Legislators to be subject to constant surveillance

Basically, the Obama Administration wants to monitor everyone with a security clearance to make sure they aren't leaking stuff. Aside from the continuous monitoring they do on the whole country all the time, of course; this is more intensive, focused spying.

Problem: Legislators have security clearances (and, yes, probably leak a lot). But should the Executive Branch have access to continuous monitoring of legislative officials?

Sens. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) said in a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that the stated possibility of "continuous evaluation" of legislative officials would raise constitutional questions and that extensive employee monitoring could inhibit people from coming forward to point out fraudulent or illegal activities. These concerns suggest growing worries among lawmakers about the extent to which the government's monitoring capabilities will be turned on the legislative branch.

"Especially in light of recent events, we first ask that you confirm that you did not intend to suggest that Members of Congress or staff members in the Legislative Branch would be subject to continuous evaluation," the senators wrote.

The possibility of blackmail is an obvious one. I wouldn't be surprised if NSA monitoring has already been used to influence key votes or Supreme Court decisions.

There needs to be an ironclad warrant requirement for everyone, not just legislators. And it needs to be applied before collection, not after.

Fri Jun 27 16:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

This seems excessive

[A student] says his First Amendment rights were violated after he was suspended for responding to an anonymous tweet, which claimed that he had kissed a Rogers High School gym teacher. According to [student], he sarcastically replied, “Actually yes." A parent then reported the tweet to authorities.

Enough to start an investigation? Maybe, if a chat with the student and teacher suggests something actually happened. Assuming it was just a sarcastic comment, no punishment should be applied. Kids say stupid stuff all the time. They shouldn't be suspended for it. And note that this is after the investigation took place and was found to be baseless.

Why are Americans fascinated with watching each other on social media and reporting anything they don't like to authorities? That's what they did in Communist dictatorships and totalitarian states. We're not supposed to be doing it here, and we're not even ashamed enough to keep it a secret.

Fri Jun 27 16:32:04 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

What does executive action on immigration mean?

It means Obama thinks he can make all the illegal aliens he's invited into the country into voting citizens by decree shortly before the election, I think. At which point, the courts will not be able to stop him quickly enough to sort the whole thing out.

It sickens me to see Obama treating this country like some sort of tinpot dictatorship where he can set deadlines for the legislature.

UPDATE: Looks like we are about to find out.

Fri Jun 27 15:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Unanimous Supreme Court rules Obama's NLRB appts unConstitutional

Given that Obama appointed two of them, this has to sting a little.

Fri Jun 27 15:32:04 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

They told me if I voted Libertarian...

... then we would have unaccountable private security companies kicking down doors without any oversight, and they were right!

Fri Jun 27 15:03:47 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

IRS IT incompetence

I'm not sure what the significant of this information about IRS data storage devices being retired early, or filling out disposal documentation for devices that still existed, really is. It doesn't seem at first glance to be connected to Lerner, but it does indicate a certain amount of chaos in their IT infrastructure, and perhaps a general attitude of wasteful resource usage. It certainly doesn't look like their IT departments were starved for resources.

Fri Jun 27 14:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

WashPost gives three pinnoccios to Camp letter timing theory

They really shouldn't post things they haven't read in full, though I do give them credit for at least posting them. Here's what they conclude:

The timing may seem suspicious, and perhaps Roskam has every right to jump to conclusions. But in claiming that Camp “sent a letter on this whole issue,” he went too far in describing the contents of the letter. In fact, at least one person, Chris Wallace, was misled into thinking the letter concerned the applicants; there were probably many other listeners as well. We wavered between Two and Three Pinocchios on this. We can appreciate the argument that this was an important letter, but the causal connection to Lerner’s hard drive appears far too tenuous for Roskam to make such claims, given that the letter does not mention conservative groups.

Asking whether the letter concerned applicants for tax-exempt status is a distraction. The part of the letter that would have made Lerner fearful her inappropriate criteria were about to be discover is question 4 and question 5, which concern how tax-exempt organizations are generally selected for audit, and how many such audits are conducted. Quoting from the scribd document they embedded on their own article:

4. How are tax-exempt organizations generally selected for audit?
5. How many 501(c)4 audits are usually conducted every tax year? ...

And those two questions right there would have revealed the inappropriate targeting criteria. Thus causing Lerner to panic and destroy her hard drive, and then later claim she first learned of the targeting at the June 29th meeting.

In the interests of giving them the chance to behave with honor and dignity, I send the author an email, the contents of which are below the fold. I don't expect a response.

(Read More...)

Fri Jun 27 14:32:05 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Senator Asterisk

Patterico explains why even though Cochran appears to have won the primary runoff, McDaniel may have a case to overturn the election results. I'm generally hesitant to ask the courts to get involved in overturning an election, but when illegal tactics are used by your opponents, sometimes you have to turn to the courts to correct that.

As a bonus, Patterico is teasing breaking news on the topic tomorrow.

Fri Jun 27 13:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

When you've lost Van Jones on the IRS scandal...

“I’m going to give you something,” Jones said. “I am not going to sit here and try and defend all of the bureaucratic shenanigans at the IRS. I don’t know enough about it. Frankly, if e-mails are disappearing, stuff like that, that worries me, too.

He gets points for that admission, but then immediately lies in an effort to defend the IRS targeting:

But the fundamental point that the IRS should not be giving 501 (c) (3) status to groups who say they want to influence politics, that’s across the board.”

The relevant IRS rules indicate that your tax-exempt group should not have influencing electoral politics as its primary purpose; spending 49% of resources on electoral politics was considered ok. That's been the case for a long time and both parties made use of it. The Citizens' United decision actually loosened the rules even more in favor of free speech.

The Left, and the IRS in particular, was trying to "fix" Citizens United. But the IRS does not have the authority to overrule the Supreme Court.

Fri Jun 27 13:32:04 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The Iron Law

For understandable reasons, the IRS scandal has largely focused on the political question of whether the White House deliberately targeted its opponents. To date there’s no evidence that it did.

The point of destroying evidence is that once you have destroyed the evidence, there is no evidence. That said, I don't think Lerner needs orders to target the President's political opponents -- they are her own political opponents, too.

Lerner needs to go to jail in order to punish her for her crimes, following a fair trial of course. So does anyone who helped her or gave her orders, including the President. But people like Lerner don't need to be given orders. Jerry Pournelle calls it the Iron Law.

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

The Tea Party has defined itself as an enemy of government and an enemy, especially, of government bureaucrats. Is it any surprise that government defends itself?

Of course not. But that does not mean we should surrender.

Fri Jun 27 12:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Elected Democrat demands payback from Cochran

Senator Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) needs to reward the black voters who crossed party lines to support him in his runoff against tea party challenger Chris McDaniel by backing some concrete policy initiatives, according the the state’s only member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Having pissed off half of his own base, Cochran is likely to have trouble in the general election. If he's going to pay off the Democrats who illegally crossed party lines to vote in the Republican primary, he will have to do it fast. Demanding payment in public is a little crass, though.

Fri Jun 27 12:32:04 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

WH: "zero tolerance" for ex-im bank corruption

President Obama will have "zero tolerance" for fraud and corruption at the embattled U.S. Export-Import Bank, the White House said Tuesday, amid reports that the bank has suspended or removed four officials over alleged kickbacks.

"Will have" zero tolerance refers to the future. That implies that in the past, he did tolerate fraud and corruption.

Fri Jun 27 11:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Obama's foreign policy, explained in under a minute

I've loved this show since I first encountered it in college. It's wonderfully funny, but also unfortunately very accurate.

Fri Jun 27 11:32:04 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

EPA employees asked to stop polluting their environment

Management for Region 8 in Denver, Colo., wrote an email earlier this year to all staff in the area pleading with them to stop inappropriate bathroom behavior, including defecating in the hallway.

This is the Environment Protection Agency we are talking about. And their employees need to be told to use the toilets rather than the hallway?

Fri Jun 27 10:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Boehner to bring suit against Obama

Boehner had been weighing such a lawsuit in recent days, over concerns that Obama exceeded his constitutional authority with executive actions. Republicans have voiced frustration with Obama's second-term "pen and phone" strategy of pursuing policy changes without Congress -- particularly environmental rules via the Environmental Protection Agency. Republicans also complained about numerous unilateral changes to the implementation of ObamaCare.

It's too little too late, but worth a try I suppose.

Fri Jun 27 10:32:04 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Idiot-proof car meets a government idiot

DC Rep Eleanor Holmes Nortan was supposed to take a ride in a driverless car, but instead, as soon as she got into the car she hit the big red button labeled "Emergency Stop". So, of course, the car stopped. Permanently, or at least until it can be repaired.

We should take this as a lesson not to allow government officials near buttons. Any buttons, really, but especially not big red ones.

It may be some small consolation to realize that although Eleanor Holmes Norton has a courtesy seat in the House of Representatives, she is not actually allowed to vote.

Fri Jun 27 09:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Now the EPA has lost emails in a hard drive crash

The hearing also included a bit of deja vu for the committee when members grilled McCarthy on lost emails from a hard-drive crash (the same issue that wiped out emails from IRS employee Lois Lerner). In this case, the emails in question were from retired EPA employee Philip North, who was involved in the agency’s decision to begin the process of preemptively vetoing the Pebble Mine project in Alaska.

Let's count the similarities:
1) Hard drive crash loses emails requested by congressional oversight
2) The subject of the request declines to be interviewed
3) The lost emails were not backed up

But they hurried to notify the National Archives after that became an issue in Koskinen's hearing.

This is too much. As Bill Quick puts it, he's just laughing at us now.

Oh, and it gets worse:
North, who declined an interview request by the committee, is retired, and committee staff say they have been unable to track him down. According to a committee aide, North's hard drive crashed in 2010—which was around the same time that the committee is investigating the agency's discussions of a potential veto—and the emails were not backed up.

In three months or so, the EPA will tell us he was recycled.

Fri Jun 27 09:32:04 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Keep up the pressure on Christie

Please keep urging Governor Christie to veto A2006 / S993 (gun ban / mag ban). We must continue to mount a sustained campaign until the Governor acts. If he takes no action, the bill will automatically become law when the deadline passes in early July. Talking points on this legislation can be found here.

Christie still has not either signed or vetoed the New Jersey gun and magazine ban. We need to keep the pressure on until he makes the right decision.

Thu Jun 26 18:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Revised Q1 GDP data: -2.9%

As Patterico points out, GDP is a poor measure, because it allows government spending to cloud the numbers when assuming government spending drives growth is the broken window fallacy (everything government spends, it got from someone else who can't spend it themselves).

In this case, government spending is hiding how bad the private economy really is. Outside of government, it's worse than -2.9% by some unknown amount.

And negative three percent is really, really bad.

The good news, such as it is, is that Obama owns this one. He's been President six years, he got his stimulus and his health care bill and his massive spending programs and his food stamps and his middle east foreign policy. We have him right where we want him.

If we don't starve to death in the ruins of civilization on our way, anyway.

Thu Jun 26 17:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Lott discusses Abramski

Hawaii has required registration and licensing for over 50 years. Nevertheless, the police have yet to point to any crimes actually solved using registration to trace the guns. But in 2000, it was taking about 50,000 hours of police time in just Honolulu to register and license guns, time that could have been used to put police on the street to solve crimes in ways that we know work. Other places with registration in the U.S. have seen similar wastes of time.

The experience in Canada is similar: there is simply no evidence that the handgun registry, started in 1934, has been important in solving a single homicide.

Read the whole thing. I quoted the above to point out that gun registration does not solve crimes. Not "hypothetically doesn't"; really, in actual fact, we've tried it in America and it doesn't work.

4 justices got it right in Abramski. That it wasn't five is an indication of how weak the Heller/McDonald alliance is. We need to be careful in what we bring to the court, and how we do it.

Thu Jun 26 16:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Cruz calls for special prosecutor or Holder impeachment

“If this resolution is not passed and Democrats in the Senate choose not to put this necessary pressure on the Department of Justice, I have one very clear request,” Cruz said. “If Attorney General Eric Holder continues to refuse to appoint a special prosecutor, he should be impeached.”

Cruz continues to make me proud. The Senate would never impeach Obama while under Democrat control, especially given the lack of hard evidence linking Obama to the IRS scandal so far, but Holder is within reach; his refusal to do his job and prosecute people for their criminal acts is itself criminal.

Thu Jun 26 15:56:38 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Openly calling for the government to slaughter political opponents


Namely, at what point does the federal government literally go to war with its own citizens? Because we’re not talking about bank robbers here, we’re talking about (mostly) non-criminal cranks — scofflaws and political malcontents. So what line has to be crossed in the good old U.S. of A. before we start mowing them down to make our point? Because you can’t talk about the Bundy ranch without talking about Ruby Ridge, and Waco.

So here’s the political corner into which we’ve painted ourselves.

Do we have the ATF and BLM agents roll up in armored tanks? Do we use drone strikes? I can see the administration’s reluctance to have that confrontation — after all, it’s not as if gun control advocates were flooding the White House switchboard, screaming to ‘take them out!’ And then we do have the militia types all over the country, just waiting for an excuse to start their own local uprising. These assholes want a civil war so bad, they can taste it.

If we wanted a civil war, there would already be one. We don't. We want to take back our government through the political process: the ballot box and the soap box, colloquially. The ammo box is for when all else fails.

What amazes me is that the writer, above, doesn't understand that people like her are the reason people like me are worried about the government. If your political opponents are threatening to send tanks and the military to burn down your home and kill everyone inside, doesn't it seem prudent to arm yourself in case they mean it?

Thu Jun 26 15:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

76% of Americans believe Lerner emails deliberately destroyed

The consensus is: it’s no accident. More than three-quarters of voters -- 76 percent -- think the emails missing from the account of Lois Lerner, the ex-IRS official at the center of the scandal over targeting of conservative groups, were deliberately destroyed.

In other words, three-fourths of voters think someone committed the crime of obstruction of justice. Almost the same number, 74%, think the IRS should be investigated until someone is held accountable. Since we have seen people from the IRS face suspensions, retirements, resignations, and even being forced to stayu up until midnight being alternately yelled at and soothed by Congress, we really have only one thing left to try in order to hold people accountable: jail time.

They also think the President knew before he admitted to knowing:

This is one of several scandals President Obama claims he first learned about from the news media. (Others include Fast & Furious and the Veterans Affairs wait-list scandal.) The new poll finds less than a third of voters believe that he actually found out about such scandals from the media (31 percent). Almost twice as many don’t believe that could truly be the case (60 percent).

The answer to the question "What did the President know and when did he know it?" appears to be "Too much, and too soon."

Thu Jun 26 14:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Chris Conover reads and debunks Vox so I don't have to

Hey, sometimes it's good to have a vacation.

Remember, Vox is the site Ezra Klein started because he thought the media wasn't spinning the news enough. He's working hard on "fixing" that:

Vox offers content that purportedly “explains everything you need to know, in two minutes,” not to mention conversations with “the smartest thinkers, the toughest questions.” Vox does its readers no favors if it sacrifices accuracy for speed. Nor is this a recipe for how the smartest thinkers should tackle the toughest questions.

Spending two minutes reading an article on the web isn't enough to learn anything useful. (No, not even one of MY articles.) It is enough to absorb the party line from a trusted authority figure, though.

Whether someone who wants to ban the second amendment and claims the Founding Fathers agreed with him based on a statement by a fictional TV character should be a trusted authority figure is a different question which I hope my readers can answer for themselves.

Thu Jun 26 13:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The Daily Signal misses the point

They analyzed the Obamacare exchanges and found them "disappointing". That's fair so far. But their list of key questions is missing the only question that really matters:

How many actually have enrolled?
How many of those were previously uninsured?
How has Obamacare affected the overall pool of uninsured?
What percentage of eligible people have signed up?
What’s the cost?

Has medical care -- not insurance status, but actual care, measured by actual outcomes -- gotten better or worse under Obamacare, and by how much?

If we look at health care outcomes in the VA health system, we are looking at our future under Obamacare -- and it isn't pretty.

Thu Jun 26 12:47:35 CDT 2014 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

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