Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cruising the Web

Robert Samuelson is exactly right as he bemoans the politicization of the civil service.
Something has gone wrong in our civil service. Consider some recent developments. The IRS was forced to pay the National Organization for Marriage $50,000 for leaking the group’s donor list. Tea-party organizations and donors were much more likely than others to be audited by the IRS. This misbehavior was not the work of a few rogue employees in Cincinnati. In general, the IRS stalled tea-party applications for status as 501(c)(4) groups.

Meanwhile, April Sands, an employee of the FEC, recently pleaded guilty to violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from campaigning at the office. Ms. Sands, who worked in the office charged with enforcing our election laws, recently said, “I just don’t understand how anyone but straight white men can vote Republican.” What business does such a person have in that office in the first place? Somehow the FEC managed to wipe her computer clean, weakening the case against her. Perhaps that answers our question. These cases reflect a larger pattern. Our civil service is putting a thumb on the scale of justice.
We've had a law against this since 1939. But now, as Samuelson points out, we have both a politicized civil service and no way to get rid of these partisans.
Today we have the worst of both worlds: a tenured and partisan civil service. Government employees have civil-service protection and are seldom fired, only for the most egregious of crimes. Yet they lean to one party. From 1989 to 2012, two-thirds of donations from IRS employees, for example, went to Democrats. Even so, our civil servants seem to think that they are politically neutral. Hence the employees at the VA think it is reasonable to spy on (presumptively partisan) congressional investigators, and hard drives mysteriously get destroyed in the IRS scandal. Laws are for the little people, as Glenn Reynolds likes to say.

The rise of the “fourth branch” of government — the administrative bureaucracy — complicates things further. Obamacare was roughly 2,000 pages long when Congress passed it. Bureaucrats have added thousands more. The Hobby Lobby case was about a rule written by bureaucrats, not by Congress. In fact, Congress probably would never have passed such a law. Worse, our tenured partisans sometimes delegate their jobs to activists. Who drafted the EPA’s new greenhouse regulations? The National Resources Defense Council.

Nowadays, in other words, laws are, in effect, written, interpreted, and enforced by the bureaucratic equivalent of made men who are quite well paid. So much for checks and balances. Moreover, our legal code is so complicated that, as Harvey Silverglate notes, most businesses or individuals are probably guilty of breaking some law somewhere. That puts each of us at the mercy of the government.

Obama has found a way to question conservatives' patriotism.
So Barack Obama is again using one of the most contemptible phrases in American politics — "economic patriotism."

There are many credible reasons to despise this rhetorical construct. Patriotism, after all, is the attachment to one's homeland, a nationalistic devotion to one's country and the values that make it great. If a person not only resists things that are "patriotic" but opposes them, then logic dictates that the person is being unpatriotic. So the president is really asking one question: Why do you hate America?

Instead of protecting tax loopholes that let corporations keep their profits overseas, let's put some of that money to work right here in the United States rebuilding America. We can rebuild our airports, create the next generation of good manufacturing jobs, make sure those are made in America.

A politician may rally millions of economic illiterates to his cause with this sort of speechifying, but these are not "loopholes"; they are "business decisions" that companies make when they face high regulatory burdens or high corporate taxes. Seeing as the goal of a business is not to become a more effective tax collector or health care provider, as this administration seems to believe, moving offshore, or tax inversion — which might mean $20 billion less for the Treasury over a decade — is becoming more popular. But either way, a lack of new tariffs and taxes does not "reward companies for moving profits overseas" as much as U.S. tax and regulatory policy is a punishment for their staying. Besides, where we stand on the issue of corporate taxation is no way to measure a person's loyalty to his country.

Actually, logic would also dictate that if you're texting on your Samsung phone while driving your Honda or BMW, you are also complicit in unpatriotic behavior. You are, in most cases, sending your cash to companies that aren't pitching in enough to rebuild our airports. Plenty of companies that normally suck up to the administration — General Electric, IBM, Merck and Microsoft, to name a few — believe that punishing foreign companies for doing business in the United States is a bad idea.

Are all these companies unpatriotic, as well? Someone should ask the president.
But let's not forget that for Obama, the idea of "economic patriotism" is elastic. The contours of its philosophy are now identical to the president's own policy proposals. Which is curious, considering we're supposed to set aside "politics" to achieve our communal goal. Then again, though you may be knee-deep in politics, our president is guided solely by common sense. Here's how Obama explained economic patriotism on July Fourth:

Of course. Hillary is in favor of limiting freedom of speech if she thinks it might help Democrats. After all, the Clintons didn't think anything of trying to get David Shuster fired because they didn't like the way he referred to how Chelsea was being used in the 2008 campaign. Imagine if a Republican had tried to get a reporter fired.

Well, we knew this. If Elzabeth Warren won the nomination in 2016, she'd be the most liberal candidate since George McGovern.

It's cute how the administration just decided unilaterally exempt U.S. territories from Obamacare.
As recently as last year, HHS instructed the territories that they "have enjoyed the benefits of the applicable consumer protections" and HHS "has no legal authority to exclude the territories" from ObamaCare. HHS said the law adopted an explicit definition of "state" that includes the territories for the purpose of the mandates and the public-health programs, and another explicit definition that excludes the territories for the purpose of the subsidies. Thus there is "no statutory authority . . . to selectively exempt the territories from certain provisions, unless specified by law."

Laws are made by Congress, but all of a sudden last week HHS discovered new powers after "a careful review of this situation and the relevant statutory language." For simplicity's sake, the territories will now be governed by the "state" definition that excludes the territories for both the subsidies and now the mandates too. But the old definition will still apply for the public-health spending, so the territories will get their selective exemption after all.

The White House seems to have an elastic definition of states. In the Halbig case in which a decision is expected any day from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr. Obama's lawyers say the phrase "the 50 states" includes the federal government. But most elastic is its definition of statutes, which apparently mean whatever Mr. Obama says they mean at any given moment. His new dispensation is great for the territories, but awful for the Constitution and rule of law.

Well, if Obama was set to go on Jimmy Kimmel this week, the White House has, apparently, decided that this was one step too far in the President's insouciance tour.

Not even MSNBC hosts are buying the White House attempts to explain away the President's keeping to a steady schedule of fundraisers while crises break out around the world and on our border.

Gosh, Bruce Braley, the Iowa Democratic candidate for the Senate keeps running into problems. He's on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, but he sure has missed a lot of their meetings. That's not going to play well this year.

That vote that Volkswagen employees in Tennessee had earlier this year to reject unionization is now reaping the benefits as VW is going to expand their operations in Tennessee which will add 2,000 more jobs.

The NYT continues its efforts to present a biased picture of what is going on between Israel and Hamas.

The City Journal details the efforts by liberals to water down requirements to get into New York City's elite high schools so that there will be fewer Asians who get in, even those Asians who come from poor immigrant families.

Don't be so eager to have a "Do Something" Congress.

Michael Barone posits that people vote on more than just their perception of how the economy is doing.

These are what the ISIS fanatics are perpetrating in their march through Iraq.
For the first time in 1,600 years, Mass is not being said in Mosul: an ancient culture has been wiped out in a matter of weeks. It's a war crime that, strangely, no one seems to want to talk about.

Mosul is the second-largest city in Iraq and the place where many Christians believe Jonah was buried. Since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) rode into town, their faith has been forced underground. Bells have been silenced, the hijab enforced with bullets. Tens of thousands fled after being offered an unattractive choice: convert, pay a religious tax, or be put to the sword. The levy was unaffordable. According to one local news agency, Isis troops entered the house of a poor Christian and, when they didn’t get what they wanted, the soldiers raped the mother and daughter in front of their husband and father. He committed suicide out of grief.

Having driven away the worshippers, the Isis fanatics are now trying to extinguish the physical legacy they left behind. A centuries-old church has been burned to the ground; Jonah’s tomb has been desecrated. Isis wants to create the Islamic equivalent of Year Zero, a brave new world with no evidence of Christianity, women’s rights, democracy or even that most subversive of instincts, human pity.

Ross Douthat makes a whole lot of sense about the over-protection of children and the criminalization of parents who left their children alone for a short period of time.

The trend of voter turnout in party primaries in off-year elections continues moving downward. This intensifies the clout of activists within parties and pushes candidates more to the extremes.

It's the 25-year anniversary of When Harry Met Sally and the birth of the rom-com.

7 comments:

mark said...

Conservatives are upset about having their patriotism questioned?
Look no further than this site for some disgraceful abuse of "patriotism".
Liberals against the Iraq war were accused of supporting Saddam Hussein and spitting in the faces of the troops.
I was accused of supporting the Iranian govt. for questioning the credibility of Iran-Contra participant, convicted-liar Elliot Abrams.
Along those lines, I was accused of being a "friend" to rapists, pedophiles and perverts for pointing out that Sen Menendez deserved due process. (The fact that conservatives were apparently duped by the Cuban govt. adds a whole new layer of absurdity and disgrace.)
Those all happened here, and not one conservative objected to any of it.
Everybody on every side are to some degree guilty of excess, hyperbole and hypocrisy. Let's try to keep it to a minimum, shall we?

tfhr said...

mark,

Kleenex?

You're starting to snivel and you have not even made an attempt to address the subject matter of your torment, Harsanyi's article. Too bad because it is a pretty good read. You could learn something.

Instead, as usual, you seem bent to make this about you and all of the horrors you have suffered here, so I guess I have to ask why you brought up the Cuban government. Are you trying to live vicariously through your good buddy Bob? It's Tuesday - what island is Menendez cavorting on today?! Wasn't his Dominican dalliance enough for you? I know Michael Moore was duped by the Fidel brothers but I had no idea that he had become a Republican in your eyes!

But really, I would hope that by now you could see the difference between someone protesting patriotically against a government or its policies and a Senator announcing that a "war is lost" or comparing the nation's service members to Nazis and the Khmer Rouge while those very troops are still on the battlefield. Reid and Durban crossed a line and for you to turn a blind eye to that gives me every reason to think that you would approve of anything when the "ends justify the means".

Constitutional rights and the UCMJ are two different things but I have to laugh when I think of all your puffery over the treatment of Bob's Dominican dalliances. I didn't hear any protest from the left when Murtha violated the rights of Marines wrongfully charged with war crimes. Those men were being hauled before a courts martial - that's a far more serious place than a blog thread.

As for your new found devotion to The Constituion, I'm glad you're finally there. Now would you please tell President Obama that he really does have to follow the law - it applies to him too.

mark said...

Perfect. The person most guilty of making a mockery of the Constitution and all principles conservatives claim to maintain continues with his drivel, knowing that no conservative here will call him out.
Yes, like you, Michael Moore was duped by the "Fidel brothers". Unlike you, he didn't pretend that he was serving in Iraq or that he was a highly coveted military-intelligence expert in order to give him credibility. Whether he's ever been so embarrassed by his mistakes that he felt the need to create a new identity (l.f.m), I'm not sure. (Yes, I know: A problem with your computer forced you to change your identity and drop your claims about serving our country, right?)

tfhr said...

Guilty! Guilty? And not just GUILTY, but "MOST GUILTY"! You should try to have some sort of thunder rumbling on in the background as you howl those words while waving a gnarled finger in the direction of your monitor. Flare your nostrils too - that could help. Clownish and stilted language is truly your signature, mark.

Was I was duped by Fidel? Michael Moore admires Cuba's program - not me. I'm not the one that's buying into ObamaCare - well not voluntarily anyway. It's been a long time since we've heard you, or anyone else for that matter, extolling the success of the President's namesake and sole "accomplishment". Don't you ever wonder why the President lied about keeping the plan you like or the doctor you've been taking your family to for years while also lying about saving a couple of grand for every household? Why do you think he did that, mark? Did you believe him or were you duped? (I think it comes back to ends justifying the means for you but go on and tell us yourself)

I looked at today's (23 JUL) entry by Betsy and thought it was kind of funny or at least coincidental that she has managed to bring Big Mike into the selection with an article on his nine, count 'em, nine houses. He's done very well for himself by mocking Americans that don't see the world through his liberal elitist eyes. I can imagine that it's easy to be in favor of handing a huge chunk of the economy over to the government to mismanage when you have the ample resources to buy and maintain nine houses capable of storing a dirigeable-sized carcass. With money like that, he won't be waiting in line with any of the 99%.

I guess the days of you wrongly accusing Equitus for "lfm" are finally over...you were so sure it was him when you were frustrated with Last, First, MI. Did you ever get the middle initial deal? MI - as in Military Intelligence. I'm not sure why you still whinge about it - if I cared about your complaints - I never would have told you! But really, "highly coveted"? What the hell is that about? That's just plain strange.

If you don't believe I served in Iraq - or anywhere else in 21 years in the Army - that's your problem and like the rest of your exertions made to avoid substantial debate, it's just another weak and tedious dodge.

mark said...

tfhr,
Not sure why you think I'm responsible for Michael Moore. Seems to be a pathetic deflection. I don't blame you or anyone here for Bush's abdication of duty when our country was under attack, or Reagan's aid to Hussein in committing atrocities against his own people. Why would I be on the hook for the number of houses he has?

While I have criticized Obama's lie about "keeping your plan" and the disastrous rollout, and disagree with completely free contraception, I still believe in the principles behind Obamacare and hope it succeeds.

No, I don't believe you were posting on this site from the battlefield in Iraq, as you once claimed. Nope, can't say I have hard evidence, but plenty of circumstantial evidence (proven lies and absurd accusations).
Nor do I believe you work in military intelligence. When you were posting as lfm, you took a dubious post about Menendez to an absurd extreme, and have, to this day, pretended you are right despite the overwhelming evidence that it was a set-up (very possibly by the Cuban government). In short, you declared him guilty of heinous crimes (rape and pedophilia) even after the flimsy charges fell apart. Clearly, you lack the skills and intelligence to work in such a demanding and critical field.
I don't think anyone here, especially anyone who expressed "outrage" by the Duke lacrosse scandal, is proud of the conservative handling of the Menendez episode. Apparently, nobody has the integrity to simply say, "yeah, we screwed up".
No different from Obama claiming he didn't lie about keeping your insurance, when he clearly did.

tfhr said...

mark,

The Cuban government?! Still? Are you a complete idiot now? The Dominican Republic is not run by Cuba. We'll break down the rest of the absurdities, straw man attempts, and outright factual errors in your pathetic post later today - I've got to get some sleep.

mark said...

Surely you're aware that it is very possible the Cuban govt. (the Fidel brothers as you called them) were behind the false charges against Menendez. So instead of "defending" yourself by attacking Moore, Durbin, Murtha, etc. perhaps you should focus a bit on your own disgraceful behavior.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-robert-menendez-seeks-probe-of-alleged-cuban-plot-to-smear-him/2014/07/07/e9ba25a0-efe8-11e3-914c-1fbd0614e2d4_story.html