For those of you who haven’t been following, earlier this week, Keith Olbermann mocked Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle for saying of Abraham Lincoln, “He lost quite a few. But he won the big one.” For this, Olbermann called her “obtuse” and insisted Lincoln only lost one election. Yesterday on this blog, Jeffrey Lord patiently explained why Olbermann was wrong, and his post was picked up by National Review’s Daniel Foster. At this point, it caught Olbermann’s eye, and the MSNBC host named Foster the “Worst Person in The World.” Rather than acknowledge his error, Olbermann took the weasel’s way out with a semantic loophole, embarrassingly insisting that he really meant that Lincoln only lost one popular election. As you know, at the time, there wasn’t direct election of U.S. Senators.
But while Olbermann would like to discount several of Lincoln’s losing political campaigns to bolster his case against Angle (including the 1858 Senate campaign), that’s clearly not how Lincoln himself viewed those defeats at the time.
Here’s how Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Herbert Donald summed up Lincoln’s mood after losing his 1858 Senate bid, in the acclaimed biography, Lincoln:
Though Lincoln was not surprised by the outcome of the election, he was bitterly disappointed. Once again, he saw victory escape his grasp. With one more defeat added to his record, he had received yet another lesson in how little his fate was determined by his personal exertions.
I also gazed through the Library of America’s two-volume collection of Lincoln’s speeches and writings.
It included a November 4, 1858 letter to John J. Crittenden, in which Lincoln graciously forgives the former Whig for endorsing Stephen Douglas, which was believed to have badly hurt Lincoln. His words clearly reflect the disappointment conveyed by Donald. Lincoln wrote to Crittenden that:
“The emotions of defeat, at the close of a struggle in which I felt more than a merely selfish interest, and to which defeat the use of your name contributed largely, are fresh upon me; but, even in this mood, I can not for a moment suspect you of anything dishonorable.”
A few weeks later, in a November 19 letter, Lincoln tried to cheer up his friend Henry Asbury, in language typical of a losing candidate addressing supporters:
“The fight must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one, or even, one hundred defeats.”
Angle, in her remarks, never said anything about Lincoln’s won-loss record in “popular elections.” She said that, “He lost quite a few. But he won the big one.” Her point was clearly a more general one, that Lincoln came back from a number of political defeats. It’s a statement that’s completely rooted in history. That is, if you choose to get your Lincoln history from reading respected biographers and Lincoln’s own words, as opposed to watching the rantings of a TV talk show host.
I will post these two stories without much comment, except to note that former state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor is a solid conservative with a history of top support both from business leaders and from the Christian Coalition. Stories are here and here. National conservatives and Republicans would be foolish if they pay no attention to this. James Carville is sitting down there in New Orleans, ready to pounce.
Anyway, Republicans in Louisiana now have a real choice after all. That’s all anyone could ask. That was the goal of my column. If they still choose David Vitter, that’s how it goes. If so, more power to him and to the cause of a more conservative Senate.
Everything is in its right place once again, with Jim Manzi, recently signed up to be The New Republic’s “in-house critic” drawing fire from liberals. This situation is an improvement over the recent intramural dust-up at National Review, in which conservatives were after Manzi for attacking Mark Levin’s climate change chapter in Liberty and Tyranny.
Manzi’s crime this time is the same as it was in his run-in with Levin: criticizing faulty logic on climate change. He challenged, in his role as in-house critic, Al Gore’s recent TNR article on climate change. His basic argument is that if you accept that anthropogenic global warming is a real phenomenon, it does not follow that proposed emission reduction policies such as cap and trade are advisable.
For his troubles, Manzi earned the labels of “right-wing misinformer” and “serial misinformer” from Joseph Romm, a brilliant and prolific environmental blogger, probably the most prominent one. Romm also accuses TNR of having “proudly hired Manzi to un-fact-check their articles” and in doing so “given a vote of no confidence to the articles that they do publish - and to the editorial team they assign to ensure the accuracy of that piece.”
Now of course neither Romm nor any of the left-wing bloggers who have seconded his accusations can provide a single example of Manzi making a factual error or spreading misinformation, because he hasn’t. In fact, if anything, Manzi’s sin was precisely the opposite: challenging Romm’s preconceptions about climate change policy without engaging in any distortions of the underlying science or even challenging the prevailing scientific findings, thereby denying Romm the easy out of writing Manzi off as a “denier” or crackpot. Romm’s post contains a number of plausible objections to Manzi’s thesis, but Manzi anticipated each of them in his post or addressed them previously. None are evidence that Manzi made any factual error.
If you have the time, look through Manzi’s National Review archives or his American Scene posts to get a sense of his writing style. It’s defined by transparency (he always links to sources for cited facts), straightforwardness (he shows every step and justifies every assumption), and deference. The last characteristic is perhaps the most notable, as Manzi will maintain cordiality with his interlocutors even after they accuse him of malfeasance. The one exception that I’m aware of is his infamous post on Levin’s book — which is actually the exception that proves the rule, because he later apologized for his tone and gave Levin the last word.
It seems as if it is because of Manzi’s track record of being honest, open, and accommodating that Romm is unable to stand his arguments in a liberal publication without trying to undermine his credibility. It was for that same reason that many conservatives found Manzi’s criticism of Levin so grating — it’s in a way easier to deny global warming altogether than to argue on Manzi’s level. At the time, a number of liberals cast the reaction to Manzi-Levin as a sign that conservatives are close-minded, despite the fact that National Review did publish the piece, after all. But now that the tables have turned and Manzi is writing for TNR, some of the same liberal observers are questioning his motives and accusing him of “lowering the standard of discourse.”
It is to National Review’s credit that they published Manzi then, it is to TNR’s credit that they publish him now despite the left-wing outcry, and it is to Manzi’s credit that his soldiers on producing impeccably factual articles only to be derided as dishonest by both the right and left. If only the same could be said of Romm about his willingness to consider reasoned challenges to his assumptions.
(By the way, Romm’s post originally contained a clear factual error: he cited someone who incorrectly claimed that Manzi was the CEO of Lotus (I can’t find a cached version, but it’s noted in a comment left in the morning). Since then Romm has fixed the error, but there is nothing in the post indicating that it has been changed. A meaningless mistake, but suffice it to say that the “misinformer” Manzi would not make a factual error and then fail to acknowledge it in the post.)
To her great credit, Sarah Palin is absolutely right on target in her insistence on maintaining a strong defense. Yesterday’s Washington Post featured a little report about how Palin is “waging a battle inside the “tea party” movement to exempt defense spending from the group’s small-government, anti-deficit fervor.” Good for her. The GOP Class of 1994 in Congress had too many members who did the same thing Palin warns against: letting their admirable enthusiasm for lower deficits/balanced budgets get in the way of a commitment to putting national defense first. Palin rightly warns against abandoning the central part of the Reagan belief system that insisted that freedom at home is dependent on a strong, unmatched military — firmly under civilian control, of course, and fully answerable to the need for efficiency and effectiveness, but not subject to arbitrary budget limits. Palin even directly took on that extremely disappointing Defense Secretary, Robert Gates: “Secretary Gates recently spoke about the future of the U.S. Navy. He said we have to ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 [billion] to $6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines and $11 billion carriers. He went on to ask, ‘Do we really need … more strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?’ ” Palin said. “Well, my answer is pretty simple: Yes, we can and yes, we do, because we must.”
Hear, hear. Praise for Palin. Conservatives, and all Americans, should listen.
While it is always nice to see a federal judge dusting off the Tenth Amendment, the ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates states’ rights is fairly ridiculous. DOMA is not a “federal ban on gay marriage.” It did not prevent Massachusetts from recognizing same-sex marriage. It would not prevent all 50 states from doing so if they chose. What it does is prevent Massachusetts from using the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution to impose same-sex marriage on unwilling states and the federal government.
More than 30 states have reaffirmed marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Just a handful have adopted a unisex definition of marriage, only two legislatively and none by popular vote. If you want to argue that this somehow violates the equal protection clause, fine, but the Tenth Amendment did not give Massachusetts the right to override the rest of the country on the issue of how marriage will be defined for public purposes.
In a speech yesterday, President Obama gave a nice nod to reality:
And we were guided by a simple idea: Government doesn’t have all the answers. Ultimately, government doesn’t create all the jobs. Government can’t guarantee growth by itself.
Needless to say, even this merest acknowledgement of the limits of the state, couched in a longer defense of indefensible government programs, has left certain liberals feeling a little betrayed. But the president is right.
So where do jobs come from, if not the government? Tim Kane has published a study (pdf) showing that the answer is, more or less, start-ups.
A relatively new dataset from the U.S. government called Business Dynamics Statistics (BDS) confirms that startups aren’t everything when it comes to job growth. They’re the only thing.
Kane offers this graphical evidence:
I’ve already weighed in on President Obama’s decision to recess appoint the self-professed lover of Britain’s socialized health care system, Donald Berwick, to run the two programs that account for one out of every three health care dollars spent in the United States.
I’d just add a few points. As an exercise in raw political power, one can see the rationale behind Obama’s decision. He’s getting criticized by conservative pundits and a liberal good government type like Ruth Marcus, but ultimately, coming in the dead of summer just after the July 4th holiday weekend, most Americans outside Washington probably aren’t following this too closely. If Berwick did go through the standard nomination process — even had he been confirmed — it would have put health care back in the news, and the administration would have to defend Berwick statements, such as: “Cynics beware, I am romantic about the (British) National Health Service; I love it.” Republicans were chomping at the bit for hearings because unlike with Elena Kagan, Berwick has a long paper trail.
Liberals have been buoyed in recent weeks by some polls showing that support for the health care legislation is creeping up slightly. But it’s been the pattern for a long time that whenever ObamaCare is out of the news, people view it more favorably because they support the abstract concept of health care reform. But whenever there’s been a public debate about the specific Democratic vision for health care, support has erroded and opposition has tanked. So ultimately, what this shows us is that the Obama administration is afraid to debate health care, because they know it’s a debate they’ll lose with the American people.
Obeying President Obama’s dictum that it’s always educational to check in with what the other side is saying, I checked in with MSNBC’s Countdown the other night.
Sure enough, there was Keith Olbermann himself barking up I will admit, interesting leftist views on issues A, B, or C. But what got my attention was, well, a bit of outright, easily verifiable factual untruth. If we were talking Joe Biden, the word would be gaffe.
It seems Keith, who has never had an easy time with women or blacks in authority if they have decided to take a stroll off the liberal plantation, has taken his usual disdain for conservative women and zeroed in on Nevada’s GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle.
Fair enough. Angle is a Senate candidate and criticism from people like Olbermann comes with the turf.
But what came next was what amazed. If you will follow this link, nicely provided by our friends at Real Clear Politics, you will see the Big Guy launch into a side comment Angle made in response to a questioner on a local radio show. The questioner, clearly an Angle admirer, had believed her not capable of winning the Senate nomination and was now confessing his sin. To which Angle replies: “Well, you know, it’s just like Abraham Lincoln. He lost quite a few but he won the big one….”
Olbermann, who delights in calling her Sharron “Obtuse” Angle ” — pounced.
And promptly shot himself in the foot. Both feet, actually.
Instantly picking up on the Lincoln reference, Olbermann could barely contain his glee at the notion of Angle as Lincoln.
“Just for the record do you how many elections Abraham Lincoln lost in his lifetime?” he asked, leering into the camera. With drama benefitting Gloria Swanson as the fading star in Sunset Boulevard, Olbermann holds up a solitary finger. Then goes on to say: “The Illinois state assembly in 1832. He prevailed in four elections for state assembly, one for Congress, two for president…. seven of eight he won.”
Ouch. As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough — the blithely unknowing host ends by saying this, an allusion to the famous Lloyd Bentsen “I-knew-Jack-Kennedy and Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” line to Dan Quayle.
“Sharron Angle, I knew Abraham Lincoln’s won-loss record and you’re no Abraham Lincoln.”
Ouch. Ouch. And ouch again. You have to wonder — was there a single MSNBC suit sliding under their desk at this point? Did they even know enough basic American history to know they might wish to consider the option? Was there anybody who had the guts to say to this barking fountain of factual error:
“No, Keith, you don’t know Abraham Lincoln’s won-loss record. Not even close.”
For the record — drum roll please — Sharron Angle was 100% correct in saying Lincoln lost a “few” elections.
Here’s Abraham Lincoln’s actual score with elections.Continue reading…
It was always possible that Cambodian jailer Kaing Guek Eav (aka Comrade Duch) took responsibility for more than 15,000 deaths under the Khmer Rouge regime in the hope that his apparent contrition would win him a lighter sentence, despite his sometimes over-the-top claims of culpability. With the termination of his international lawyer, it seems more likely his behavior during the trial last year was more legal ploy than genuine sorrow:
Duch’s defence strategy imploded on the final day of his trial in November when he suddenly demanded his release after months of admitting responsibility for overseeing the murders of around 15,000 people at the Tuol Sleng prison.
During most of the trial, Duch’s defence team focused on getting a lighter sentence by downplaying his position within the regime and by highlighting his remorse, his time already served and his cooperation with the court.
Prosecutors said at the time that the 67-year-old’s sudden U-turn had raised doubts about his admissions of responsibility and his pleas for forgiveness.
Duch’s verdict is due on July 26, and the trials of four higher-ups in the Pol Pot leadership structure are supposed to begin in 2011 (if they’re still alive), but the court has been marred by conflicts of interest and corruption. Millions of dollars have been wasted on this U.N. co-sponsored exercise in so-called justice, but at least the next generation of Cambodians will have a clear marker on their dark history.
Oh, and MSNBC still needs to fire Chris Matthews.
After leading a six month inquiry into the the “climategate” affair involving leaked emails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia in Great Britain, Sir Muir Russell has concluded that scientists did not manipulate their research into global warming. But Myron Ebell, the director of energy and global warming policy at The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), has raised questions about the investigative process, which did not include key witnesses. His statement is as follows:
“The Muir Russell report on the ClimateGate scandal does a highly professional job of concealment. It gives every appearance of addressing all the allegations that have been made since the ClimateGate e-mails and computer files from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Institute were released last November. However, the committee relied almost entirely on the testimony of those implicated in the scandal or those who have a vested interest in defending the establishment view of global warming. The critics of the CRU with the most expertise were not interviewed. It is easy to find for the accused if no prosecution witnesses are allowed to take the stand.
The Muir Russell report is thus a classic example of the establishment circling its wagons to defend itself. As was pointed out when the committee was appointed, the members are part of the old boys’ network and have several obvious conflicts of interest.
The professional whitewash attempted by the Muir Russell report will not succeed, however. That is because the evidence that data was manipulated by some of the scientists involved, for example to make the 1930s appear cooler in twentieth century temperature records, is simply too obvious and too strong to cover up.”
There is no question about impact “climategate” has had on the merits of global warming legislation. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who withdrew his support as a co-sponsor of the latest “cap and trade” scheme, has even acknowledged that the bill has no connection with climate concerns.
An interesting thing happened this morning. I contacted the office of Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama to follow up on another story about which I plan to write in coming weeks, but naturally the topic of my column here this morning came up and so I asked about word I had heard of Riley’s preference in Tuesday’s gubernatorial runoff. For those following this race, here is what I found, on the record: Gov. Bob Riley has confirmed that he has told friends he intends to vote for Bradley Byrne, but has refrained from a formal endorsement because he doesn’t want to sound like he is telling people how to vote. For wavering Republicans in Alabama, this is more likely than not to send more of them to Byrne’s side, as Gov. Riley remains popular. National conservatives should read my column to be reminded why they should care about this race.
A new Gallup poll has found that by a 50 percent to 33 percent margin, Americans oppose the Obama Justice Department’s lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law. Among those who say they’re following the matter very closely, the number is more lopsided — with 64 percent opposed and just 31 percent supporting it. Independents oppose the lawsuit by a 56 percent to 27 percent margin.
Democrats are clearly hoping that the lawsuit will help boost Hispanic turnout, which could be depressed this fall because the Obama administration hasn’t delivered on comprehensive immigration legislation.
Today on the Main Site:
The Truth About Illegals by Ion Mihai Pacepa: Why the recent arrest of the Russian ten is no laughing matter.
Moneygate by Joseph A. Harriss: For the love of lucre.
Battles in ‘Bama by Quin Hillyer: Conservatives should pay heed in Heart of Dixie.
Hiding Behind U.S. Law by Douglas Smith: All the world (of plaintiffs’ lawyers) is banging down our door.
Mexico Unmasked by George H. Wittman: The lies we live in the name of good neighborliness.
The Religious Left and Israel by Mark Tooley: Some of its condemnations are off the wall.
Don’t Swim With the Seals by Ralph R. Reiland: Sharks, blue whales, and other beach news.
Air Doll by James Bowman: A strange cinematic fable that may have gone over our reviewer’s head.
What to Watch for:
US and Russian officials swap spies in Vienna (NY Times)
China renews Google license (WSJ)
Petraeus reviews restrictive rules of engagement in Afghanistan (Washington Post)
Bombing kills 50 in Pakistan (BBC News)
Obama continues to campaign for Reid in Vegas (Politico)
Lebron James signs with Miami Heat; Cavaliers owners blasts Lebron in letter (ESPN)
Clip of the Day:
RNC ad about Reid/Obama
Note for commenters
We understand your anger, but please show that Cleveland has class: no racism, no vulgarity, and leave his family out of it. Commenters who cross those lines may have their accounts temporarily or permanently suspended.
I assume this warning is intended for the Cavs’ owner too.
Obama’s dismissal of General McChrystal was a serious mistake, as I have argued here at The American Spectator and elsewhere. However, the silver lining in this fiasco has been the promotion of what may well be America’s two greatest living generals: David Petraeus, of course, but also James N. Mattis.
Petraeus has replaced McChrystal as commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. And now Mattis has been tapped to replace Petraeus at Central Command, where he will oversee U.S. military operations for the entire Middle East and Central Asia, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria and Iran.
This is stunningly good news, which must give our enemies serious cause for concern. Mattis, after all, is a fighting general whose battlefield exploits and historical erudition are not fully known or appreciated. Suffice it to say that he is a better general than Patton ever was. Enough said.
But of course, you don’t hear much about Mattis in the media or the popular culture, because most journalists are liberals and leftists. Thus they haven’t a clue. The study of military history, moreover, is a dying discipline within the American academy.
Instead, the media have ginned up a “controversy” (only in their minds) over some innocuous comments uttered by Mattis five years ago at a professional conference on military transformation. Here’s what Mattis said:
“Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight ‘em. You know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you. I like brawling.”
Mattis, of course, was expressing a Marine’s natural pride and good-natured clamor for the fight. This is something I explained five years ago in a piece for The American Spectator. Read “Breaking the Warrior Code” and realize why we are fortunate to have generals like James N. Mattis — and why you should discount media-manufactured controversies as the nonsense that they often are.
Speakin’ o’ the Greens, over at the National Legal and Policy Center I explain how the pursuit of a bailout for politically connected ShoreBank is nothing but saving the liberals’ from their redistribution schemes.
That Big Oil (or whatever fossil fuel industry) funds free-market, limited government organizations and candidates (who also tend to fit into the global warming realism camp) is a familiar attempt to discredit them by watermelon groups and by the formerly mainstream media. Meanwhile those very same green socialist groups escape scrutiny of their own lobbying and relationships, because their bedmates give them no reason to suspect anything!
However, those of us who are curious have been poking around. Today the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives published a report I wrote that examines the hypocritical and possibly illegal behavior of Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (known better as PennFuture). Among the findings:
PennFuture doesn’t seem happy with the report. President Jan Jarrett said in a press release:
We have forthrightly answered every request for information and every reporter’s questions. If there are errors in our accounting or reporting, we will correct them immediately.
“How can any of our activities be considered ‘secret’ when the primary sources for the Commonwealth Foundation’s ‘report’ are PennFuture’s own public documents, websites, and reports, and other public websites? PennFuture is committed to transparency. Unable to prove any malevolence, the author is reduced to launching a classic smear attack.
Hey Jan — your activities are “secret” when you tell the IRS you have spent ZERO dollars on grassroots lobbying when the evidence clearly shows PennFuture engaged in such activities. ZERO dollars does not look like an error; it looks like deception.
How many other watermelon groups behave this way? I welcome tips.
The Government Accountability Office has released a new report finding that the Obama administration’s economic stimulus website fails to meet its own transparency requirements.
The Hill reports:
According to the 400-page report, only a quarter of the projects listed on Recovery.gov provide clear and complete information on the cost, schedule, purpose, location and status of stimulus-funded work. Most of the entries on the site provide some of that information, but 7 percent of the entries provide little to no information about how stimulus dollars are being spent, the report said. The study was conducted at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
There have been a number of polls showing plurality and even majority support for legalizing illegal immigrants who pass background checks, pay fines, learn English, and jump through other administrative hoops. So does that mean, as some hope, that “earned legalization” or a “path to citizenship” will prove more popular than amnesty?
I think there are two reasons to doubt this. First, very few amnesties — whether they are tax amnesties, draft amnesties, or amnesties for illegal immigrants — are totally unconditional. What we are talking about here is a conditional amnesty. Second, every major piece of “comprehensive” reform legislation over the last few years has contained these kinds of requirements, in addition to promises of increased enforcement, rather than offering blanket amnesty. But people have rightly opposed these bills as amnesties nevertheless.
Why? Because it is administratively not workable to offer a path to legalization for 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants that actually satisfies all these requirements in a short period of time with large immigration backlogs already in place. So on careful inspection, the background checks and other requirements for legalization turn out to be much shoddier than what the public actually supports. When these details are exposed, support for an idea that polls well in the abstract collapses in practice.
As the mayhem proceeds apace in Pamplona I have a piece addressing President Obama’s continued running of the “green jobs” bull, updated this weekend by sending more of your money to failing Spanish ventures, here.
Incidentally, about that shot of me “pushing a slower Spaniard”, I’m actually in the center…you’ll see the guy with a few (I assure you, very premature) gray hairs shoving a guy in front of two big nasties coming up a little to the right. The guy “in the lower left corner of the picture” actually appears to be the fellow from the GEICO commercials.
Sort of. Although she also defends the war in Iraq, Ann Coulter sounds like conservatives did in the 1990s when criticizing nation-building. The column’s money line: “I thought the irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government and a strong national defense, but I guess permanent war is on the platter now, too.”
I have always hated the mullet. I have never had a mullet nor have I aspired to have one.
However, the recent move by Iran to ban the mullet hairstyle has caused powerful protective feelings to rise from within my soul.
I recall Nicholas Cage in the David Lynch film Wild at Heart wearing a bizarre jacket to which he is very much attached. At various points in the story, he is moved to speechify:
This is a snakeskin jacket. For me it is a symbol of my belief in individuality and personal freedom.
And then he beats up whoever made fun of it. So, too, the mullet.
I am ready to stand up for the mullet in the face of this outrageous blow against “individuality and personal freedom” set up by the petty tyrants in Persia. Don’t they know that the mullet can never be destroyed by LAW??? It can only be conquered by good taste and proper breeding.
A new report by the National Taxpayer Advocate, who acts as an ombudsman within the Internal Revenue Service, has warned in a report to Congress that the agency is currently ill-equipped to handle the implementation of the new national health care law and that the legislation will place severe burdens on businesses.
“I have no doubt the IRS is capable of administering social programs, including health care,” advocate Nina Olson said in a press release. “But Congress must provide sufficient funding and the IRS itself must recognize that the skills and training required to administer social benefit programs are very different from the skills and training that employees of an enforcement agency typically possess.”
To deal with this issue, the report goes on to suggest that the “IRS mission statement be revised to explicitly acknowledge the agency’s dual role as part tax collector and part benefits administrator. ”
Yet another example of how more government begets more government.
The report expresses concern that a new reporting requirement contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may impose significant compliance burdens on businesses, charities, and government agencies. Beginning in 2012, all businesses, tax-exempt organizations, and federal, state and local government entities will be required to issue Forms 1099 to vendors from whom they purchase goods totaling $600 or more during a calendar year. To meet this requirement, these businesses and entities will have to keep track of all purchases they make by vendor. For example, if a self-employed individual makes numerous small purchases from an office supply store during a calendar year that total at least $600, the individual must issue a Form 1099 to the vendor and the IRS showing the exact amount of total purchases. The provision will have broad reach. According to a TAS analysis of 2009 IRS data, about 40 million businesses and other entities will be subject to the new requirement, including roughly 26 million non-farm sole proprietorships, four million S corporations, two million C corporations, three million partnerships, two million farming businesses, one million charities and other tax-exempt organizations, and more than 100,000 government entities. All of these nearly 40 million businesses and other entities are subject to the new reporting requirement.
TAS has not yet reached any conclusions regarding the benefits and burdens of the requirement, but the report expresses concern that the burdens “may turn out to be disproportionate as compared with any resulting improvement in tax compliance.”
Via the Washington Post.
The sum and substance of the third and latest in the round of closeted, narrow and selective inquiries designed to conclude there’s nothing to see here about what were the gobsmacking affirmations — not revelations — that were ClimateGate is that, at least when it comes to “climate”, science is to follow the principle of stare decisis. Let the thing stand.
Precedent — particularly when that precedent is the dons’ own work, is to be respected.
Re-read that and square it with science as articulated by, e.g., Karl Popper and the world came to know it in prior modern years.
But of course particuarly with a case that has actually deteriorated after billions of dollars spent to support it, challenge would only lead to doubt. The global warming enterprise is above all a political one, and politics hates uncertainty. Even more surely, this multi-trillion dollar, life-altering agenda cannot withstand doubt. So whatever means necessary are acceptable.
A new Field Poll in the California Senate race shows Sen. Barbara Boxer in trouble, clinging to a narrow 47 percent to 44 percent lead over Republican challenger Carly Fiorina. The San Francisco Chronicle has more details on the poll, which also found that, “her job approval rating is among the lowest that Field has measured for her since she was first elected to the Senate in 1992: 43 percent of registered voters disapprove of her performance while 42 percent approve. Among likely voters, 48 percent disapprove and 42 percent approve.”
NBC’s First Read further notes that:
This could be the first election (Boxer’s) faced without coattails at the top of the ticket. In 1992 and 2004, she had the presidential coattails driving turnout. And in 1998, the Gray Davis landslide was a boon to all Democrats in the state. Boxer needs not just help from national Democrats, but she also needs Jerry Brown to improve his prospects.
On the other hand, the Field Poll found that Fiorina is unknown to 37 percent of California voters. The closeness of the current polling, therefore, reflects Boxer’s general unpopularity and the willingness of Californians to vote for a generic alternative. There’s still plenty of time for Boxer to remind voters in the very liberal state of Fiorina’s controversial time as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and the conservative positions she took during the primary.
Today on the Main Site:
Staying Power by Michael Johnson: The lasting attraction of a 19th century shrine in southern France.
Obama’s Milky Way by George Neumayr: His latest pandering to radical Islam.
Like a Good Neighbor by The Prowler: Richard Holbrooke is there, hoping to engage Iran.
It’s Time to Rethink the G-8 by Frank Schell: Guess who’s not big enough to be a member?
Obama Performs a Bypass by Robert M. Goldberg: The president’s recess appointment of socialist medicine advocate Donald Berwick to run Medicare and Medicaid raises huge questions — precisely those that would have come up in Senate confirmation hearings.
A Curious Crowd by R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.: The bad luck of Mr. Putin’s Russian Irish spies.
Yes, We Can’t! by Jay D. Homnick: Republicans are poised to give Obama and the Democrats all the mo’ they need to survive this fall.
Invitation to a Tea Party by Christopher Orlet: A transformational experience.
What to Watch for:
Fed weighs steps to offset slowdown in economic recovery (Washington Post)
BP sets goal to cap well by July 27 (WSJ)
Blago trial could still cause headache for WH (Politico)
IMF raises forecasts for economic growth (NY Times)
Lebron headed to Miami? (ESPN)
Clip of the Day:
Sarah Palin’s new video hints at campaign run
MEMO FOR THE MOVEMENT
Senate Should Reject Dodd-Frank Because it Not Only Takes Away the Freedom of a Large Wall Street Firm to Fail, It Also Takes Away Main Streets Freedom to SucceedContinue reading…
Renee Ellmers, the Republican who is challenging Bob “Who are you?” Etheridge in North Carolina’s Second District, today called upon her opponent to interrupt the Justice Department’s plans to sue the state of Arizona over its immigration law:
…After being ignored by the federal government, Arizona tried to deal with its problems by passing a state law that mimics the federal immigration laws (that the Obama Administration was not enforcing). President Obama’s response? He’s got Attorney General Eric Holder suing Arizona – to stop the new law.
How whacky can Washington politics get? Arizona passes a law to stop illegal immigrants and President Obama sues Arizona – for trying to do what the Obama administration failed to do.
Here’s a suggestion (and a challenge) to my opponent, Congressman Bob Etheridge. The Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse – so, I call on Congressman Etheridge to amend the Justice Department’s Appropriation Bill to deny funding for the Department to sue Arizona. That would stop Obama’s lawsuit dead in its tracks.
Congressman Etheridge has supported amnesty and Social Security benefits for illegal aliens. My question for him now is simple: Do you support President Obama suing Arizona, too?
Ellmers held a one-point lead over Etheridge in a recent poll, for a seat he has held since the mid 1990s. After his outburst against a mystery reporter on the streets of DC last month there was blog talk of a money bomb on her behalf, but I am not aware of whether one materialized.
Hat tip: Jon Ham.
Why would the Obama administration take on not only the state of Arizona but the majority of Americans? Perhaps increasing Hispanic voter turnout is one possible explanation. Consider this from the Washington Post yesterday:
One senior strategist, speaking candidly about his concerns on the condition of anonymity, noted that white voters made up 79 percent of the 2006 midterm electorate, while they made up 74 percent of the 2008 vote. If the white percentage returns to its 2006 level, that means there will be 3 million more white voters than if it stayed at its 2008 levels. That scenario, said the source, “would generate massive losses” for House and Senate Democrats in November because of Obama’s standing with that demographic.
To avoid such losses, the Democratic National Committee has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to re-create (or come somewhere near re-creating) the 2008 election model, in which Democrats relied heavily on higher-than-normal turnout from young people and strong support from African American and Hispanic voters.
Of course, re-creating the 2008 election model in a midterm election where Obama himself is not on the ballot will likely prove impossible. And tolerating illegal immigration is not a good way to turn out black voters. But it might give you a window into Democratic thinking on this issue.
Some people seem to be under the mistaken impression that the recess appointment of Donald Berwick will expire at the beginning of 2011, once the new Congress is sworn in, but he’ll actually be able to maintain his post as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services until late 2011.
As Article II, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution reads:
The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.
Each two-year Congress is divided into two sessions, meaning that Berwick’s appointment will be good until the end of next year’s session, or about a year and a half from now.
Less than seven days ago Penn State University finished their Bic Brand Wite-Out Quick Dry Correction Fluid job (hey, I had to find an alternative to the overused “whitewash”) on an “investigation” of Climategate hockey stick constructionist Michael Mann, completing the exoneration they started work on earlier this year.
Today it was the University of East Anglia’s turn to produce results of a similar allegedly “independent” investigation, led by British government- and academia-crat Sir Muir Russell, of their Climatic Research Unit’s role in Climategate. The findings were similar, not surprisingly, as the U.K. Register’s Andrew Orlowski summarized (without calling it the double-w word):
Russell was appointed by the institution to investigate an archive of source code and emails that leaked onto the internet last November. The source code is not addressed at all. His report suggests that the problems were of the academics’ own making, stating that they were “united in defence against criticism”. Yet the enquiry found that despite emails promising to “redefine” the peer review publication process, and put pressure on journal editors, staff were not guilty of subverting the IPCC process, and their “rigour” and “honesty” were beyond question.
Here’s a BBC reminder about that source code:
More from Orlowski:
What Climategate is largely about, then, is whether the academics were justified in making that Medieval Warm Period disappear.
Unfortunately, none of the three ‘independent’ reviews (there was a prior British investigation as well) have grappled with this. The absence of anomalous warming doesn’t, as some skeptics say, make the problem go away. But it takes the issue back onto the blackboard, back into realms of the potential threats. It certainly removes much of the impetus for a sweeping and urgent political program of mitigation.
Besides skipping the science and the source code, Sir Muir’s investigators also overlooked at least two of the five Climategate emails that environmentalist writer Fred Pearce identified as “key.”
And was it really necessary, or wise, to include on Russell’s team BP’s head of research and technology, after all the company’s years advocating for green energy and cap-and-trade? These David Eyton credentials don’t help either:
In September 2001, he became Lord John Browne’s Executive Assistant in the company’s London headquarters. Following that assignment, David was Vice President of Deepwater Developments in the Gulf of Mexico (until April 2008, apparently).
Even Democratic Sen. Max Baucus says he is “troubled” by the recess appointment of Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:
“I’m troubled that, rather than going through the standard nomination process, Dr. Berwick was recess appointed. Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee – and answered.
Among the statements that Berwick will not have to answer for: “Cynics beware, I am romantic about the (British) National Health Service; I love it.”
Democratic Senate candidate Alvin Greene has a novel proposal to create jobs:
“Another thing we can do for jobs is make toys of me, especially for the holidays. Little dolls. Me. Like maybe little action dolls. Me in an army uniform, air force uniform, and me in my suit. They can make toys of me and my vehicle, especially for the holidays and Christmas for the kids. That’s something that would create jobs. So you see I think out of the box like that. It’s not something a typical person would bring up. That’s something that could happen, that makes sense. It’s not a joke.”
Read more from his Guardian interview here.
Senate doctors Tom Coburn and John Barrasso have released a new report on the first 100 days of ObamaCare. Those who are following the debate closely shouldn’t be too surpised by much of what is in there, but if you want many of the criticisms of the new law compiled in one place, you can check it out here.
One point that the report makes is that the penalty for non-compliance with the individual mandate is not set high enough, meaning that most people will choose to pay the fine instead. The problem with this is that those people are likely to be the healthiest, and so when they exit the insurance market, it will drive up premiums on everybody else -which will lead more people to exit the market, and even higher premiums. It’s a process known as the death spiral. In the absence of the mandate, healthy people have every incentive to wait until they get sick or injured to purchase insurance.
The report reads:
To see an example of what this will look like, one only need consider what is happening in Massachusetts – the only state with an individual mandate. According to reports, thousands are gaming the system by buying coverage to pay for expensive procedures then dropping coverage. The Massachusetts Division of Insurance recently released a report revealing that the number of people gaming the insurance system by buying coverage only when they are ill quadrupled from 2006 to 2008.
This practice drives up costs for all health care consumers. As the Boston Globe reported recently, ―thousands of consumers are gaming Massachusetts‘ 2006 health insurance law by buying insurance when they need to cover pricey medical care, such as fertility treatments and knee surgery, and then swiftly dropping coverage—a practice that insurance executives say is driving up costs for other people and small businesses.
There is good reason to expect the system-gaming under the new federal health care law to be even worse than it is in Massachusetts. Under the Massachusetts law, the state has significant, stringent enforcement powers (including the powers of imprisonment) it can use to force citizens to buy insurance.
But as the CRS makes clear, such beefy enforcement powers are not available to the IRS. ―Section 5000A … limits the means the IRS may employ to collect the penalty established in the section. First, the taxpayer is protected from either criminal prosecution or penalty for failure to pay the penalty. Second, the IRS is prohibited from either filing a NFTL [notice of federal tax lien] or levying any property in an effort to collect the penalty.”
Of course, it’s probably best not to give the administration any ideas about increasing the power of the IRS.
Oh, how the tables have turned. In 2008, Republicans would rather have been pegged with a salacious scandal than have George W. Bush join them on the campaign trail. In 2010, two years after Barack Obama’s cakewalk to victory, polling data suggest that Democratic candidates should adopt a similar approach to their own president.
After analyzing endorsements in five states, the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling concludes that “it’s looking more and more clear that there’s just about nowhere Democratic candidates would benefit from having the President come to campaign with them.” Ominously for Democrats, that aversion to the prez was felt among independents, too, who “are completely unimpressed by an Obama endorsement.”
Could it get any worse? Yes. The Democrats’ secret weapon, Bill Clinton, is nearly as toxic as Obama (but not quite). In terms of the benefits of his endorsement, Clinton’s negative-positive spread ranged as large as 24-percentage points in Louisiana and Wisconsin.
Could we be seeing a replay of the Bush implosion, but at a much faster pace? Bush maintained decent popularity years into his presidency before nose-diving in his second term. Obama is not even halfway through his first term. Already, he’s a political liability.
President Obama’s approval rating among independent voters who were crucial to his winning the presidency has sunk to a new low of 38 percent, Gallup finds. His overall approval rating is at 44 percent — tied for the lowest ever.
Today on the Main Site:
Mission Attrition by W. James Antle, III: How Arizona reflects changes in the country’s immigration politics. From our new July/August issue, just in time for a federal lawsuit.
The End of Men, The Beginning of What? by William Tucker: Hanna Rosin has written the hottest story of this hot summer — how much of it is hot air?
Helpless by Ben Stein: Once we knew whose side we were on.
The Rout of Obamanomics by Peter Ferrara: The situation is worse than even harsh critics expected.
Nationalizing Local Elections by Mark Hyman: The example of Clintonista prodigy Judd Legum, who is being groomed for bigger things.
So Much for the European Project by Doug Bandow: The question is not so much can Europe match the U.S. as can it survive at all?
The Bear Facts by Reid Collins: A Yellowstone ride for the ages.
What to Watch for:
President Obama to give remarks on economy, jobs (Chicago Sun-Times)
Obama will use recess to bypass Senate to appoint controversial pick for administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Politico)
Prisoner swap expected in Russian spy case (WSJ)
AgBank IPO at $19.21 billion (WSJ)
Dems dig hard for dirt on GOP (Washington Post)
Clip of the Day:
Obama, Netanyahu agree to focus on peace talks (AP)
The White House on Tuesday night announced that President Obama would use use a recess appointment on its nominee to head the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, Donald Berwick, before the Senate was even able to schedule a confirmation hearing.
This way, Berwick will assume his post without having to explain statements such as this: “Cynics beware, I am romantic about the (British) National Health Service; I love it.”
Nor will he have to answer for his extensive writings and speeches endorsing central health spending caps and government rationing of care to the sick, which I detailed here. At the time, I explained why his draconian views would make him dangerous as the head of CMS:
While Berwick would not have the authority to impose a British health care system on the United States in one fell swoop, as head of CMS, he would be running both Medicare and Medicaid. Given that the two programs alone account for more than one out of every three dollars spent on health care in America (all government programs combined account for 47 percent), private players tend to follow CMS’s lead. Berwick himself has made this point.
“(G)overnment is an extraordinarily important player in the American health care scene, and it has inescapable duties with respect to improvement of care, or we’re not going to get improved care,” he said in a January 2005 interview with Health Affairs. “Government remains a major purchaser.… So as CMS goes and as Medicaid goes, so goes the system.”
He also said that, “(T)he Holy Grail of universal coverage in the United States may remain out of reach unless, through rational collective action overriding some individual self-interest, we can reduce per capita costs.”
More specifically, has priased the British rationing board, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence:
“NICE is extremely effective and a conscientious, valuable, and — importantly — knowledge-building system,” Berwick said in an interview last June in Biotechnology Healthcare. “The fact that it’s a bogeyman in this country is a political fact, not a technical one.”
Justifying the move on the White House blog, communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote:
Many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points.
But with the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors’ care under the Affordable Care Act, there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing. That’s why tomorrow the President will use a recess appointment to put Dr. Berwick at the agency’s helm and provide strong leadership for the Medicare program without delay.
But this analysis doesn’t pass the basic smell test. Obama could have announced his CMS appointment at any time after winning the election in November 2008 if it were so urgent, but he waited almost a year and a half — until April of this year — to name Berwick. Conveniently, this was after the health care law had already passed. Had he appointed Berwick during the health care debate, it would have exposed how much Obama’s ultimate vision for U.S. health care borrows from the British model.
Even the New York Times writes that, “The recess appointment was somewhat unusual because the Senate is in recess for less than two weeks and senators were still waiting for Dr. Berwick to submit responses to some of their requests for information. No confirmation hearing has been held or scheduled.”
President Obama’s “foremost” charge to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (as Bolden told Al Jazeera): “find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science… and math and engineering.” Just like President Kennedy’s charge to NASA 50 years ago…
To Infinity and Beyond?
By Asher Embry
Our heroes once were astronauts and NASA was our
Barack now sees it differently, with other “missions” eyed.
The tasks they’ve now been given are irrelevant and strange.
Obama wants their focus aimed at tracking climate change.
“The Right Stuff” has been canceled and O’s buried every
We’ll count on Russian cosmonauts to ferry us to space.
We grew up with the Moon our goal, and space flight was our dream.
Now NASA’s chief priority is Muslim self-esteem.
(You can read more of Asher Embry’s Political Verse at www.politicalverse.com.)
The federal lawsuit to block the Arizona anti-illegal immigration law SB 1070, slated to go into effect on July 29, has been filed. As noted earlier, the Obama Justice Department plans to argue that Arizona is unconstitutionally usurping the federal government’s immigration authority in violation of the supremacy clause and the doctrine of preemption.
So what in the Arizona law contradicts federal immigration policy? To paraphrase a favorite slogan of the open borders crowd, Arizona is simply doing a dirty job Washington won’t do.
UPDATE: Some good commentary on this at Michelle Malkin’s site.
The Department of Justice will file suit against Arizona this week in an attempt to overturn SB 1070. The federal government will base its case on preemption, even though Arizona does not create new immigration violations and bases its statute entirely on existing federal law. But this argument is particularly rich:
The filing is expected to include declarations from other U.S. agencies saying that the Arizona law would place an undue burden on their ability to enforce immigration laws nationwide, because Arizona police are expected to refer so many illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
It is precisely the federal government’s failure to enforce its own immigration laws — and their incomplete border fencing that has redirected illegal immigrants to Arizona specifically — that would account for such referrals. Federal action would have made the Arizona law unnecessary But the Obama-led feds would rather crack down on Arizona than illegal immigration.
As is so often the case, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal exposes what liberal duplicity hath wrought. This time it’s the Senate Judiciary Committee’s contingent of Democrats who used the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings to harangue the Roberts Court as wildly right of center. That’s hardly the case.
Yes, the Citizens United (corporate campaign donations) and McDonald (gun rights) cases are controversial, but such examples haven’t dominated the high court’s agenda. As the WSJ argues:
[T]he Roberts Court is really a centrist Court that swings left and right depending on the subject. It also routinely decides cases on narrow grounds that pull a larger majority. In the 2006 term, some 70% of the Court’s cases were decided unanimously, and this term saw 56% of the cases decided either unanimously or by an 8-1 margin. While that number has ebbed and flowed depending on the term, there’s no question Justice Roberts has proven to be a pragmatic jurist who is wary of overturning precedents without ample legal and historical justification.
On property rights this term, the Court ruled 8-0 against property owners in a case called Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida. On antitrust law, it ruled unanimously against the National Football League in a case that would have significantly loosened antitrust restrictions. In one of the term’s final decisions, Justice Roberts himself voted with the Court’s liberal bloc in a case that ruled out life sentences for juvenile criminals in non-murder cases.
Kagan, wisely, refused to enter the partisan fray by criticizing the court. It wouldn’t have been political suicide if she had, because Democrats will vote for her regardless, but it would have made the case against her that much more compelling for Republicans. That’s why Kagan didn’t go there.
Here’s the rub, though. Democrats are very uncomfortable with a court that isn’t solidly left leaning, because anything else puts their social agenda, won primarily over the decades by judicial fiat, at risk. Indeed, the lion’s share of liberals’ domestic agenda is reliant on friendly judges in the court system. It’s the principal reason they’re whining about the Roberts Court.
The Prowler item on the main page today notes the conflict between House Minority Leader John Boehner and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor over abolishing the House Republican Policy Committee. Since the news broke, there have been several stories about the role the incumbent policy committee chairman, Thaddeus McCotter, has played in pushing for the group’s abolition.
At issue is the $400,000 taxpayers provide to fund the committee’s work. McCotter and other Republicans are arguing that giving that money back would set a good example for the much broader austerity moves that need to be made throughout the federal budget. I profiled McCotter in the December/January issue of the print magazine.
With a massive heat wave underway in the Northeast (temperatures are expected to reach 103 degrees here in DC), Salon is promoting a new book that argues for reducing our dependence on air conditioning:
(A)s science writer Stan Cox argues in his new book, “Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer),” the dizzying rise of air conditioning comes at a steep personal and societal price. We stay inside longer, exercise less, and get sick more often — and the electricity used to power all that A.C. is helping push the fast-forward button on global warming. The invention has also changed American politics: Love it or hate it, refrigerated cooling has been a major boon to the Republican Party. The advent of A.C. helped launch the massive Southern and Western population growth that’s transformed our electoral map in the last half century. Cox navigates all of these scientific and social angles with relative ease, providing a clear explanation of how A.C. made the leap from luxury to necessity in the United States and examining how we can learn to manage the addiction before we refrigerate ourselves into the apocalypse.
You can read an interview with Cox here.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of this story from a few summers ago (emphasis mine):
PARIS (AP) - The death toll in France from August’s blistering heat wave has reached nearly 15,000, according to a government-commissioned report released Thursday, surpassing a prior tally by more than 3,000….
The bulk of the victims — many of them elderly — died during the height of the heat wave, which brought suffocating temperatures of up to 104 degrees in a country where air conditioning is rare. Others apparently were greatly weakened during the peak temperatures but did not die until days later.
Asked about how air conditioning makes people safer during heat waves, Cox acknowledges, “it does have a Jekyll-and-Hyde character in that respect.” He then continues, “But I think we need to look at it is as a fail-safe mechanism and recognize that a lot of the health problems that we need A.C. to solve, it may have contributed to in the first place. We need to look at the conditions under which people die in heat waves, the harsh life conditions that they’re enduring more generally. That’s the real root of the problem.”
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was asked to choose five books on American conservatism, and discuss them. Worth noting that the selections have a bit of a libertarian bent.
The Road to Serfdom, by F.A. Hayek
Free to Choose, by Milton Friedman
What it Means to be a Libertarian, by Charles Murray
The Rise and Decline of Nations, by Mancur Olson
The Future and Its Enemies, by Virginia Postrel
Read why he choose these books, here.
Today on the Main Site:
Christian Adams Blows Whistle on Progressives and Race by Jeffrey Lord: Clinton’s Byrd eulogy: ties between Klan, Arizona Latinos and Obama DOJ.
The Free Trade Air Force? by Jed Babbin: The malign influence of Sen. John McCain could again undermine the indispensable procurement of refueling tanker aircraft.
Palin Power Strikes Home by Robert Stacy McCain: Another maverick challenges the Alaska establishment.
His Own Whip by The Prowler: Rep. Eric Cantor doesn’t always seem to get it.
The Gathering of the Libertarian Tribes by Shawn Macomber: FreedomFest in the statist moment — coming to you July 8-10 from Las Vegas.
Sid Dauman, RIP by Ben Stein: The death of a friend of monumental proportions.
Religiously Dissing America’s Independence Day by Mark Tooley: The growing animus of the Religious and Evangelical Left toward American’s founding.
Why Brazil Lost by Marilia Duffles: The beautiful game is dead.
What to Watch for:
Israeli President Netanyahu meets with Obama at WH (Chicago Sun-Times)
Obama decried, then used, some Bush drilling policies (WSJ)
Tar balls wash up on Texas coast; oil has now hit all gulf states (Houston Chronicle)
Democrats face donor revolt on Wall Street (Washington Post)
More union disclosure woes (Politico)
Thai government extends state of emergency (NY Times)
Clip of the Day:
Michael Steele calls Afghanistan “a war of Obama’s choosing”
The Internet was abuzz Monday with the news that a Long Island, N.Y., resident lost his arm in a Fourth of July fireworks mishap:
Grim-faced relatives yesterday told a critically injured Long Island dad that doctors wouldn’t be able to reattach his left arm — which he had blown off with illegal fireworks… .
Smith had been trying to shoot one of the explosives from a makeshift launcher in front of his Fairview Avenue home in Islip Terrace shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday when it fired into his shoulder, authorities said… .
To anyone familiar with fireworks, the key phrase there is “makeshift launcher.” Another story clarifies the situation slightly:
A man blew his left arm off after illegally using fireworks Saturday evening in Islip Terrace, Suffolk County police said. Eric Smith, 36, was shooting mortars out of a three-foot-long metal tube …
This story caught my attention because, as the world’s greatest pyro-dad, I’ve shot thousands of consumer fireworks mortar shells, which are no more than 1.75 inches in diameter and certainly not powerful enough to blow off anyone’s arm. The launch tubes are usually 12 inches but at most 15 inches long, and are made of either fiberglass, heavy-duty cardboard or, ideally, high-density polyethylene (HDPE).
So this detail about a man being critically injured while firing a shell from a “three-foot-long metal tube” aroused my suspicion, and I was not alone. At the PyroUniverse forum — a favorite site for fireworks buffs, both amateur and professional — the “shocking lack of . . . information” in press accounts was noted, and one of the contributors reported:
I went to school with this guy, he graduated a year ahead of me, it was a 4” mortar.
Which is to say that it was a professional-grade shell, classified as a “1.3G” explosive, the possession of which by a non-licensed person is a federal crime. Because New York prohibits consumer fireworks (classified as “1.4G”) press descriptions of Smith as using “illegal” fireworks might have left readers with a mistaken impression.
The failure of reporters to make such distinctions are typical of how the press routinely misrepresents fireworks safety issues. While complete data on fireworks-related injuries are unavailable, there is evidence that banning consumer fireworks actually increases risk. Some injuries occur when individuals (usually in states that prohibit consumer fireworks) attempt to rig up their own homemade devices, as happened Sunday near Seattle:
A 64-year-old SeaTac man was sent to Harborview Medical Center with critical injuries on Sunday after being hurt by exploding homemade fireworks, according to the King County Sheriff’s office.
A 52-year-old man who lived in the same house as the victim had built a homemade “aerial device” by tying together a bundle of sparklers. The man put the device inside a concrete cinder block to brace it, sheriff’s deputies said.
But the homemade rocket “exploded in place, sending pieces of the concrete block in all directions,” the sheriff’s office said. The victim was standing about 15 feet to 20 feet away and was hit in the head by a chunk of the concrete block. His injury was life-threatening, according the sheriff’s department.
Another risk that may result from banning consumer fireworks, as illustrated by the Long Island incident, is that people may resort to obtaining illegal access to professional fireworks on the black market. (Friends tell me that this especially seems to be a problem in New York, for some reason. This may be related to corruption in New York’s heavily unionized transportation sector: “It fell off the truck.”)
Used as intended and with common-sense precautions, consumer fireworks are in fact safer than your backyard barbecue, as I reported four years ago for Reason magazine:
In recent years, sales of consumer fireworks have skyrocketed, even as injury rates have fizzled.
According to federal data compiled by the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), while U.S. fireworks sales increased roughly eight-fold from 1976 to 2004—from 29 million pounds to over 236 million pounds per year—estimates of annual fireworks-related injuries decreased from 11,100 in 1976 to 9,600 in 2004.
Fireworks injuries are relatively rare, accounting for an estimated 0.01 percent of annual U.S. injuries, according to an APA analysis which found that injuries from cooking ranges are four times as common as fireworks injuries… .
The title of that article is the best possible safety advice, found on the label of every consumer fireworks item sold in the United States: “Light Fuse, Get Away.”
James Traub, reviewing a new book on Dominican baseball success in today’s N.Y Times, blames the dearth of Cuban baseball talent in the U.S. on “the United States’ trade embargo against Cuba, which shut off the flow of Cuban players after 1962 (unless they were willing to defect).”
Here I thought it was Castro’s totalitarian policies that kept all Cubans, including the baseball players, imprisoned on their own island all these years, except for those brave few who risked life and limb to defect. But that’s not the way the New York Times and its contributors see the world. And so we have a new kind of economic law: The way to beat an embargo is to defect to the embargoer, hoping that the target of the embargo doesn’t shoot you first.