July 25, 2014

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: The Gaza War: When Strategies Collide. It’s telling that Hamas is “elated” by . . . getting Obama to shut down flights.

SERVING SOMEONE’S PURPOSES, OBVIOUSLY: What Is Hezbollah Doing Still In Europe?

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NOW ON YOUTUBE: My InstaVision interview with Michael Barone about the 2014 midterms.

UPDATE: One thing we talked about is whether Andrew Cuomo should be worried about Zephyr Teachout’s primary challenge. Apparently, he is worried: Why Is A Mysterious Group Of Protesters Chasing A Longshot Candidate Around New York? “Our attempt to discover the origins of the anti-Teachout movement ended with one of the protesters screaming, cursing, and threatening us.”

Cuomo obviously thinks her shot isn’t as long as all that.

POLITICO: Blue Crush: How The Left Took Over The Democratic Party.

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S FECKLESSNESS WITH IRAQ: We Saw The Islamic State Coming, Did Nothing. “The testimony raises an obvious question: If the Obama administration had such early warning of the Islamic State’s ambitions, why, nearly two months after the fall of Mosul, is it still assessing what steps, if any, to take to halt the advance of Islamist extremists who threaten U.S. allies in the region and have vowed to attack Americans?” It’s like they wanted Iraq and Syria to go this way.

BYRON YORK: Could Arizona fiasco lead to firing squads for death penalty?

So, I’m skeptical of the death penalty’s administration because the criminal justice system is a disaster. But, assuming guilt, I don’t really care much about the morality of killing people. The nation-state is all about killing people. Its sole reason for existing is that it’s better at killing people in large numbers than any other form of human organization. If you don’t like the idea of the state killing people, you don’t like the idea of the state. If you don’t realize this, it’s because your thinking is confused.

STAND BY FOR MORE HARD DRIVE CRASHES: Issa asks Holder to turn over docs on mortgage fraud settlements.

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee asked Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday to turn over documents related to the Justice Department’s decisions to settle mortgage fraud accusations against two of the nation’s biggest banks.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wants to see documents and internal communications relating to November’s record $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase and this month’s $7 billion agreement with Citigroup.

Both cases involved allegations that the banks helped precipitate the 2008 economic crisis by selling risky mortgage securities to investors who were led to believe the underlying loans were solid.

Holder touted the settlements, announcing that billions of dollars would be directed to programs to help homeowners hurt by the downturn — and stressing that the banks admitted wrongdoing.

But Issa notes that the agency’s handling of the cases was different from others, in which formal charges were filed. In a letter to Holder, Issa cited cases involving the firms Credit Suisse AG and BNP Paribas SA, which each netted billions in penalties.

“The Department’s inclination to enter into settlement agreements with respect to mortgage securities fraud stands in marked contrast to the Department’s litigation strategy in other contexts,” Issa wrote to Holder.

Issa’s review of the DOJ’s litigation policies follows criticism from some Democrats, who say the department should more aggressively pursue criminal cases against bad actors in the financial industry.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill cited “bipartisan frustration” with the department’s strategy. Among Republicans, he said, that frustration centers on the decision to resolve cases during pre-lawsuit settlement negotiations, before the administration is made to put all its cards on the table.

I’d be shocked, shocked to find there was political favoritism here.

DIDN’T MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY HAVE A BOOK ABOUT THIS? Feds Spending $10 Million to Build Robot Companions for Children. “Just like a good personal trainer, we want the robots to be able to guide the child toward a behavior that we desire.”

RUTH WEDGWOOD TO VLADIMIR PUTIN: J’ACCUSE! “Russia’s operatives could be taken to the International Criminal Court for their role in the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine. Even ICC skeptics in America ought to be open to this approach.”

DON’T BE RIDICULOUS: CLINTONS AND THEIR HANGERS-ON CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT TO WOMEN. War on Women, Clinton Style: Democrats must disavow a Clinton operative’s anti-woman remark.

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: The Hill: Regulator assailed for quick ‘spin through the revolving door.’

Still waiting for someone to introduce my revolving-door surtax. Rand Paul? Ted Cruz? Mike Lee? Marco Rubio?

Hey, how about you, Elizabeth Warren? You’re supposed to be against regulators who are in bed with industry, right?

K.C. JOHNSON: HuffPost Gets It Wrong on a Campus Rape Case. Well, where “gets it wrong” means “engages in a nasty smear.”

THE LAWFARE GAP: Pro bono law morphs into left-wing lawfare. It would not take many blue-chip clients objecting to these political cases to make the big firms think twice. The law biz is under pressure.

MAN EXONERATED BY DNA — AND HE DIDN’T EVEN REQUEST IT.

Michael Phillips had long ago given up trying to clear his name. At 57, he was a registered sex offender, living in a nursing home, wheelchair-bound from severe sickle cell anemia.

Then in May, two police officers delivered news that Phillips says only God could have ordained: Dallas County, Texas, prosecutors had proved through DNA testing that he had spent 12 years in prison for a rape he hadn’t committed.

Hundreds of people have been exonerated through DNA testing. But on Friday, Phillips will become the first exonerated by DNA through systematic testing by a prosecutor’s office even though he hadn’t requested the testing, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.

“I’m in awe,” Phillips of Dallas told USA TODAY. “At first, I thought I was like, kind of in another time zone or a twilight zone.”

As the news sank in, he says, the Holy Spirit confirmed to him that it was all part of his life’s plan.

The exoneration comes thanks to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which is testing DNA evidence on decades-old cases even when convicted defendants aren’t proclaiming their innocence.

It’s great that they’re doing this. It’s terrible that a man spent 12 years in prison, and was forced to register as a sex offender, for a crime that he didn’t commit. Let’s not forget about that part.

LIFE ON THE EVE OF WAR.

July 24, 2014

SOME HOPEFUL NEWS: Anti-Semitic NYC Cupcake Crew Tweets May Be Fraudulent. That would be nice.

NATIONAL JOURNAL: The Odds Of A GOP Wave Are Increasing. Don’t get cocky kids.

NOT SO MUCH “LOSING” AS “DELIBERATELY THROWING AWAY.” Top Marine Speaks Out About Obama Losing the Iraq War: ‘It Breaks Our Hearts.’

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“It’s reminiscent of what we saw in Europe in the build-up to the Second World War or the ethnic cleansing witnessed during the Balkans in the early 1990s,” said former British ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell. “It’s as if the world is asleep and doesn’t care.”

The world will be forced to care. And it won’t like it. As usual.

JOHN HINDERAKER: The Democrats Try To Shut Their Opponents Up (Cont.). As Jim Treacher says, the left wants the right to shut up. The right wants the left to keep talking . . . .

VIDEO: Nathan Fillion Dressed As Captain Kirk For Comic-Con.

Interesting trivia: According to the excellent William Paterson Heinlein biography, Robert Heinlein was furious over “The Trouble With Tribbles,” charging David Gerrold with stealing his Martian Flatcat.

SAME AS IT EVER WAS. SAME AS IT EVER WAS. Michael Ledeen: 21st Century Antisemitism: How Did We Get Here? My response: Identify the barbarians. Crush the barbarians. Repeat as needed, and anti-semitism won’t be a problem. It’s when, in some sort of nostalgie de la boue, you instead exalt barbarism, that you’re in trouble.

21ST CENTURY PROBLEMS: Outlook grim for orbiting Russian zero-G sex geckos. “To be totally honest, coming up with the headline for this piece was the most fun I’ve had all day.”

DON’T LIKE THE POLITICAL SITUATION? LOOKING FOR WAYS TO FIGHT BACK? Read Kurt Schlichter’s new book.

SOMEBODY ON TWITTER SUGGESTED A SOLUTION: PAY LEGISLATORS WITH ILLINOIS BONDS. S&P threatens downgrade over Illinois budget trouble.

YEAH, I DON’T THINK THE ADMINISTRATION REGARDS THE GRIFTERS AS A PROBLEM: Agents obtained subsidized ‘Obamacare’ using fake IDs. “Undercover investigators using fake identities were able to secure taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional investigators said Wednesday. The weak link seemed to be call centers that handled applications for frazzled consumers unable to get through online. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office told a House committee that its investigators were able to get subsidized health care under fake names in 11 out of 18 attempts – even after HealthCare.gov’s much maligned online system flagged some applications as problematic.”

THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR MITT ROMNEY, WE’D HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO BLOCKED WOMEN’S ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE. AND THEY WERE RIGHT! Obama’s Motorcade Blocks Pregnant Woman’s Path To Hospital.

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WAIT, I THOUGHT THIS SORT OF THING WAS SUPPOSED TO BE JUST AN NRA MYTH: Armed Doctor Shoots Gunman At Hospital, Saving Lives. “A psychiatric outpatient opened fire Thursday inside a psychiatrist’s office at a hospital near Philadelphia, killing his caseworker and slightly wounding the doctor, who reportedly shot the gunman with his personal firearm, authorities said.”

INSTAVISION: Michael Barone On The Democrats’ Poor 2014 Prospects. But don’t get cocky, Republicans. Plus, is Andrew Cuomo in more trouble than he knows? And a truly horrifying conclusion.

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EMILY MILLER LOOKS AT Washington DC’s parking-ticket racket. When I lived there, I watched meter maids ticketing cars that still had time left on the meters. They seemed to focus on cars with non-DC plates.

IT’S NOT THAT HARD. JUST PRETEND YOU’RE COVERING A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT. How White House Reporters Can Reclaim Their Beat.

FASTER, PLEASE: New Display Technology Makes Reading Glasses Unnecessary. Okay, I don’t need those yet, but, well, faster, please!

ASYMMETRICAL LAWFARE: BigLaw Fuels The Left.

SHOCKING DISCOVERY: When People Own Things, They Take Better Care Of Them. Actually, to environmentalists it’s news.

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VIDEO: Coach Rippetoe Puts PJ Media on Starting Strength. I didn’t know he made housecalls.

LIKE THE SONG SAYS, LUCK DOESN’T LAST FOREVER: The Sun Could’ve Destroyed Civilization Two Years Ago.

SO, PRETTY MUCH LIKE AMERICA THEN: Asia Tells Obama to Take a Hike on His Energy Schemes.

VISIT BEAUTIFUL CHINA, home of fanged insects bigger than a human’s face.

I’VE ALWAYS SAID THAT TYLENOL IS THE PAIN RELIEVER FOR WHEN YOU DON’T REALLY HURT ALL THAT MUCH: Acetaminophen No Better Than Placebo for Back Pain.

JUST READ DAVID DRAKE’S The Sea Without A Shore. Pretty good, but I didn’t think it was quite as good as earlier books in the series.

THIS SEEMS RIGHT: Landmark Legal Foundation Seeks Sanctions on EPA for Destroying Emails, Text Messages. “Landmark Legal Foundation today asked Federal District Judge Royce Lamberth to sanction the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for destroying or failing to preserve emails and text messages that may have helped document suspected Agency efforts to influence the 2012 presidential election.”

Here’s the Memorandum Of Law in support of the sanctions.

MY ADVICE: MORE ATTENTION ON GERMS, LESS ON GUNS AND SODA POP. Leader of Troubled Lab Steps Down, C.D.C. Says. “The leader of the federal bioterrorism lab in which careless procedures may have exposed dozens of workers to live anthrax has resigned, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday.”

NEWS YOU CAN USE: 12 Useful Tools You Should Only Buy On The Cheap.

TED CRUZ: Obama Administration Playing Politics With Air Safety. “Was this politics from the White House? Or was this an airline safety decision? And I think the facts strongly suggest it was politics and an effort to strong arm the nation of Israel.”

IN THE MAIL: From Katie Pavlich, Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women.

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IT’S A BIG ONE TODAY: TaxProf Roundup: The IRS Scandal, Day 441.

Plus: Gowdy Grills IRS Commissioner Koskinen Some More. “Maybe it’s just me, but Koskinen’s facade of eerie, arrogant disdain for the proceedings is beginning to crumble.”

2012: OBAMA MOCKS ROMNEY FOR REGARDING RUSSIA AS ADVERSARY.

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MORE ON THE DAN MARKEL MURDER, WHICH IS LOOKING WORSE, IF THAT’S POSSIBLE: Grim Details Emerge in FSU Professor’s Shooting Death. But what kind of contract killer drives a Prius?

OOPS: Sight-Impaired Millionaire Still Not Cleared to Drive: Hillary Clinton flees baby-talking event in five-car motorcade. Nobody trolls better than Andrew Stiles.

NYC CUPCAKE TRUCK sends tweet comparing Israel to Hitler. I’m screenshotting this instead of embedding it because I have a feeling it might be deleted.

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FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION wants to regulate conservative books. Fat advances to Dems like Hillary? That’s just business.

BECAUSE “THE WORLD” BASICALLY APPROVES WHEN PEOPLE KILL JEWS: WaPo Editorial: Why is the world ignoring Hamas’ depravity? If I were Israel, I’d tell “the world” to go hang, and then go hang Hamas.

TAR. FEATHERS. Busted for Off-Leash Dog, Man Ordered Not to Leave Southern California. “They deal with gangbangers, drug dealers, murderers. And here I am, for a dog leash.”

PAUL RYAN ON how to cut poverty.

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Derivatives regulator CFTC’s ‘revolving door’ move to industry group criticized.

An outgoing commissioner of the regulatory agency that oversees derivatives contracts will become the CEO of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, a trade group for firms that engage in derivatives transactions, according to a statement from the ISDA Wednesday.

The commissioner, Scott O’Malia, had announced his departure from the Commodity Futures Trade Commission two days earlier. O’Malia, who had previously worked as a Senate staffer for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, was a Republican nominee to the five-member CFTC.

O’Malia’s move to a trade group involved in CFTC matters drew immediate criticism from financial reform advocates. The group Better Markets wrote in a statement that “O’Malia’s spin through the revolving door is a record setter for influence peddling.”

The Obama era has just been one big advertisement for my revolving door surtax.

SO MAYBE HE CAN BE A SENATOR FROM MONTANA: Kid’s “groundbreaking” science fair project plagiarized?

ELIZABETH WARREN’S STREET TEAM IS MORE CREATIVE THAN I EXPECTED: Mystery: Posters in NYC, D.C. call Clintons ‘America’s Lannisters.’

CHANGE: Senate Moves To Extend Ban On Internet Taxes.

ROBERT HEINLEIN WAS RIGHT — THESE ARE THE CRAZY YEARS. Mom Jailed for Letting Her Kid Play Unsupervised Also Fired From Job.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Nationalize The Ivy League!

LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND MURDEROUS: Behind the Scenes in Putin’s Court: The Private Habits of a Latter-Day Dictator.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? China’s terrifying debt ratios poised to breeze past US levels.

July 23, 2014

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Elijah Cummings admits he doesn’t know fellow committee members’ names.

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ROGER SIMON: Congress Must Investigate The UN Role In Gaza.

THE SECRET GUILD of Silicon Valley. “They wear ironic t-shirts, and that is the outer limit of their fashion sense.”

Back in the 1990s I was at a Foresight Institute gathering talking to a VC, who pointed at a group of “cypherpunks” and joked, “The only code they’ll never crack is the dress code.”

UH OH: Democratic senator from Montana accused of plagiarism in Army War College assignment. His excuse: PTSD. Uh huh.

Related: Democrats About Ready to Chalk Montana Up as a Loss.

UPDATE: From the comments: “The War Colleges offer a nearly year-long in-residence program for senior officers who are being groomed for flag rank — a place for them to go and think deeply, after a couple of decades in uniform, about history, strategy, and the intellectual burdens of senior command. Half-assed plagiarism of half-assed papers — at this level! — is a sign of institutional rot, not just personal failings. No one noticed? What’s the general level of officer scholarship at the War Colleges? What’s the general level of quality in the contemporary flag ranks?”

There’s a lot of institutional rot in a lot of places these days.

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: Debating the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

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WHY WE CARE about other people’s sex lives. I don’t particularly, except for a general hope that they’re having fun. But, then, I’m a man: “Although the stakes may have changed, sexual judgment remains a form of self-preservation. The Archives of Sexual Behavior study isn’t the first to posit that women, in particular, are hardwired to slut-shame out of self-interest (among the judgers, women were more opposed to casual sex than men).”

LANGUAGE: Historical Slang Terms For Having Sex, From 1351 Through Today.

PRESUMABLY, THIS WILL JUST MAKE IT HARDER FOR BIG CITIES TO ATTRACT CAPITAL: Detroit’s record bankruptcy is likely to hit investors much harder than pensioners.

Related: Puerto Rico debt crisis headed for U.S.-style bankruptcy resolution.

RICHARD EPSTEIN: Obama’s LGBT Blunder. “The President’s executive order creates a two-tier system whereby any firm that wants to do business with the United States government—and only those firms—must abide by the mandate; the Obama administration cannot impose the mandate by regulation on all businesses generally. But this raises a key normative question: should the government be able to impose by contract mandates on businesses that it could not impose on them by legislative action?”

President Ted Cruz will get a lot of use out of this precedent.

ANSWERING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Why Does Sleeping In Only Make Me More Tired?

IF YOU STRIKE ME DOWN, I SHALL BECOME MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE: Once Again, Attempts To Block Access To The Pirate Bay Only Increase Traffic.

ARI KAUFMAN: The 10 Most Underrated Destinations In The Midwest. Yeah, but now that The Gobbler is out of business, what’s the point?

ANSWERING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: The ethics and economics of vampire re-ensoulment.

THE POSSIBILITIES OF smart contact lenses.

UM, HELEN SLATER AS SUPERGIRL? I certainly haven’t forgotten her.

21ST CENTURY RELATIONSHIPS: Married via Craigslist’s “Missed Connections.”

YEAH, BUT IT’S THE SEXBOTS THAT WILL REALLY SHAKE THINGS UP: We’re heading into a jobless future, no matter what the government does. “Within two decades, we will have almost unlimited energy, food, and clean water; advances in medicine will allow us to live longer and healthier lives; robots will drive our cars, manufacture our goods, and do our chores. There won’t be much work for human beings.” Hmm. We’ll see. Meanwhile, here’s something I wrote on this evergreen topic a while back.

YEP: Affirmative Action Equals Discrimination Against Asians.

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TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 440.

MEGAN MCARDLE: ObamaCare Takes A Body Blow.

The case, Halbig v. Burwell, involved the availability of subsidies on federally operated insurance marketplaces. The language of the Affordable Care Act plainly says that subsidies are only available on exchanges established by states. The plaintiff argued this meant that, well, subsidies could only be available on exchanges established by states. Since he lives in a state with a federally operated exchange, his exchange was illegally handing out subsidies.

The government argued that this was ridiculous; when you consider the law in its totality, it said, the federal government obviously never meant to exclude federally operated exchanges from the subsidy pool, because that would gut the whole law. The appeals court disagreed with the government, 2-1. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million people may lose their subsidies as a result.

This result isn’t entirely shocking. As Jonathan Adler, one of the architects of the legal strategy behind Halbig, noted today on a conference call, the government was unable to come up with any contemporaneous congressional statements that supported its view of congressional intent, and the statutory language is pretty clear. Members of Congress have subsequently stated that this wasn’t their intent, but my understanding is that courts are specifically barred from considering post-facto statements about intent.

When you read through the ruling, it’s easy to see the many ways in which the law’s architects brought this on themselves. The law was highly complex, badly drafted and highly controversial. When a Republican won a special election for the Senate in Massachusetts (!), the Democrats had to push it through on a straight party-line vote with some adroit parliamentary maneuvering — which gave them a health-care law, but one that was badly put together and couldn’t be substantially amended. The gaping holes were patched with administrative fixes, like an Internal Revenue Service ruling that held federally established exchanges to be equivalent to an exchange established by the state. But the vast scale of the law meant that the administrative gymnastics that held it together might not be sustainable.

To cobble together a win, the Obama/Reid/Pelosi folks broke a lot of rules. That has risks.

Here’s more from Jonathan Adler.

Also, related: Fourth Circuit upholds IRS tax credit rule.

PHILIP KLEIN: Seven potential effects of the D.C. Circuit Court’s Obamacare ruling.

THEODORE DALRYMPLE: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back In the Battle Against Tuberculosis.