bus. Let’s reserve judgment on her and make sure not to let off the hook the man whose re-election the IRS’s abuse of power helped to advance.”
ED MORRISSEY: How the White House’s war on media backfired. “The DoJ’s journalist-snooping controversy is the one scandal that will cause the media to report aggressively on all the others.”