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.