April 14, 2014
Obama Backs Off
Well, well. Barack Obama is backing off from his plan to hand over the internet to totalitarian-minded governance. Color me surprised.
Less than a month after announcing its plan to abandon U.S. protection of the open Internet in 2015, the White House has stepped back from the abyss. Following objections by Bill Clinton, a warning letter from 35 Republican senators, and critical congressional hearings, the administration now says the change won't happen for years, if ever.
"We can extend the contract for up to four years," Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling told Congress last week, referring to the agreement under which the U.S. retains ultimate control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as Icann. If the administration makes good on that reassurance, it would punt the decision to 2019 and the next president.
How unlike the president. Obama has never been bashful about shutting people up, insinuating that dark forces are at work buying up American democracy. He may be right about that, but the dark forces are labor unions and billionaire progressives who somehow manage to extract billions in loan guarantees, grants and gifts thanks to Obama's federally financed kindness. In return the progressive/labor coalition showers Obama and the Democrats with campaign cash.
Talk radio is a place where you might hear about these embarrassing connections. So is the Tea Party, so is Fox News, and so is the internet. Democrats have been complaining about talk radio and Fox News for years, and the Obama administration has even unleashed the IRS on the Tea Party. But up to now nobody has taken on the internet, except for those occasional cracks about bloggers sitting around in their pajamas. You have to give Obama his due. He's proven himself ambitious enough to take on the World Wide Web.
The Commerce Department tasked Icann to come up with a plan to invite authoritarian governments to participate while still keeping the Internet open. This is likely impossible—and wholly unnecessary. Nongovernmental "multi-stakeholders," such as engineers, networking companies and technology associations, now run the Internet smoothly. They are free to do so because the U.S. retains ultimate control over Internet domains, blocking authoritarian regimes from censoring or otherwise limiting the Internet outside their own countries.
The Obama administration proposal would have treated other governments as equal stakeholders, turning the concept of private-sector self-governance on its head. Robert McDowell, a former commissioner at the Federal Communication Commission, pointed out at the Hudson Institute event that "'multi-stakeholder' historically has meant no government," not many governments.
It is vintage Obama, leading from behind again. And up front could have been any number of dictatorial regimes willing and able crush inconvenient, embarrassing discourse on the net. But apparently the outcry, even from the left end of the political spectrum, forced him to back off. Some errant synapses, perhaps, firing in left leaning minds set off an epiphany about dangers of empowering somebody to silence your critics. When they have it they'll silence you. But who would ever have expected the left to get that?
April 13, 2014
Quote of the Day
As majority leader of the United States Senate, Reid holds one of the highest offices in the land. Using his high office to inveigh against the “Koch brothers,” Reid has shown an infinite capacity for disgrace, dishonesty and hypocrisy. He is the perfect face of the Democratic Party in the Age of Obama.
April 07, 2014
This Is What You Get...
...when you vote for Democrats. There is a "pervasive culture of retaliation and intimidation" at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A senior enforcement attorney at CFPB has testified at a House Committee on Financial Services hearing that senior managers at the agency retaliated against her for speaking out against mismanagement.
Scott Pluta, the CFPB assistant director of the Office of Consumer Response, demoted Martin after she filed a formal complaint of discrimination for being “isolated” and prevented from doing any “meaningful work” in December 2012. Martin has not been assigned a single case or enforcement matter since she dissolved her own law practice to work for the CFPB in 2011.
After filing her complaint, Martin, a former civilian attorney for the judge advocate general at Fort Bragg, was then removed from all of her job duties.
Misty Raucci, a workplace private investigator who was hired by the CFPB to investigate the case, supported Martin’s testimony.
After six months, Raucci said she became a “veritable hotline for employees at CFPB, who called to discuss their own maltreatment at the bureau, mainly at the hands of Scott Pluta or [CFPB official] Dane D’Alessandro.”
Raucci said Martin was subjected to “open bashing, bullying, and marginalization” from D’Alessandro. Pluta removed Martin from her position as chief counsel in the Office of Consumer Response.
Raucci suggested that Pluta colluded with two lower-level employees—Cathaleen Skinner and Cora Hume—to have them file complaints against Martin. Skinner “stood to benefit directly from Ms. Martin’s removal from her position as Chief Counsel,” Raucci said.
This is how Democrats believe the U.S. government should work — by intimidation and retaliation. Consider this case concerning the EPA.
The US Supreme Court Wednesday ruled unanimously in favor of an Idaho couple seeking to have their day in court to challenge an Environmental Protection Agency order that scuttled plans to build their dream home on a subdivided lot the EPA said was a federal wetland.
The couple, Chantell and Michael Sackett, had started to fill the home site with dirt and gravel to prepare for construction. But the EPA intervened, announcing that the property was a regulated wetland. Agency officials ordered the couple to restore the land to its original state or face up to $75,000 a day in fines.
Or how about this one?
All Andy Johnson wanted to do was build a stock pond on his sprawling eight-acre Wyoming farm. He and his wife Katie spent hours constructing it, filling it with crystal-clear water, and bringing in brook and brown trout, ducks and geese. It was a place where his horses could drink and graze, and a private playground for his three children.
But instead of enjoying the fruits of his labor, the Wyoming welder says he was harangued by the federal government, stuck in what he calls a petty power play by the Environmental Protection Agency. He claims the agency is now threatening him with civil and criminal penalties – including the threat of a $75,000-a-day fine.
And if you don't happen to be a landowner subject to EPA regulations, there is the IRS to harass you if you should happen to stray from the liberal orthodoxy. Don't file for tax exempt status if your organization has Tea Party" or "Patriot" in its name.
The Obama administration obviously considers Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of two public service organizations, “King Street Patriots” and “True the Vote”, to be a very dangerous person. She apparently gained that ominous distinction soon after filing to obtain tax-exempt IRS status for King Street Patriots in July 2010…approval, incidentally, which has yet to be granted. Nor has tax-exempt status been awarded for a True the Vote filing which was submitted at the same time.
Catherine’s life has changed dramatically since submitting those applications. The organization has been questioned by the FBI on numerous occasions; she has had her personal tax returns audited by the IRS; and has also had her small manufacturing business tax returns audited by the IRS. In addition, her business has been subjected to two unscheduled audits by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, and Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and has undergone another unscheduled business audit by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
And that's how Democrats think the government is supposed to work. Get in the way, and you get run over. It's what you get when you vote for a Democrat.
April 06, 2014
A Momentary Pause -- 17 Years and 8 Months
Yesterday Anthony Watts posted on his Climate Change blog Watts Up With That? an article by Christopher Moncton.
Times are not easy for true-believers just now. The RSS satellite lower-troposphere temperature anomaly for March, just in, shows no global warming at all for 17 years 8 months. This remarkable 212-month period, enduring from August 1996 to March 2014, represents half of the entire 423-month satellite record since it began in January 1979
Figure 1. The remarkable 212-month absence of global warming, notwithstanding a record rate of increase in CO2 concentration. The Pause – the least-squares trend on the data for the past 17 years 8 months – now extends to just over half the entire 423-month Remote Sensing Systems satellite record since January 1979.
That's quite remarkable — 17 years and 8 months with no warming. Signs of desperation are appearing as the global warmists rejoin the attack with a renewed ferocity, threatening ever more dire consequences should we ignore their warnings of climate catastrophe. Just because it isn't getting warmer doesn't mean it isn't getting warmer! Or something.
But it hasn't been getting warmer for almost two decades, and though warmists have been at a loss to explain it, they've acknowledged the truth of it. Realizing that rising temperatures have not been rising for quite some time, the warmists traded in their "Global Warming" title for the more versatile, "Global Climate Change." Not sure if it's going to be hotter or colder? Global Climate Change! That's the ticket. No matter which way the satellite data goes, we've still got a crisis!
And it's a crisis that has not gone to waste.
According to the GAO, annual federal climate spending has increased from $4.6 billion in 2003 to $8.8 billion in 2010, amounting to $106.7 billion over that period. The money was spent in four general categories: technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, science to understand climate changes, international assistance for developing countries, and wildlife adaptation to respond to actual or expected changes. Technology spending, the largest category, grew from $2.56 billion to $5.5 billion over this period, increasingly advancing over others in total share. Data compiled by Joanne Nova at the Science and Policy Institute indicates that the U.S. Government spent more than $32.5 billion on climate studies between 1989 and 2009. This doesn’t count about $79 billion more spent for climate change technology research, foreign aid and tax breaks for “green energy.”
The excerpt above is from an August, 2011 article in Forbes. I'm not going to add up the billions, but a lot of spending has gone on and is still going. It doesn't get the mention that it should. What you'll hear instead is from the parties cashing in on the government funding binge. Deniers are in the pay of the oil industry! So the hysteria continues.
And Obama has no plan to curtail it or cut spending of any kind. Well, that's not true. He will cut defense spending, but certainly not climate change spending, even if it's stopped getting warmer. We had more snow in New Hampshire this winter than a lot of people have seen in years — or ever. No matter. There has to be a crisis, so global warming will get a lot of government cash.
But the real crisis is political. Democrats expect to be in for a bad election year, so Obama's spending, global warming included, is the kind that's intended to win votes and campaign contributions for the Democratic party. It doesn't matter what the satellite data says.
Update: The Wall Street Journal notes the U.N. IPCC's "Fifth Assessment Report" on cimate which is somewhat less alarmists than reports past, but not by much.
The IPCC also turns out to have an agenda that's less about climate change than income inequality and redistribution. What else given the liberal fashions of the day? "Recognizing how inequality and marginalization perpetuate poverty is a prerequisite for climate-resilient development pathways," the IPCC insists, before suggesting that the costs for "global adaptation" should run between $70 billion and $100 billion a year from now until 2050.
Then we come to a bit of WSJ naivete.
[I]f you believe that the risks of climate change are sufficiently plausible that we should at least be considering an insurance policy of sorts, then the IPCC's policy recommendations could hardly be worse. The best environmental policy is economic growth. The richer you are, the more insurance you have. Wealth is what pays for robust safety standards and prevents sensible environmental regulations from being ignored or corrupted.
Yet the IPCC supports the very regulation, income redistribution and politically favored misallocation of resources that will make the world poorer—and less able to adapt if the climate threat proves to be as real as the U.N.'s computer models claim.
Income redistribution is the whole point of the global warming hysteria.
Another update: The report also says this:
"Existing gender inequalities are increased or heightened by climate-related hazards," says the report, while dilating on the deleterious effects global warming has on "discrimination based on gender, age, race, class, caste, indigeneity, and (dis)ability."
I wonder if that's "settled science" as well.
April 02, 2014
The Supreme Court ruled today that individuals may not be limited in the number of political candidates to whom they can contribute during an election. At the same time the justices left in place the maximum donation that can be made to a single candidate, which remains at $2,600.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in the controlling opinion in the 5-4 ruling, said that while the government has an interest in preventing corruption of federal officeholders, individuals have political rights that include being able to give to as many candidates as they want, in order to show support.
“Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects,” the chief justice wrote. “If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades — despite the profound offense such spectacles cause — it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”
Under the current limit, a donor can’t give more than $123,200 to candidates, parties and political action committees. Of that, just $48,600 can go directly to candidates.
That means if someone wanted to give the maximum donation, he could only contribute to nine candidates.
Chief Justice Roberts said it made no sense that someone couldn’t give to a 10th candidate or more — and said the government didn’t offer a clear line on where corruption would come into play.
Progressives were overwrought already, demonizing the libertarian leaning Koch brothers over their bankrolling of anti-ObamaCare political ads. Democrats' fight for campaign finance reform has always been about limiting the voices of private citizens in the politics, while inviting massive spending and corruption by activist labor unions. Fourteen of the top 25 political contributors are unions.
• The top campaign donor of the last 25 years is ActBlue, an online political-action committee dedicated to raising funds for Democrats. ActBlue’s political contributions, which total close to $100 million, are even more impressive when one realizes that it was only launched in 2004. That’s $100 million in ten years.
• Fourteen labor unions were among the top 25 political campaign contributors.
Democrats say that money from wealthy individuals will corrupt the system, but there are two sides to every transaction. If influence can be bought, there is somebody to sell it. While Democrats complain about money from shadowy groups they have no second thoughts about where their own money comes from. Campaign finance limits are for the other side. Remember when the Obama campaign disabled credit card address verification? That meant campaign money was potentially untraceable. If there is corruption it will be from rent seeking Democrats more often than not.
Make no mistake. This is a victory for libertarians.
April 01, 2014
Quote of the Day
From Susan Vass, under the pseudonym Ammo Grrrll writing in “Thoughts from the ammo line” on its diversity.
Contrary to anti-gun propagandists who assert that the only gun owners are certifiably insane old white men, the ammo line also reflects our diversity. The guy who beats me there on Saturdays is a black great-grandpa I’ll call Steve, on account of that’s his name. He shows up pre-dawn after his swing-shift job. Today he is wearing a T-shirt that says “Ammo is scarce – there will be no warning shots.”
Media -- Got the Memo
If Nate Silver is to be believed, the Democrats are in for a tough time this election season. Silver gives the edge to a Republican takeover in the Senate. Dragging the Dems down are a number of things: failure of ObamaCare to deliver anything but higher costs and fewer options, politization of the IRS, Obama's pathetic responses to Bashar Assad's war on his citizens and the Russian incursion into Crimea to name a few.
Unable to defend their policy choices, Democrats turn to a familiar game plan. Demonize the Koch brothers.
The Nevada Democrat, in the first of two floor speeches on the subject Wednesday, questioned the veracity of new advertisements from Koch-backed groups that feature individuals sharing stories about the apparent hardships they've faced because of the Affordable Care Act.
One features a Michigan resident who said she was fighting leukemia and had her insurance canceled because of the new law. The woman says Rep. Gary Peters' vote to pass the law "jeopardized my health." Peters is the Democratic candidate for Michigan's open Senate seat.
Reid called that ads "absolutely false," and said it was part of an effort by the Koch brothers to "buy" the election.
But he returned to the floor hours later with a hint of a retraction, saying he was not in position to say that all ads from the group were lies — only "the vast, vast majority of them."
But he went further in attacking the ads' fiscal backers.
"It's time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers, who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine," Reid said.
The Koch brothers are Un-American liars, said Harry Reid from the Senate Floor. There's a reason he stood at the Senate podium to deliver his diatribe. He's immune from any charges of libel when speaking in the Senate. The news media are shielded from libel, too. Rarely do public figures win libel suits. So following along from Harry's lead, lefty news media outlets are jumping on the anti-Koch-brother bandwagon. Here is The Nation hyperventilating in its headline:
What’s Really Behind the Koch Attacks on Democrats
Hint: it’s not about healthcare.
Do you want to guess what it's all about? Here's a hint: Oil. Well, OK that was more than a hint.
The Kochs’ investments in fossil fuel include petrochemical complexes and thousands of miles of pipeline and refineries in Alaska, Minnesota, and Texas, an empire that emits over 24 million tons of carbon pollution every year, about as much as 5 million cars. Thanks to a recent investigation by the International Forum on Globalization, we now have confirmation of what was long suspected: the Kochs are one of the biggest investors in Alberta’s tar sands, with a Koch subsidiary holding leases on 1.1 million acres of land in the region, giving them a major stake in the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline—despite their insistence otherwise. [My emphasis]
Every couple of years the left breathlessly reveals the same nefarious plot. It's the one where dull witted, unsuspecting Americans are lured into gas stations to fill up. Fools. And who's to blame? Why, the Koch brothers, of course.
There is, however, some dispute over the Koch brothers' interests as relate to the Keystone Pipeline. According to PowerLine Blog, the Koch brothers have none, as John Hinderaker explained to the Washington Post, who also jumped on Harry Reid's bandwagon.
On Thursday, the Washington Post published an article by Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin titled “The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers.” The article’s first paragraph included this claim:
The biggest lease holder in the northern Alberta oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately-owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.
The theme of the article was that the Keystone Pipeline is all about the Koch brothers; or, at least, that this is a plausible claim. The Post authors relied on a report by a far-left group called International Forum on Globalization that I debunked last October.
So Thursday evening, I wrote about the Post article here. I pointed out that Koch is not, in fact, the largest leaser of tar sands land; that Koch will not be a user of the pipeline if it is built; and that construction of the Keystone Pipeline would actually be harmful to Koch’s economic interests, which is why Koch has never taken a position on the pipeline’s construction. The Keystone Pipeline, in short, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Koch brothers. [All emphasis in the original]
Which is not to say that the Koch brothers don't support approval of the Keystone Pipeline. To be honest, I don't know if they do or they don't, but I would be willing to bet that they do — not because they would profit from it, since apparently they would not, at least in the immediate term, but because it would strengthen America. It would create American jobs. It would boost the economy.
But elements of the media have gotten the memo, so to speak. There is so little that Democrats can campaign on in the current election season. Their stewardship has been dismal at best, if we're talking about the economy. Foreign policy? A disaster.
That leaves only one thing. Find a target and demonize it: The Koch brothers. Isn't it heart warming to know the media is there to help.
March 31, 2014
Quote of the Day
Michael Goodwin of the New York Post:
"No president can win ’em all, but Obama’s foreign-policy record is unblemished by success."
Covered California, the agency in charge of implementing ObamaCare in the Golden State, is doing exactly what Obama had intended — they're getting out the Democratic vote.
LA MESA, Calif. - A local couple called 10News concerned after they received an envelope from the state's Obamacare website, Covered California. Inside was a letter discussing voter registration and a registration card pre-marked with an "x" in the box next to Democratic Party.
Just what we need — another government program dedicated to Democratic majorities. Using ObamaCare this way was brought to light earlier in a PJ Media piece by J. Christian Adams.
Leading From Behind -- Internet Crackdown
The Obama administration has apparently decided that it's unfair for the United States to maintain control over the domain-name system and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann). Well that's what the administration would like you to think. The reality is more like this:
An Icann planning meeting last week in Singapore gave new reasons for alarm. No plan was even proposed to keep authoritarian regimes from censoring the global Internet. Steve DelBianco of the NetChoice trade association posed this question on the CircleID website, for which Icann had no answer: "What happens if governments advise Icann to remove [top-level domains] from the root in order to suppress dissent and free expression?"
From its inception the Obama administration has been relentlessly working to suppress opposing viewpoints. An activist Federal Election Commission posed significant obstacles to conservatives looking to promote their message until Citizens United made it legal for corporations to spend money on political speech. It was a setback for the administration, which it countered by transferring Lois Lerner from the FEC to the IRS where her war against the conservative message took a tactical shift. Ms. Lerner oversaw the systematic delay and denial of conservative applications for 501(c)(4) non-profit status. Any outfit with the words "tea party" or "patriot" have been targeted for special scrutiny.
Throughout all of this there has been the Obama's ongoing unhappiness over the internet and how there are these conservative blogs that get to say whatever they please. His proposal to turn over Icann to international control is his solution that problem, as described by none other than Bill Clinton:
"A lot of people who have been trying to take this authority away from the U.S. want to do it for the sole purpose of cracking down on Internet freedom and limiting it and having governments protect their backsides instead of empower their people."
Mr. Clinton asked Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia: "Are you at all worried that if we give up this domain jurisdiction that we have had for all these years that we will lose Internet freedom?"
"I'm very worried about it," Mr. Wales answered. People outside the U.S. often say to him, "Oh, it's terrible. Why should the U.S. have this special power?" His reply: "There is the First Amendment in the U.S., and there is a culture of free expression."
He recalled being told on Icann panels to be more understanding of differences in cultures. "I have respect for local cultures, but banning parts of Wikipedia is not a local cultural variation that we should embrace and accept. That's a human-rights violation."
Just earlier crackdowns on free speech were delegated to activist bureaucrats, Obama hopes to lead from behind on regulating the internet. Countries sharing his distaste for political expression that might be considered regime unfriendly will be given greater control. Who knows? Someday they might be in position to do him a favor.