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IRS Emails Sharing Individual Taxpayer Info with the White House

October 10th, 2013 No comments

The WSJ tells us

““You shared, at least by someone’s definition … personal IRS taxpayer information with the White House,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio)….

Ms. Ingram suggested during Wednesday’s hearing that such discussions can be appropriate under exceptions to the IRS confidentiality rules. But the IRS still might feel obligated to redact the information when turning over documents or emails to Congress or the public, she said.

“There is a difference between whether someone gives me information about a taxpayer…versus releasing” it, she said at one point.

Democrats also noted that the IRS has sometimes over-redacted information it has turned over to the committee.

The sweeping scope of the IRS confidentiality rules has been a persistent problem for lawmakers in recent months as they probe the agency’s role in overseeing politically active tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status.”

Is there any legal support whatsoever for the IRS claim that it is OK for the IRS to share certain kinds of confidential taxpayer information with the White House?

An ironic feature of the situation is that since the name of the taxpayer has been blocked out, the taxpayer doesn’t know his information has been given to the White House, so he can’t sue for breach of confidentiality.

Categories: IRS, obama Tags:

Veterans with Trophy Won in Action against President Obama after He Barricaded the Monuments to Exaggerate the Shutdown

October 2nd, 2013 No comments

Veterans with Trophy Won in Action against President Obama after He Barricaded the Monuments to Exaggerate the Shutdown

Categories: obama, picture Tags:

“Delay until They Die”

July 29th, 2013 No comments

Professor Fleischer’s May 16 “A Dickensian Delay at the I.R.S.” at the NYT isn’t looking so good. He said,

Long delays are evidence of ineptitude and a reluctance to tackle difficult issues, not evidence of a political conspiracy. It may be the case that a couple of I.R.S. employees went rogue, as the acting I.R.S. commissioner, Steven T. Miller, suggested on Wednesday before he was ousted from the job.

Aggressive investigation of those individuals may be appropriate. But firing Mr. Miller, as President Obama did on Wednesday, is mere tokenism. The witch hunt obscures the institutional failures that Congress could actually correct.

By now we have heard the testimony of the Cincinnati people, who say Mr. Miller’s IRS was lying when it tried to blame them, Read more…

The IRS Scandal Reaches the President

July 23rd, 2013 1 comment

First, the Administration said there was no IRS mistreatment of Tea Party groups. Second, the Administration said there was, but it was the Cincinnati office’s fault, not the IRS in Washington. Third, it became clear it was the fault of the IRS in Washington. Fourth, it became clear that it was the fault of the IRS Chief Counsel’s office in Washington. Now, we discover that the IRS Chief Counsel met with President Obama at a crucial time. An anonymous federal lawyer wrote this to TaxProf: (my boldface)

As someone who works as an attorney at an agency general counsel’s office, I think people are missing the significance of Obama meeting with the IRS chief counsel Read more…

Categories: IRS, obama Tags:

Can the President Delay Obamacare Despite the Statutory Language?

July 12th, 2013 No comments

Someone wrote to me about another Law Lunch discussion of yesterday:

“…Jefferson’s refusal to spend $50,000 for gun boats in 1803, after they were no longer needed. Better yet, compare the more recent example of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development temporarily suspending funds pending a study of whether the expenditures on low income housing were achieving the purpose Congress intended. That was upheld by the DC Circuit in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Lynn, 1974, with the court noting the fact that the reason for the impoundment was program-related. I see a fundamental difference between refusing to enforce the law because the President wishes it had never been passed and delaying enforcement because the President likes the law and wants it to achieve its substantive goals. Read more…

IRS Data– 2009-2010 White House Visitor Logs, and 2009-12 Bonuses

June 23rd, 2013 No comments

The White House visitor logs are actually available in spreadsheets, downloadable, on the web. I didn’t keep the address, but you can google it. I did edit the 2009-2010 one to extract just the likely IRS ones (Jonathan Davis is a common sort of name, so maybe not all of those are the IRS Chief of Staff). There may be some useful mining to be done on dates. The spreadsheet is at:

IRS-White-House-visitors2009-2010.xlsx

I already had the 2009-2012 bonus spreadsheet. I forget where I got it. Here it is, though:
bonsues2009-12IRS.xlsx

Categories: Data, IRS, obama Tags:

The ‘Fire Napolitano’ Debate [Andy McCarthy]

December 31st, 2009 No comments

A post so good from Andy McCarthy that I reproduce it in full:

A couple of months back, Sean Hannity invited me on his nightly panel on a special show that was dedicated to ten of the more problematic figures in the administration — Van Jones, Kevin Jennings, Carol Browner, John Holdren, and some others. (Napolitano was not egregious enough to be included.) Sean pressed me on whether this one or that one should be fired, and I just shrugged my shoulders. The suggestion (not by Sean, but in a lot of the public debate) had been that these people had not been properly vetted. My reaction was that they had been extensively vetted — the “czars,” like Jones, were made czars rather than cabinet nominations precisely because they were the people President Obama wanted but he knew they’d never get through a confirmation hearing. Sure, you could fire those ten, but the same guy who picked them would be picking their replacements.

I never thought we should have created a Department of Homeland Security. People’s memories are short. The original idea behind DHS was to solve “the Wall” problem — the impediments to intelligence-sharing that were making the FBI, our domestic intelligence service, ineffective. But while DHS was being debated and built, the FBI and the intelligence community furiously called on their allies on Capitol Hill and protected their turf. By the time DHS formally came into being, they made sure it had no intelligence mission — in fact, it had no real clear mission at all except to be the unwieldy home of a huge agglomeration of federal agencies. Basically, we moved the deck chairs around on the Titanic but did nothing to improve homeland security.

Napolitano is an apt representation of Obama-style detachment from national security: She doesn’t know where the 9/11 hijackers came from; she doesn’t know illegal immigration is a criminal offense; she won’t utter the word “terror” (it’s a “man-caused disaster,” just like, say, a forest fire); she thinks the real terrorists are “right-wing extremists” aided and abetted by our soldiers returning home from their missions; when a jihadist at Fort Hood massacres more people than were killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, she won’t call it terrorism and worries mostly about racist blow-back against innocent Muslims; she doesn’t see any indications of a larger terrorist conspiracy even after a captured — er, arrested — terrorist tells agents he was groomed for the airplane operation by al Qaeda in Yemen; she thinks the “system worked” on Christmas when every element of it failed; and even her walk-back on the “system worked” comment — i.e., that it worked after the fact because all the planes then in the air were notified to take extra precautions “within 90 minutes” of the attack — is pathetic. You may recall that on 9/11, the first plane hit the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. and the second at 9:16 a.m.; the Pentagon was struck at 9:37 a.m., and, thanks to the heroic passengers of Flight 93, the last plane went down a little after 10 a.m. — about 20 minutes from its target in Washington. A lot can happen in 90 minutes.

When DHS came into being, a good friend of mine put it perfectly: “We already have a Department of Homeland Security and its address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” It is there, not at DHS, that the problem resides. The President has in place exactly the team he wants. To clamor for Napolitano’s firing when she is just carrying out the boss’s program is to shift the blame from where it belongs.

Categories: government, obama, terrorism Tags:

The Nigerian Terrorist

December 30th, 2009 No comments

From Maureen Dowd:

If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?

Categories: obama Tags:

Yawneroos and Obammyboppers

December 13th, 2009 No comments

Mark Steyn uses the good word Yawneroo here.

Nonetheless, Rich Lowry does “President” van Rompuy a grave injustice. The boringness is, as the computer chappies say, not a bug but a feature. Like everything in Europe, the “presidency” was a backroom stitch-up, and neither the French nor the Germans wanted a charismatic glamorpuss in the gig, stealing their respective thunders. A Belgian nonentity was just what they were looking for. Being a nondescript yawneroo was the minimum entry qualification….

The squealing Obammyboppers of the media seem to have gotten more muted since those inaugural specials hit the newsstands back in late January….

The usual trick is to position their man as the uniquely insightful leader, pitching his tent between two extremes no sane person has ever believed:

“There are those who say there is no evil in the world. There are others who argue that pink fluffy bunnies are the spawn of Satan and conspiring to overthrow civilization. Let me be clear: I believe people of goodwill on all sides can find common ground between the absurdly implausible caricatures I attribute to them on a daily basis. We must begin by finding the courage to acknowledge the hard truth that I am living testimony to the power of nuance to triumph over hard truth and come to the end of the sentence on a note of sonorous, polysyllabic if somewhat hollow uplift. Pause for applause.”

The news this week that the well-connected Democrat pollster, Mark Penn, received $6 million of “stimulus” money to “preserve” three jobs in his public relations firm to work on a promotional campaign for the switch from analog to digital TV is a perfect snapshot of Big Government. In the great sucking maw of the federal treasury, $6 million isn’t even a rounding error. But it comes from real people – from you and anybody you know who still makes the mistake of working for a living; and, if it had been left in your pockets, you’d have spent it in the real world, at a local business or in expanding your own, and maybe some way down the road it would have created some genuine jobs. Instead, it got funneled to a Democrat pitchman to preserve three nonjobs on a phony quasi-governmental PR campaign. Big Government does that every minute of the day.

Categories: obama, words Tags:

Obama’s Double Backwards Flip on Health Care

November 20th, 2009 No comments

Romesh Ponnuru sums it up succinctly:

In the primaries, Obama distinguished himself from Clinton on health care by opposing an individual mandate. In the general election, he distinguished himself from McCain by opposing taxes on health benefits. So now he is trying to pass bills with both an individual mandate and taxes on health benefits — and his supporters are saying that Congress should go along because he won the election.

Categories: health care, obama Tags:

Presidents Bush and Obama and Science

June 29th, 2009 No comments

Jonathan Adler at VC has a good post with links on the “War on Science” idea that the Bush Administration was hostile to science and that Obama would be friendly to it. The exact opposite is true, of course.

Two weeks ago, Roger Pielke Jr. marshaled evidence that a government contractor with substantial industry ties may have been responsible for misrepresenting the relevant peer-reviewed scientific literature in an important government report on climate change. This past week, the EPA was accused of suppressing an agency’s employee’s comments on the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas “endangerment finding” (the official finding that greenhouse gas emissions may threaten public health and welfare). Here again, Pielke finds the parallel with the Bush Administration’s conduct instructive.

From an earlier Adler post, reformatted by me: :

One of the best examples of the politicization of science by the “left” — and one of the few that Mooney acknowledges — is the treatment of agricultural biotechnology, and the decision to subject such products to more stringent regulatory review than those developed with other methods. This policy has no scientific basis, as the National Academy of Sciences has stated many times.

Another example would be claims by environmentalist groups that pesticide residues on foods pose a significant cancer risk, a claim which the NAS has also rejected.

A third would be seeking endangered species listings for the purpose of halting development.

A fourth would be efforts to claim asthma incidence (as opposed to asthma attacks) are related to outdoor air pollution, when there is no data to support such a claim.

A fifth would be the EPA’s second-hand smoke study, which a federal court found was driven to reach a predetermined result.

A sixth would be claims that the “precautionary principle” is a “science-based” approach to risk, when it actually reflects a normative policy judgment about how to weigh and evaluate risks.

A seventh would be the compounded conservatisms that are embedded into many agency risk assessments, such as those conducted for the federal Superfund program.

An eighth would be molding “ecosystem management” to satisfy non-scientific normative preferences about how land should be managed.

Categories: obama, science Tags:

Inspector-General Link Page

June 22nd, 2009 No comments
  1. A June 22 WP wrapup, including Amtrak IG Fred Weiderhold’s resignation and the Library of Congress IG admonishment, as well as TARP, ITC, and Americorps.

  2. Chicago Tribune June 18 story on all three IG’s, including the International Trade Commission IG who was told her contract would not be renewed shortly after a Senator complained about how she was forbidden access to agency documents (
    “It is difficult to understand why the ITC would not have taken action to ensure that the ITC inspector general had the information necessary to do the job,” Grassley wrote on Tuesday.
    Less than three hours after the letter was e-mailed to the agency, the acting IG, Judith Gwynne, was told that her contract, which expires in early July, would not be renewed.)

  3. Rasmusen posts.
    1. The TARP IG obstruction
    2. The board of directors and the Americorps IG firing
    3. Links to the 4 key documents on the Americorps IG firing
Categories: inspector-general, obama, walpin Tags:

Scare Force One (2009)

May 9th, 2009 4 comments

Note: I will be updating this blog post now and then, without noting what is new.

The White House internal report on the New York City flyover was released late Friday afternoon, presumably so as to attract minimal media attention, and Louis Caldera, the head of the White House
Military Office resigned. This looks like a cover-up to me.

The general impression one gets from the report is that the military is entirely to blame, and there is in fact no reason for Mr. Caldera to resign. He knew little about it, and assumed that the flight was routine, the public was prepared, F16’s weren’t involved, the flight wasn’t low-altitude, and so forth. A large number of details are given, and the tone is severe, but the important questions are left unanswered.

In particular, the big questions are:

1. Whose idea was the mission? In particular, was it Mr. Caldera’s? Mr. Obama’s? The report says a lot about people not knowing the details of the mission, but knowing the date, etc. is different from knowing the general idea.

2. Who was on the airplane? Were campaign contributors on it? (Update: No, apparently. See the Gates letter to Senator McCain. “There were no non-duty personnel or passengers on board.”

3. Why were F16’s accompanying Air Force One?

4. Was everyone told to keep this a secret from the public? (Yes– See the FAA instructions at The Potomac Current air traffic control blog. Note how it excludes mention of the White House, and that it says there is to be no publicity or warnings.) If so, why?

5. Did anybody in the military object to the mission?

6. Where do training missions commonly travel?

7. What was the purpose of the photo shoot? What was to be done with these particular photos?

8. Why is Director Caldera resigning if his role is as minimal and excusable as the Report implies?

Here are excerpts from the May 5 report by the White House Counsel, with my comments. I’ve posted a plain text version of the report at http://rasmusen.org/t/2009/flyover.txt.

Our review was limited to the White House’s involvement in the
April 27 flyover. We collected relevant documents from senior
White House staff and from the leadership of the White House
Military Office (“WHMO”). We interviewed the WHMO
Director, Louis Caldera (the “Director”), and the WHMO
Deputy Director, George Mulligan (the “Deputy Director”). We
did not review the conduct of other federal agencies or
departments that participated in the flyover, including the
Department of Defense (the “DoD”) or the Federal Aviation
Administration (the “FAA”). DoD is conducting its own internal
reviews into the April 27 flyover.

Not interviewing any of the people actually on the flight, or lower-level employees of WHMO is purposeful ignorance. Even if the purpose is just to review the top WHMO people–*especially* if it is– you should ask other people what really happened. Especially if you’re going to imply the military is to blame, as this report does.

WHMO is comprised of a headquarters staff and seven
operational units that employ approximately 2,300 individuals.
Most WHMO employees are military personnel who serve in the
operational units, and each unit is led by a military commander.
The Presidential Airlift Group (“P AG) is one of the seven
operational units.

2,300 employees! Just for the executive branch! If they cost $50,000 dollars each, that comes to about $100 million dollars in defense spending just for the White House and whoever else gets ferried around. That’s ridiculous.

The April 27 Flight Initial planning for the New York City flyover
appears to have begun in March 2009 or earlier.

On Friday, April
3, 2009, representatives of the PAG, the FAA, and several local
authorities held a teleconference to discuss “operational issues
and public affairs / outreach issues.”

Whoa! The report has just skipped over the question of whose idea this flyover was, and who ordered the PAG (the air force people) to do it. In other words, the report is going to skip the big decision and go straight to the petty details.

On Friday, April
3, 2009, representatives of the PAG, the FAA, and several local
authorities held a teleconference to discuss “operational issues
and public affairs / outreach issues.”
According to a written
summary of the call, the participants discussed the details of the
proposed flyover including the date, time, and location of the
operation; the altitude of the plane (1,000 feet), and the preferred
flight path. The participants recognized “the sensitivity of the
aircraft involved,” and concluded that “public affairs and
outreach efforts must be carefully coordinated and timed.”

So this meeting was for details such as the exact date and the flight path. Somebody else had already ordered that there be a photoshoot near the Statue of Liberty. Who?

Coordination with “the general public” was planned to
commence two days before the flight. The written summary of
the call further specified that “[n]o reference should be made to
the Presidential aircraft in any public outreach.” However, it
suggested that public outreach could reference “DOD aircraft.”

Was it decided that the public wouldn’t be notified? Notice here that complete secrecy before the mission is not inconsistent with what the report says. “Public outreach” is very general, and might just mean the script for answering questions after the mission.

Note, too, that they decided to lie about the White House’s role. Well, literally, Air Force One is Air Force, not White House, and a mission ordered by the White House against the advice of Air Force officials is still an Air Force mission, but I think “lie” is not too strong a word nonetheless.

Neither the Director nor the Deputy Director participated in or
were aware of the April 3 teleconference.

Why should they be? They don’t care about the exact date and they don’t know anything about designing flight paths. The policy decisions had already been made; the April 3 meeting was about operational details.

On Thursday,
April 9, the commander of the PAG, Colonel Scott Turner, sent
an email to the Deputy Director addressing a number of issues,
including a plan to conduct “a photo shoot over the Statute of
Liberty on the 27th of this month.” During the same time period-
either shortly before or after the April 9 email-the Deputy
Director spoke to Colonel Turner about the proposed flight. The
Deputy Director advised Colonel Turner to determine whether it
was feasible or not; if Colonel Turner encountered any problems
or objections, the flyover would not go forward. According to
the Deputy Director, Colonel Turner likely contacted him because
the mission was unusual. If it had been a typical or routine
training mission, the Air Force would not have notified the
White House.

This makes it sound like it was Colonel Turner’s idea. If it was, he should be severely punished, perhaps even court-martialed. That might be the case. But notice that this paragraph does not say that the Deputy Director hadn’t heard of the idea before April 9, and it doesn’t even exclude the possibility that he ordered it to take place. It does imply that the Deputy Director hadn’t heard anything earlier and that he had no idea it was to be kept secret in advance, but it doesn’t come out and say that. And this report is being written by smart lawyers, remember.

On Monday, April 20, the Deputy Director believes that he
notified the Director for the first time about the proposed
flyover. According to the Deputy Director, he briefly described
the plan and
stated that Colonel Turner was working on the details. He also
suggested that when the plan was finalized, the Director may
want to inform White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina.
The Deputy Director believed that Mr. Messina would want
notice because the plan involved the use of the Presidential
aircraft and because it was unusual-i. e., it was a photo shoot near
New York City and it required a high degree of coordination.

Again: this is the first time the Deputy Director talked about the flyover with the Director, but that’s different from saying that the Director hadn’t heard of it before. It could be that the Director ordered it done, and the Deputy Director was now filling him in on details such as the date.

On Thursday evening, April 23, Colonel Turner sent an email to
the Deputy Director describing the final details of the flight. It
stated that for security reasons, details about the flight would be
treated as “FOUO” (“for official use only”). Federal, state, and
local authorities would be notified on April 24, and coordination
with the “general public” would begin “on or after 26 Apr.”

What security reasons could there be? Was he afraid terrorists would come with missiles to shoot down an Air Force One with no passengers?

Colonel Turner responded that everything was ready to go and
no objections or concerns had been raised.

This is important. The Report itself says concerns were raised at the April 3 meeting. So does this just mean that there were no new objections or concerns? Or maybe no objections in the previous day?

At 12: 11 PM on April 24,
Colonel Turner sent another email to the Deputy Director stating
that final preparations for the flight were moving forward. He
stated that he had “sent a suggested response to any media
queries” to public affairs. And he asked, “[ d]o you have any
issues/reservations whatsoever?”

It sounds as if Colonel Turner was trying to protect himself here. Maybe he was aware of what a stupid idea this flight was.

Finally, the Director stated that he
was not asked to approve the flight. If he had been asked to
make a decision, he would have received a formal package
requesting his approval and he would have expected earlier and
more extensive discussions with Colonel Turner and the Deputy
Director.

Well, yes, there was no reason for a formal decision procedure, if the policy decision had already been made in March– especially if the Director himself (or the President) made the decision then.

We also asked the Deputy Director why he did not
notify Messrs. Messina or Gibbs. He did not do so for two
reasons. First, he believed-based on his discussions with Colonel
Turner and the various emails he received-that experienced
professionals had planned the mission, and they had taken
necessary steps to ensure the public was notified.

Here the DD is blaming the air force for the fiasco. Maybe he’s right, but maybe he’s not. We’re not given enough info.

On Saturday, April 25, Colonel Turner sent a detailed email that
described the planned flyover to General Arthur Lichte,
commander of the Air Force Air Mobility Command. The email
stated: “Secretary Caldera and George Mulligan have both
‘blessed’ this event. They were to brief Jim Messina and Robert
Gibbs for their awareness only. I wanted to make sure you were
fully in the information loop.” The email further stated that
Colonel Turner had “sent a press release” to Air Force public
affairs personnel “in the event there are any media queries” and
that the “FAA Public Affairs office in New York is poised to
answer any/all questions that arise from the New York IN ew
Jersey area.”

This does sound as if Col. Turner was to blame. It is the strongest evidence that the whole thing was his idea. But why would a colonel propose a photo shoot? And wouldn’t Air Force people be sensitive to the idea that flying in cities is unusual, dangerous, and liable to scare people anywhere, even if they didn’t remember 9-11?

According to the Director, this was the first time he learned
that the flight reminded people of 9111 and there was a
jet fighter trailing the 747 aircraft.

That’s a strange sentence. It raises the question again of why fighters were there. Were they taking the pictures? Why not use a slow-flying, cheap, aircraft?

The Director stated that he had no idea that
the plan called for the aircraft to fly at 1,000 feet; he feels terrible
that the flight had caused harm; and he believes that the White
House needed to apologize.

Just how is the airplane supposed to get close to the Statue of Liberty if it’s flying at 20,000 feet?

We
believe that WHMO’s general structure-and specifically, the
reporting relationship of WHMO’s operational units (such as the
PAG) to the White House and to the Military Service
Branches-should be examined. We recommend a comprehensive
study resulting in recommendations to the President regarding
these structural issues.

Ah, yes– a “structural issue” is at fault, rather than any individual person. Stupid. The problem is not that the White House doesn’t get notified of every flight Air Force One makes. If it were, nobody would read such boring reports anyway. The problem is that somebody– we should learn who— ordered this particular flight.

Update: There is actually a plausible theory under which the White House can be exonerated: the Air Force Setup Theory. Usually the WHMO is a military officer. Usually the WHMO is somebody more respectable than Mr. Caldera. No doubt the military saw his appointment as a slap in the face. This could explain why experienced professionals would come up with the stupid idea of the flyover. They could propose it, start the planning, make sure it was done as incompetently as possible, and then get the blessing of the WHMO without informing him of the security details or the likely consequences. Then, they could anonymously plant rumors in the blogosphere that the plane was full of campaign contributors. This would provide the mood for the WHMO to be blamed. A full investigation might turn up the real culprits, but they might bet on an Administration desire to nip the scandal in the bud— along with Administration uncertainty over whether an investigation might indeed show that an Obama appointee was culpable.

Categories: obama Tags:

The Function of the Office of Legal Counsel

April 1st, 2009 No comments

More on the Holder overruling of the OLC. The Washington Post reported

In deciding that the measure is unconstitutional, lawyers in the department’s Office of Legal Counsel matched a conclusion reached by their Bush administration counterparts nearly two years ago, when a lawyer there testified that a similar bill would not withstand legal attack.

Holder rejected the advice and sought the opinion of the solicitor general’s office, where lawyers told him that they could defend the legislation if it were challenged after its enactment….

Through a spokesman, Holder portrayed the basis for his override of the OLC ruling as grounded in law, not politics.

“The attorney general weighed the advice of different people inside the department, as well as the opinions of legal scholars, and made his own determination that the D.C. voting rights bill is constitutional,” Matthew Miller said. “As the leader of the department, it is his responsibility to make his best independent legal judgment, and he believes that although there are reasonable arguments on both sides of the issue, ultimately the bill would constitutionally grant D.C. residents a right to elect a voting representative in Congress.”

I finally found a leftwing comment on this. Mark Tushnet says that Holder has not taken any formal, legally binding, action, yet and the bill hasn’t passed either, so nothing has happened.

It seems Tushnet is wrong, though. It is true there is not action yet, but that is like saying the “torture memo” was unimportant because when it was issued, no actual interrogation had occurred yet. What Holder has said is that for any DOJ action that depends on the legal question of whether the DC bill is unconstitutional, he is overruling the OLC and the Department is to act as if the bill is constitutional.

A VC comment of mine on AG Holder’s decision to back the DC Representation bill in court:

This is of course a much clearer case than in the Bush Administration of the top political leaders overruling the civil service lawyers on a legal stance. So I hope the people who objected to John Yoo’s stance call for AG Holder’s disbarment even more strongly.

As for myself, though, I find it appalling that anyone thinks the civil service lawyers ought to be making these decisions instead of the elected leaders. The OLC is just a bunch of staffers (mostly civil service staffers– i.e., lawyers who couldn’t get better jobs and who probably have strong ideological preferences). Staffers are supposed to give their best technical expertise to the organization leader, who then makes the actual decision– in this case, What Shall the Executive Branch’s Position be on the DC Bill? I do think the bill is blatantly unconstitutional, but I didn’t get elected President and I’m not on the relevant court. I say: Let Holder and Obama defend the position they want in court. And the opinion of his staffers should not be admissible there.

Criminalizing Fossil Collecting on Federal Lands—Carelessly

March 31st, 2009 No comments

The American Spectator has a good article on the shockingly bad Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 just passed with little public attention under special parliamentary procedures in Congress that, for example, bypassed the Ag and Judiciary committees. Among other things, it seems it makes fossil collecting on federal lands a crime.

House leaders skipped entirely the jurisdiction of two relevant committees: Agriculture, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. Forest Service, which is actually a part of the Department of Agriculture; and Judiciary, which has jurisdiction over bills that create or make changes to the nation’s federal crimes.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., was so upset he became one of four Democrats to vote against the bill of his own leadership. And serious reservations were also expressed by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee — that notorious Blue Dog (Not!) John Conyers, D-Mich. And none other than the American Civil Liberties Union signed a bipartisan letter protesting the criminal penalties in the bill’s provisions regarding “paleontological resources preservation.”

This section, in the name of protecting fossils on federal lands, makes it a crime to “excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any paleontological resources located on Federal land” without special permission from the government. Penalties for violations include up to five years imprisonment, and “paleontological resources” are loosely defined as all “fossilized remains…that are of paleontological interest and that provide information about the history of life on earth.”

“Paleontological resources” are defined so broadly and the offenses defined so loosely that many fossil lovers — from scientists to amateur rock collectors — became concerned that it would criminalize innocent error. After all, many common fossil rocks could be “of paleontological interest” and “provide information about the history of life on earth.” Tracie Bennitt, president of the Association of Applied Paleontological Sciences, wrote that “we can visualize now a group of students unknowingly crossing over an invisible line and ending up handcuffed and prosecuted. An honest mistake is just that and should be treated accordingly.”

As word spread of these provisions, this association was later joined in this objection by CEI, NCPPR, and two groups that don’t normally sign on to letters with free-market organizations about lands bills — the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the ACLU! “We are concerned that the bill creates many new federal crimes using language that is so broad that the provisions could cover innocent human error,” the letter from the diverse coalitions stated. “Above all, we are concerned that a bill containing new federal crimes, fines and imprisonment, and forfeiture provisions may come to the House floor without first being marked up in the House Judiciary Committee.”

Categories: crime, law. politics, obama, science Tags:

Hillary Clinton’s Latest Gaffe, in Mexico

March 30th, 2009 No comments

From The Right Coast:


It could have been worse

Tom Smith

For example:

“She doesn’t look Mexican!”

“It’s so refreshing to see Jesus portrayed as a woman.”

“At Mount Holyoke we had a legend of a ghost professor who haunted the basement of the library every Halloween!”

“If I touch it, do I get a wish?”

“And why is she called Our Lady of Guacamole?”

Categories: hillary, humor, obama Tags:

Obama Appointee Richard Holbrooke as an AIG Director

March 24th, 2009 No comments

Richard Painter writes at VC:

When I was at the White House, we looked carefully at corporate directorships. Membership on the board of a company with serious corporate governance problems was a strike against a potential nominee….

How then could a high ranking position it the State Department in 2009 go to Richard Holbrooke who was a director of AIG between 2001 and 2008, who was on AIG’s compensation committee, and who resigned from AIG in the summer of 2008 just as things were falling apart? Holbrooke is a talented if controversial diplomat with a track record in Kosovo, and he brings this experience to his present position as liaison between the United States and parties interested in the War in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, news reports suggest that the White House did not think about AIG when appointing Holbrooke, and did not consider whether a man who could not keep AIG’s risk prone management in check can effectively deal with a geographic region riddled with corruption, not to mention Al Queda and the Taliban.

And there is more. Holbrooke left the Clinton Administration for investment banking. The Department of Justice Public Integrity Division later charged that he violated post-employment conflict of interest rules by representing back to the State Department on behalf of an investment bank. The charges were settled with payment of a $5,000 fine. Details are in an August 14, 2000 memo titled 1999 Conflict of Interest Prosecution Survey sent by the Office of Government Ethics to designated agency ethics officials:

http://www.cs.indiana.edu/sudoc/image_32000000478091/32000000478091/DAEOGRAM/00/Do00029.pdf

In 2001 Holbrooke became a director of AIG. According to the Associated Press, SEC filings indicate that AIG paid Holbrooke hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and stock in 2006 and 2007 (2008 compensation figures are not yet available).

Also:

AIG and the until recently AIG-affiliated Starr Foundation contributed a lot of money over several years to the American Academy in Berlin, itself a good cause. Dig deeper, however, and one finds that the American Academy was founded by none other than Holbrooke who also served as its Chairman. Is it pure coincidence that Holbrooke was one of AIG ‘s outside directors who helped decided how much money AIG’s senior executives got paid? Conflicts of interest of this sort are not per se illegal (perhaps they should be) but they do not reflect well on corporations or the directors who run them.

Categories: corporate governance, corruption, obama Tags:

Movies fro Foreign Leaders

March 13th, 2009 No comments

Rob Long has never, as far as I recall, written anything less than first-class:

To those of us who live and work in Hollywood, movies are always the perfect gift. So we’re puzzled to read about the controversy that erupted when President Barack Obama gave British Prime Minister Gordon Brown a collection of classic movie DVDs.

It seemed like a chintzy gift to some sniffing British journalists. Impersonal, slapdash, borderline insulting — the sign, some suggested, of a president in over his head.

But, look, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been faced with finding a last-minute gift. We’ve all sprinted through the aisles of Walgreens, scanning the shelves for something — anything — that might possibly, if wrapped stylishly, qualify as a present. President Obama has the added burden of being almost completely broke, so it’s only natural that his eye drifts to the discount bin at the video store.

Twenty-five classic movies? Some that he included, like “The Wizard of Oz” and “City Lights,” are so old and so well-known that they’re practically free. Perfect! Wrap them up in last year’s Hanukkah paper — he’s British; he won’t notice — and presto: diplomatic crisis averted.

Categories: humor, movies, obama Tags:

The Mainstream Media Skip Another Major Story

March 11th, 2009 No comments

The Washington Times reports that Mr. Freeman has withdrawn from consideration for the big Obama intelligence job. Yet another stupid Obama mistake— not to see that the anti-Israel, Saudi-payrolled Freeman would be completely objectionable to most of his party. What’s most interesting, though, is Mark Steyn’s blog observation, Don’t read all about it!, at NR, which I quote in full:

I’m glad to see the back of the Saudi shill Chas Freeman, but I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. America will make of it tomorrow morning, reading for the very first time how the “Outspoken Former Ambassador” (as the AP’s headline has it) was scuttled by a controversy their newspaper saw fit not to utter a word about.

As far as I can tell, the only papers in America to so much as mention the Freeman story were the Wall Street Journal, Investors’ Business Daily, the Washington Times, the New York Post, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Augusta Chronicle, and the Press Enterprise of Riverside, California.

But if you rely for your news on the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Detroit News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Miami Herald, or the Minneapolis Star-Tribune — just to name a random selection of American dailies currently sliding off the cliff — the end of the story will be the first time you’ve heard of it.

The U.S. newspaper has deluded itself that it’s been killed by technology. But there are two elements to a newspaper: news and paper. The paper is certainly a problem, but so is the news — or lack of it. If you’re interested in news, the somnolent U.S. monodaily is the last place to look for it.

Categories: media, obama Tags:

Informing Menendez about the Cuba Policy

March 10th, 2009 No comments

Not the first example of amazing Obama Administration political stupidity, but a particularly clear one:

Menendez knew that his hard-line approach to Cuba was a minority view within his party, and that it was at odds with Obama’s approach. But he did not expect to discover a significant policy change embedded in the text on an appropriations bill. His policy aides came across the language when the legislation was posted on a congressional Web site.

“The process by which these changes have been forced upon this body is so deeply offensive to me, and so deeply undemocratic, that it puts the omnibus appropriations package in jeopardy, in spite of all the other tremendously important funding that this bill would provide,” the enraged son of Cuban immigrants said last week on the Senate floor. Menendez even slapped a hold on a pair of Obama nominees to draw attention to the issue.

It isn’t playing by the rules to try to hide Cuba policy in a money bill from members of your own party, and isn’t smart to do it when you’re sure to be caught. Not only is it rude, but it implies that Obama doesn’t care about his own senators’ careers: he wanted Menendez to vote for the bill and only then find out his political survival was at risk.

What Obama should have done was realize that Menendez would dislike the new policy and tell him in advance that it was coming, and perhaps make a deal with him. The stupidity and rudeness is in not informing him at all.

Categories: obama, politics Tags:

Obama Would Have Approved of the Florida Abortion Baby Killing

March 9th, 2009 No comments

A lot of people aren’t sure about whether a typical abortion at,
say 6 weeks, is murder. But who, except Barack Obama and NOW, would
disagree about the case described in
“Lawsuit:
Florida Clinic Botched Abortion, Threw Out Live Baby”
:

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic
outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to
terminate her 23-week pregnancy….

Only Renelique didn’t arrive in time. According to Williams and the
Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live
baby girl.

What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked
people on both sides of the abortion debate: One of the clinic’s
owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant’s umbilical cord.
Williams says the woman placed the baby in a plastic biohazard bag and
threw it out….

Police recovered the decomposing remains in a cardboard box a week
later after getting anonymous tips.

Here’s more detail:

The complaint says one of the clinic owners, Belkis Gonzalez came in
and cut the umbilical cord with scissors, then placed the baby in a
plastic bag, and the bag in a trash can.

Williams’ lawsuit offers a cruder account: She says Gonzalez knocked
the baby off the recliner chair where she had given birth, onto the
floor. The baby’s umbilical cord was not clamped, allowing her to
bleed out. Gonzalez scooped the baby, placenta and afterbirth into a
red plastic biohazard bag and threw it out….

At 23 weeks, an otherwise healthy fetus would have a slim but
legitimate chance of survival. Quadruplets born at 23 weeks last year
at The Nebraska Medical Center survived.

An autopsy determined Williams’ baby — she named her Shanice — had
filled her lungs with air, meaning she had been born alive, according
to the Department of Health. The cause of death was listed as extreme
prematurity.

Reader, whatever you think about abortion in general, wouldn’t you
be shocked if a state made Gonzalez’s actions legal? Should he be able
to say, “Sure I dumped a live baby in the trash can, let it die, and
let it rot. That’s legal. It’s none of your business, or of the woman
who had the abortion. She should know that that’s what happens after
an abortion. Didn’t she notice there was no coffin or burial plot
charge in the bill?”
[He did *not* say that– but should he be able to?]

What would you think about someone who agrees with that? Well, Barack Obama does. He voted several times against proposals to make baby killing illegal in Illinois, including against the one that eventually passed and which was almost identical to the federal law passed 98-0 in the U.S. Senate.

There is an mp3 and text of Obama’s
speech opposing the bill.
The bill, 92_SB1663, said:


 (b)  Subsequent to the  abortion,  if  a  child  is  born
19    alive,  the  physician  required  by Section 6(2)(a) to be in
20    attendance shall exercise the  same  degree  of  professional
21    skill,  care and diligence to preserve the life and health of
22    the child as would  be  required  of  a  physician  providing
23    immediate medical care to a child born alive in the course of
24    a  pregnancy termination which was not an abortion.  Any such
25    physician  who  intentionally,   knowingly,   or   recklessly
26    violates Section 6(2)(b) commits a Class 3 felony.

Here is a defense of Obama. It is
confusing enough that I deduce it is trying to confuse the issue. The
argument seems to be that Obama was really against infanticide but in
some unspecified way the bills would have restricted abortions more
generally. Obama seems to have changed his story a number of times.
One of them was the peculiar claim that the bill would have overriden
Roe v. Wade, which is stupid since a state statute can’t override a
Supreme Court decision based on the U.S. Constitution.


FactCheck.org
says

Obama opposed the 2001 and 2002 “born alive” bills as backdoor attacks
on a woman’s legal right to abortion, but he says he would have been
“fully in support” of a similar federal bill that President Bush had
signed in 2002, because it contained protections for Roe v. Wade.

We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in
committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the
federal act he says he would have supported. …

… It is worth noting that Illinois law already provided that
physicians must protect the life of a fetus when there is “a
reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the fetus outside the
womb, with or without artificial support.”

This last paragraph is important to the Gonzalez case. Would it
have made Gonzalez’s action illegal? Or would it be interpreted to
let Gonzalez, and nobody else, decide whether the baby had a
“reasonable likelihood of sustained survival” without any second-
guessing by the courts no matter how bad his decision was? The courts
usually let doctors get away with a lot– get away with murder, I was
going to write.

In any case, it is clear that Obama thinks that if a doctor were sure that a baby would only live for two days after being born, the doctor should be able to throw the baby into a garbage can to die.

Categories: abortion, obama Tags:

Another Bungled Obama Nominee

March 6th, 2009 No comments

LIke everyone in America, I can’t keep up with all the failed nominees of teh Obama Administration. Well, maybe stock analysts are keeping up. Anyway, here’s another:

Annette Nazareth, a former senior staffer and commissioner with the Securities and Exchange Commission, made “a personal decision” to withdraw from the process, according to a person familiar with her decision.

An American Spectator article is alarming about the Treasury Department:

“We have no one here. There is no leadership,” says another senior career Treasury official. “I’ve never seen anything like it. We have a secretary who seems to have no understanding of what his job entails, and no one in the White House seems to either know it or want to acknowledge it. We have people making decisions who shouldn’t be making decisions, and in positions where we should have people making decisions about our domestic economy, our banking system and our Wall Street recovery plan, we have no one. People should be alarmed by this, but no one seems to care.”

Categories: government, obama, organization Tags:

Liberals at a Conservative College

February 28th, 2009 No comments

The
Baylyblog found out that even a very conservative Presbyterian denomination’s college has many liberal faculty. (For those of you who say, “So what?”, keep in mind that there are far more Democrats at this college, which explicitly has a religion requirement for faculty, than there are Republicans at any Big Ten university.)

… thirty-five percent of Covenant’s faculty members say they’re
likely to vote for Senator Obama. That’s one third of the faculty
supporting the presidential candidacy of the most radically pro-baby
slaughter politician in Washington D.C.

… Covenant’s faculty was asked to rate “issues for their importance
in selecting a (presidential) candidate,” and among those listed were
“campaign finance reform,” “education,” “global warming,” “health
care,” and “social justice.” And yes, “abortion” was there, but no
mention of sodomy or sodomite marriage.

Interestingly, only half the faculty members considered “abortion” to
be “Very important” in their selection in their anticipated vote for a
presidential candidate. This means half of the faculty members made a
conscious decision to respond that abortion was not “Very important.”
What got a higher rating than abortion?

“Social justice.” Abortion had a rating average of 3.23 whereas
“Social justice” won with 3.40. (Ten faculty members responded that
abortion was either “Not important” (2) or only “Somewhat important”
(8), but only one faculty member responded that social justice was
“Not important” and just two that it was only “Somewhat important.”

For the top rating, “Very important,” three issues tied in the
faculty’s vote: “Abortion,” “Health care,” and “Social justice,” with
“Social justice” taking the honors.

Categories: abortion, obama, religion, universities Tags:

Obama’s Favorite Rhetorical Fallacy?

February 26th, 2009 No comments

Karl Rove notes Obama’s love for straw men:

On Tuesday night, Mr. Obama told Congress and the nation, “I reject the view that . . . says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.” Who exactly has that view? …

Mr. Obama also said that America’s economic difficulties resulted when “regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market.” Who gutted which regulations?

Even in an ostensibly nonpartisan speech marking Lincoln’s 200th birthday, Mr. Obama used a straw-man argument, decrying “a philosophy that says every problem can be solved if only government would step out of the way; that if government were just dismantled, divvied up into tax breaks, and handed out to the wealthiest among us, it would somehow benefit us all. Such knee-jerk disdain for government — this constant rejection of any common endeavor — cannot rebuild our levees or our roads or our bridges.”

Whose philosophy is this? …

Categories: obama, thinking, writing Tags:

Obama Competence Failures

February 19th, 2009 No comments

Karl Rove has an excellent WSJ op-ed summarizing the competence failures of the Obama Administration so far.

Categories: competence, management, obama Tags:

Steyn on Obama At Sea

February 7th, 2009 No comments

I’m glad Obama won. He has inspired Mark Steyn to reach new heights in his writing, and if Art trumps Wealth, that is all to the good. From “Obama, All at Sea“:

So how’s that going? Jesus took a handful of loaves and two fish and fed 5,000 people. Barack wants to take a trillion pieces of pork and feed it to a handful of Democratic-party interest groups.

and

Jesus picked twelve disciples. Barack seems to have gone more for one of those Dirty Dozen, caper-movie line-ups, where the mission is so perilous and so audacious that only the scuzziest lowlifes recruited from every waterfront dive have any chance of pulling it off. The ends justify the mean SOBs: “Indispensable” Tim Geithner, wanted in twelve jurisdictions for claiming his kid’s summer camp as a business expense, is the only guy with the savvy to crack the code of the U.S. economy. Tom “Home, James!” Daschle is the ruthless backseat driver who can figure out how to steer the rusting gurney of U.S. health care through the corridors of power. Charles Bronson is the hardbitten psycho ex-con who can’t go straight but knows how to turn around the Department of the Interior.

And, of course, there’s the lovable dough-faced shnook in the front office, Robert “Fall Guy” Gibbs. He didn’t do nuthin’ wrong, but, when seven nominees die in a grisly shootout with a Taxable Benefit Swat Team in the alley behind the Senate, he makes the mistake of looking sweaty and shifty while answering routine questions.

and

A president doesn’t have to be able to walk on water. But he does have to choose the right crew for the ship, especially if he’s planning on spending most of his time at the captain’s table schmoozing the celebrity guests with a lot of deep thoughts about “hope” and “change.”

and

Far worse than his cabinet picks was President Obama’s decision to make the “stimulus” racket the all-but-sole priority of his first month, and then outsource the project to Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, and Harry Reid.

and

Appearing on The Rush Limbaugh Show last week, I got a little muddled over two adjoining newspaper clippings—one on the stimulus, the other on those octuplets in California—and for a brief moment the two stories converged. Everyone’s hammering that mom—she’s divorced, unemployed, living in a small house with parents who have a million bucks’ worth of debt, and she’s already got six kids. So she has in vitro fertilization to have eight more. But isn’t that exactly what the Feds have done? Last fall, they gave birth to an $850 billion bailout they couldn’t afford and didn’t have enough time to keep an eye on, and now four months later they’re going to do it all over again, but this time they want trillionuplets. Barney and Nancy represent the in vitro fertilization of the federal budget. And it’s the taxpayers who’ll get stuck with the diapers.

and

As President Obama warned on Tuesday, “A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe.” If you’re of those moonstruck Obammysoxers still driving around with the “HOPE, NOT FEAR” bumper stickers, please note that, due to an unfortunate proofreading error at the printing plant, certain nouns in that phrase may have been accidentally transposed.

and

But, alas, the foreigners made the mistake of actually reading the “stimulus” bill, and the protectionist measures buried on page 739 sub-section XII(d) ended, instantly, the Obama honeymoon overseas. The European Union has threatened a trade war. Up in Canada, provincial premiers called it “a march to insanity.” Wait a minute: I thought the Obama era was meant to be the retreat from insanity, a blessed return to multilateral transnational harmony?

As longtime readers will know, I’m all in favor of flipping the bird to the global community. But at least, when Rummy was doing his shtick about “Old Europe,” he did it intentionally. To cheese off the foreigners entirely by accident before you’ve even had your first black-tie banquet is quite an accomplishment. Protectionism is serious business to the Continentals. Oh, to be sure, if the swaggering unilateralist Yank cowboy invades some Third World basket-case they’ll seize on it as an opportunity for some cheap moral posturing. But in the end they don’t much care one way or the other. Plunging the planet into global depression, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter.

and

The bloated non-stimulus and the under-taxed nominees are part of the same story. I’m with Tom Daschle: I understand why he had no desire to toss another six-figure sum into the great sucking maw of the federal treasury.

and

Tom and Tim Geithner and Charlie Rangel and all the rest are right: They can do more good with the money than the United States government can. I only wish they followed the logic of their behavior and recognized that what works for them would also work for every other citizen.

Categories: humor, obama, writing Tags:

Ron Sims, Another "Obama Nominee"

February 4th, 2009 No comments

Via Instapundit, we have a new tainted Obama appointee: Ron Sims, for no. 2 at HUD. Sims is King County Executive, which is the county Seattle is in in Washington State. That means he has involvement in the 2004 theft of the gubernatorial election. Apparently he also stonewalled freedom-of-info requests for studies of a certain county project and got the county fined over $100,000 because the denial of the documents was so blatantly illegal.

Seattle seems to be quite a corrupt place. It is also where Bush fired a US attorney, John McKay, for refusing to investigate the 2004 election. I looked into that a bit, and it seems that McKay is a liberal Republican who headed the Clinton Legal Services Corporation and whose brother is active in state politics. It also seems that his refusal to look at the 2004 election was political, despite his posture of high-mindedness. For info on McKay and the 2004 election coverup, see here. His Seattle U. School of Law bio (rather a come-down in status, isn’t it?) is here. I also found a lengthy blog entry on John McKay and his brother Michael McKay, who was Bush Senior’s US Attorney in Seattle.

For info on the $124,000 fine, see the Seattle Times. The article doesn’t mention King, even though he apparently was the politician in charge of the decision, but it does say that the trial judge was going to impose a trivial fine, but the State Supreme Court, in an unusual move, overruled him. The Seattle Times doesn’t mention that record-setting fine in its adulatory article on the HUD nomination.

I bet a look at Mr. Sims’s tax returns would be enlightening.

Categories: corruption, elections, obama, vote fraud Tags:

The Daschles as An Example of Legal Corruption

February 4th, 2009 1 comment

Even tho its subject is not so topical now, The Daschles: feeding at the Beltway trough by Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com is a good article.

Categories: corruption, lobbying, obama, politics Tags:

Obaman Hypocrisy

January 30th, 2009 No comments

From Best of the Web:

He’s So Hot, He’s Cool

“White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code” reads a headline in today’s New York Times. President Obama was photographed without a jacket in the Oval Office the other day, “only the first of many signs that a more informal culture is growing up in the White House under new management. Mr. Obama promised to bring change to Washington and he has–not just in substance, but in presidential style.”

It turns out, though, that the interesting part of the story is not the contrast between the president and his stick-in-the-mud predecessor. Rather, it is why Obama doffed his jacket:

Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”

This is hardly in keeping with candidate Obama’s declaration last May: “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK,” Obama said. It’s good to be king.

Categories: global warming, obama Tags:

Charitable Giving of Obama, BIden, McCain, Palin

January 27th, 2009 No comments

From Taxprof, it seems Biden is even stingier than Obama in his charitable giving.

Categories: charity, obama, palin, taxes Tags:

The Result of Freeing Prisoners of War

January 26th, 2009 No comments

From the NYT:

The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

Maybe we should conclude that Al Qaeda wants to scare Obama into not closing down Guantanamo.

Categories: international law, Islam, obama Tags:

Was Obama Ever Baptized?

January 22nd, 2009 3 comments

It’s unclear. He was a church member, to be sure, but he was Moslem as a child and probably not baptized as an infant. Adult baptism is noticeable enough that one might expect it to be mentioned. It isn’t important enough to him to rate mention in his autobiography, which does talk about his joining the UCC church of Pastor Wright in Chicago.

A blog post looks at some evidence. A newspaper said he was baptized, without offering any evidence, but that was probably just speculation by the reporter.

I wonder if Obama is the first unbaptized President? No- actually not. I don’t think Quakers get baptized, though I might be wrong, and that would cut out Hoover and Nixon.

January 22: As the weblog post I linked to above says, it’s hard to find a credible statement that Obama was baptized. There are statements by reporters, but it looks as if they are just making that up, thinking that if he joined the church he must have been baptized, or confusing answering an altar call with baptism. It would be useful to actually look at his autobiography, though. Here’s some more info:

Beliefnet

Obama has long been an active member of Chicago’s Trinity United
Church of Christ and frequently attends services there. His pastor,
Rev. Jeremiah Wright, officiated at his wedding, baptized both his
daughters, and dedicated his house.

Newsweek

He is now a Christian, having been baptized in the early 1990s at
Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. But rumors about Obama’s
religion persist. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, 12 percent of voters
incorrectly believe he’s Muslim; more than a quarter believe he was
raised in a Muslim home.

His baptism presents its own problems. The senior pastor at Trinity at
the time of Obama’s baptism was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., the
preacher who was seen damning America on cable TV for weeks last
spring—and will doubtless be seen again this fall. In the NEWSWEEK
Poll, almost half of the respondents say Obama shares at least some of
Wright’s views; nearly a third say Wright might prevent them from
voting for the presumptive Democratic nominee.

and

During his years in Indonesia, Obama went first to a Catholic
school—and then to a public elementary school with a weekly class of
religious education that reflected the dominant Muslim culture. He was
raised, in part, by his stepfather, a man named Lolo, who “like many
Indonesians … followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the
remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths,” Obama wrote in
“Dreams From My Father.” “He explained that a man took on the powers
of whatever he ate.” Lolo introduced young Obama to the taste of dog
meat, snake meat and roasted grasshopper. In Indonesia, Obama has
said, he saw women with and without head coverings and Muslims living
comfortably next to Christians. He has said that his life among
Muslims in Indonesia showed him that “Islam can be compatible with the
modern world.”

AND

He didn’t officially join Trinity until several years later, when he
returned to Chicago as a promising young lawyer intent on becoming a
husband, a father and a professional success. Around the time Obama
was baptized, he says he studied the Bible with gifted teachers who
would “gently poke me about my faith.”

Freerepublic says, without citation:

Nobody, except Obama knows if his conversion to Christianity is real
or not. Although some reports and even Obama have referred to a
“baptism”, there doesn’t appear to be any record of a baptism.

Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster and critic Andy Martin, when
asked about Obama’s baptism, wrote, “I have never been able to obtain
any evidence that he was baptized, although I asked for those
records.”

It seems that Obama’s conversion occurred when he answered one of Rev.
Jeremiah A. Wright’s altar calls by walking down the aisle of Trinity
Church to make a formal commitment of his faith.

I also found:

Mr. Obama was baptized that year, and joining Trinity helped him
”embrace the African-American community in a way that was whole and
profound,” said Ms. Soetoro, his half sister. (April 30, 2007 Monday
A Candidate, His Minister and the Search for Faith BYLINE: By JODI
KANTOR)

A few years later, Obama returned to Chicago from Harvard Law School
to be baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ, with a
predominantly black congregation on the South Side led by Wright.
Obama had come to realize, he wrote in his 2006 book, “The Audacity of
Hope,” that the church “had to serve as the center of the community’s
political, economic, and social as well as spiritual life.” He
described his baptism not as an epiphany but as a conscious choice.
(The Washington Post January 18, 2009 Sunday

Obama ‘s Path to Faith Was Eclectic; President-Elect Will Reach Out to
Diverse Set of Religious Leaders for Advice BYLINE: Eli Saslow;)

Categories: obama, religion Tags:

Geithner’s Tax Cheating

January 22nd, 2009 No comments

I just retired from the IRS this past summer. I can verily state we would have been fired on the spot if unreported income was discovered on our tax return. It is shocking that Timothy Geithner would head the IRS, the same organization that would have fired me for ANY unreported income. I am sure shock waves are rippling through my former IRS office right now to think that the new head of the IRS failed to pay $30,000 in taxes. (a comment here)

Tim Geithner really is a man in the spirit of Bill and Hillary Clinton: rules are for little people, but they don’t apply to me.

Oh, those hapless Republicans! They don’t realize that what they have here– a knowing (that is, known since before the nomination was made public), deliberate, attempt to put a tax cheat in charge of tax enforcement– is the ticket to victory in 2010.

I know everybody says good things about Geithner, but keep in mind two other things:

1. He was at the New York Fed while it totally botched oversight of the financial system.

2. Cheaters never cheat just once.

Categories: corruption, obama, politics, taxes Tags:

Obama and the Press

January 12th, 2009 No comments

Ann Coulter is in fine form.

When the Obama family materialized, the media was seized by a mass psychosis that hadn’t been witnessed since Beatlemania. OK! magazine raved that the Obamas “are such an all-American family that they almost make the Brady Bunch look dysfunctional.” Yes, who can forget the madcap episode when the Bradys’ wacky preacher tells them the government created AIDS to kill blacks!…

Months before network anchors were interrogating vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on the intricacies of foreign policy, here is how NBC’s Brian Williams mercilessly grilled presidential candidate Barack Obama: “What was it like for you last night, the part we couldn’t see, the flight to St. Paul with your wife, knowing what was awaiting?”

Twisting the knife he had just plunged into Obama, Williams followed up with what has come to be known as a “gotcha” question: “And you had to be thinking of your mother and your father.” Sarah Palin was memorizing the last six kings of Swaziland for her media interviews, but Obama only needed to say something nice about his parents to be considered presidential material.

Categories: humor, media, obama Tags:

Holdren, Intolerance of Science, and I=PAT

January 4th, 2009 No comments

The new presidential science advisor appears to dislike economists and to desire scientists to keep quiet about any scientific theory that sheds doubt on environmentalist polices. First, from Dr. Holdren’s own writing,
The Meaning of Sustainability:
Biogeophysical Aspects

by John P. Holdren, Gretchen C. Daily, and Paul R. Ehrlich:

Confusion about the sensitivity of those conditions and processes to disruption is evident in the comment attributed to economist William Nordhaus that only 3 percent of gross national product (GNP) in the United States depends on the environment. In fact, the entire GNP in the US. depends, ultimately, on maintaining the biophysical requisites of sustainability. Furthermore, the importance of agriculture (the economic sector to which Nordhaus apparently was referring) is vastly underestimated by its present share of GNP.

The greatest disparities in interpretation of the relationships between the human enterprise and Earth’s life support systems seem, in fact, to be those between ecologists and economists. Members of both groups tend to be highly self-selected and to differ in fundamental worldviews. Most ecologists have a passion for the natural world, where the existence of limits to growth and the consequences of exceeding those limits are apparent. Ecologists recognize that a unique combination of highly developed manual dexterity, language, and intelligence has allowed humanity to increase vastly the capacity of the planet to support Homo sapiens (Diamond 1991); nonetheless, they perceive humans as being ultimately subject to the same sorts of biophysical constraints that apply to other organisms.

Economists, in contrast, tend to receive little or no training in the physical and natural sciences (Colander and Klamer 1987). Few explore the natural world on their own, and few appreciate the extreme sensitivity of organisms — including those upon which humanity depends for food, materials, pharmaceuticals, and free ecosystem services — to seemingly small changes in environmental conditions. Most treat economic systems as though they were completely disconnected from the planet’s basic life support systems. The narrow education and inclinations of economists in these respects are thus a major source of disagreements about sustainability.

Second, from
The IPAT Equation
and Its Variants
Changing Views of Technology
and Environmental Impact

Marian R. Chertow, Journal of Industrial Ecology, 2001:

IPAT is an identity simply
stating that environmental impact (I) is the
product of population (P), affluence (A), and
technology (T).

I = PAT

This looked crazy to me when I first saw it, so I should explain that the equation does make sense if its terms (in particular, impact and technology) are defined clearly. For example, the identity might set

Impact = Tons of sulfur dioxide

Technology = Tons of sulfur dioxide per dollar of income

Tons of sulfur dioxide = population * (income/population)*(Tons of sulfur dioxide per dollar of income)

Now let’s go on.

… for Commoner, environmental impact
is simply the amount of pollutant released rather
than broader measures of impact; for example,
the amount of damage such pollution created or
the amount of resource depletion the pollution
caused.4 His task, then, is to estimate the contribution
of each of the three terms to total environmental
impact.

Much to the consternation of Ehrlich and
Holdren, Commoner’s effort to measure impact
as amount of pollution released leads to the conclusion
that technology is the culprit in almost
every specific case he examines. Commoner goes
on to compare the relative contributions of the
three IPAT variables arithmetically: Population,
affluence (Economic good/Population), and technology
(Pollutant/Economic good), in examples
such as detergent phosphate, fertilizer nitrogen,
synthetic pesticides, tetraethyl lead, nitrogen
oxides, and beer bottles. He concludes that the
contribution of population and affluence to
present-day pollution levels is much smaller
than that of the technology of production. He
calls for a new period of technology transformation
to undo the trends since 1946…

Dr. Holdren’s response was energetic.

Following the publication of The Closing Circle
(Commoner et al. 1971a), full-scale academic war
erupted between Ehrlich and Holdren on the one
hand and Commoner on the other…. Their evident
fear comes from “the possibility that uncritical acceptance
of Commoner’s assertions will lead to
public complacency concerning both population
and affluence in the United States” (1972b, 16)….

At this stage Commoner brought to light a
letter Ehrlich and Holdren sent to colleagues in
which they reveal that they had urged Commoner
not to engage in debate about which of
the factors was most important because it would
be counterproductive to achieving environmental
goals. Commoner takes great umbrage at the
idea of avoiding public discussion of scientific
findings in favor of private agreements that, in
turn, erode democracy and “the survival of a
civilized society” (1972b, 56). Commoner identifies
what he believes to be behind the debate:
that “Ehrlich is so intent upon population control
as to be unwilling to tolerate open discussion
of data that might weaken the argument for
it” (1972b, 55).

Categories: global warming, obama, science Tags:

The Scientific Ignorance of Obama, McCain, and Palin

December 27th, 2008 No comments

From the Independent via Drudge:

Mr Obama and John McCain blundered into the MMR vaccine row during their presidential campaigns. “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate,” said President-elect Obama. “Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it,” he said.

His words were echoed by Mr McCain. “It’s indisputable that [autism] is on the rise among children, the question is what’s causing it,” he said. “There’s strong evidence that indicates it’s got to do with a preservative in the vaccines.”

Exhaustive research has failed to substantiate any link to vaccines or any preservatives. The rise in autism is thought to be due to an increased awareness of the condition.

Sarah Palin, Mr McCain’s running mate, waded into the mire with her dismissal of some government research projects. “Sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not,” Ms Palin said.

Categories: elections, obama, palin, science, thinking Tags:

Obama and Illegal Campaign Contributions

December 26th, 2008 No comments

Obama didn’t use federal matching funds. This meant not only that he did not have to limit his spending; he also did not have to be automatically audited. Auditing Obama
Will the FEC examine the president-elect’s campaign finances?

by Hans A. von Spakovsky. It seems likely he received many millions in illegal contributions– probably the greatest amount in American history. I wonder what the remedy should be? We don’t want to overturn the election, since its result would not have changed even with $200 million in illegal contributions.

The public funding program automatically requires an audit of any candidate that receives public funds, so John McCain’s campaign will be audited without question. Since Obama is the first candidate to refuse public funding in the general election since the program started, it would be very odd if Obama avoided an audit because of his ability to raise extraordinary funds from untraceable sources.

The federal campaign finance law requires campaigns to report the name, address, occupation and employer of every contributor who gives more than $200. Yet according to the Washington Post, National Journal and Newsmax, the Obama campaign took (or failed to take) steps to ensure it was not alerted to problem donations.

Some of the acts and omissions are so cavalier, it’s hard to believe they weren’t intentional. For example, the Post reported that the Obama campaign accepted prepaid credit cards that are untraceable, and National Journal reported that the campaign didn’t implement a verification procedure to even match the names of contributors using regular credit cards with the names and addresses of the credit card holders.

When asked about it, the Obama campaign said such matching wasn’t “available in the credit card processing industry.” That is completely untrue–such verification procedures are offered by companies that service credit-card transactions, as well as by banks and telecommunications companies (and was standard procedure for the McCain campaign).

In contrast to the McCain campaign, the Obama campaign also refused to divulge the names of the millions of small-time donors who contributed (many repeatedly) under $200 to the campaign (totaling $218 million), saying it was “too difficult.” However, as Neil Munro of National Journal reported, there are “few technical obstacles to sorting and identifying small-scale donors.”…

…In contrast, the Obama campaign had no controls whatsoever to prevent illegal foreign contributions by noncitizens. An investigation by Newsmax estimated that anywhere from $13 million to $63 million may have been received by the Obama campaign from overseas credit cards or foreign currency purchases (a red flag for possibly illegal contributions). The FEC itself has flagged 16,639 potential foreign donations to Obama’s campaign. When confronted with this, the campaign started collecting passport numbers from foreign donors, a completely useless procedure since no effort was made to verify those numbers with the State Department to see if they were even valid.

Categories: elections, obama Tags:

Rick Warren’s Invocation for the Obama Inauguration

December 22nd, 2008 No comments

Pastor Bayly writes very strongly on Rick Warren and why he should not have agreed to lead the invocation prayer at Obama’s presidential inauguration:

So everyone’s talking about Rick Warren’s payoff. He gets to pray in front of millions during Senator Obama’s inauguration, calling down God’s presence and blessing on a ceremony centered around the national politician most committed to the slaughter of his nation’s children taking God’s Name in vain as he falsely promises to uphold the Constitution of these United States.

Pastor Warren has more famously offended the Left by being against homosexual marriage and abortion. His invitation by Obama is clearly a conciliatory gesture by Obama to conservative Christians. As such, I think it is right for Warren to accept it. Neither Obama nor Warren are saying that they agree with the other’s views, though each does show a certain amount of respect for the other by agreeing to be thus involved. The question is whether Obama’s strong support for abortion– even for infanticide– should disqualify him from association with gentlemen. It seems to me that expressing abhorrent views is different from actually performing evil deeds. Perhaps even evil deeds should not be a disqualifier. Jesus did eat with open sinners. Participating in a government ceremony is much less intimate, and no more public than what Jesus did. Obama has been legitimately elected our President; should we now boycott government?

But that is all about whether Warren– or Bayly, or any minister– should do the invocation or not. Rick Warren does have a problem, though: he panders to The World. I’ll discuss various quotes from this AP story:

The 54-year-old pastor and founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California told the crowd of 500 that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to agree on everything all the time.

“You don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand,” said Warren.

There is a difference between agreeing on 1 out of 100 things and agreeing on 99 out of 100 things. Warren is suggesting that he and Obama are in the second category, agreeing on everything important. It *is* wrong for Warren to walk hand in hand with Obama. That indicates agreement. I could imagine myself working in the Obama Administration as an economist, but I can’t imagine myself saying that I worked hand in hand with him. Some distance should be kept, even if Obama weren’t so wrong on abortion.

Warren said he prays for the same things for Obama that he prays for himself integrity, humility and generosity.

This is an extreme form of a bad habit of preachers: confessing to congregations
that they sin just as badly as their listeners do. Humility is not bad, but that isn’t humility. Instead, it just results in the preacher only talking about publicly acceptable sins such as pride or selfishness. I’ve never heard a preacher preach against child porn or crack cocaine and admitting that he’d just sinned that way himself last Wednesday.

In the present case, the humility is even thinner. Do we really think that Warren would agree with what he’s just implied– that Barack Obama lacks integrity, is proud, and is stingy to the poor? (otherwise, why pray for those things for him?)

Of course, if Pastor Warren really thinks abortion is wrong, then he should pray that God will forgiven Obama and change his mind about it.

… Warren also talked about singer Melissa Ethridge, who performed earlier in the evening. Warren said the two had a “wonderful conversation” and that he is a huge fan who has all her albums.

The openly lesbian gay rights activist even agreed to sign her Christmas album for him, he said.

This amounts to support for homosexuality. Warren can’t help liking her music, if he really does, but he should keep quiet about it. I like Wagner, but imagine this 1880s scene:

Warren also talked about composer Richard Wagner, whose works was performed earlier in the evening. Warren said the two had a “wonderful conversation” and that he is a huge fan who goes to all his operas.

The openly adulterous anti-semite even agreed to sign his program for him, he said.

I think Warren’s problem is that he wants everyone to like him. He wants his evangelical congregation to like him, so he has to oppose abortion. But he wants The World to like him, so he has to pretend it’s not a big deal. That way, too, he might even get feminists to like him because they’ll say, “For a fundamentalist he’s a pretty hip guy. I bet he just pretends to oppose abortion so he can keep his job.” That is the way that mainline church pastors used to be like around 1930, perhaps– officially opposing sin, but unofficially winking at the same time. Perhaps they even did oppose sin– just not enough to take a real stand against it in front of The World.

Warren has won kudos from some liberal quarters by focusing less on traditional conservative issues such as abortion and gay rights, and instead calling on evangelical leaders to devote more attention to eradicating poverty, fighting AIDS in Africa, expanding educational opportunity for the marginalized, and global warming.

The end of the article says:

Although Warren has said that he has nothing personally against gays, he has condemned same-sex marriage.

“I have many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church,” he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet.

This doesn’t sound bad by itself, but, again, let’s change it a bit:

Although Warren has said that he has nothing personally against drug dealers, he has condemned heroin legalization.

“I have many drug-peddling friends. I’ve eaten dinner in the homes they bought with their drug money. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church,” he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet.

There’s something wrong with this (what exactly? -it’s interesting to consider) and the same thing is wrong with his actual statement. I’d think better of him, actually, if he’d made the statement about drug dealers instead, because socializing with that kind of sinner is not the way to media popularity and he probably *would* be doing it from Christian love.

December 23: The LA Times has an op-ed that says Warren is openly orthodox on many key issues. For example:

…on the signal issues of the religious right he is, as he himself has said, as orthodox as James Dobson.

And as inflammatory. Warren doesn’t just oppose gay marriage, he’s compared it to incest and pedophilia. He doesn’t just want to ban abortion, he’s compared women who terminate pregnancies to Nazis and the pro-choice position to Holocaust denial…

Speaking of Jews, Warren has publicly stated his belief that they will burn in hell, presumably along with everyone else who hasn’t accepted his particular brand of Christianity (i.e., the vast majority of people in the world)…

At his Saddleback Church, wifely submission is official doctrine: The church website tells women to defer to their husband’s “leadership” even when he’s wrong on important issues, such as finances….

On “Hannity & Colmes,” he agreed that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, should be killed because “the Bible says God puts government on Earth to punish evildoers.”

What are we to make of Pastor Warren? He’s written a best-selling book, so I don’t suppose it’s just that he has trouble expressing himself. Perhaps he just likes to agree with whoever he’s last talked to, and he talks to a great variety of people. Or perhaps he’s as I suggested in the post above, basically sound, but timid.

Yet more on Rick Warren. I looked at the Baylyblog’s 2005 post on Rick Warren. It’s downright embarassing how he boasts and name-drops. Some excerpts:

I read a book a day and I read tons of magazines, tons of articles, and I just devour enormous quantities of material, and thank God for the Internet…..

You know, when you speak to 23,000, 24,000 people every weekend, crowds don’t impress you anymore. … Last night, I was in Miami speaking to this huge international convention of all of the Spanish-language publishers and they gave me the city key to Miami, but really I would have more fun with you here today….

Bono called me the other day and said why don’t you come up to the U2 concert at the Staples Center because we’re both active in AIDS prevention. My wife and I have given millions to the prevention of AIDS….

Ten percent of the churches in America have now done 40 Days of Purpose and that’s just now. We will take another 10 to 15 thousand through it this year, and on and on and on. And there’s a little story of how that got started in churches and then it spread to corporations like Coca-Cola and Ford and Wal-Mart, and they started doing 40 Days of Purpose. And then it spread to all the sports teams. I spoke at the NBA All-Stars this year because all of the teams were doing 40 Days of Purpose. LPGA, NASCAR, most of the baseball teams – when the Red Sox were winning the World Series, they were going through 40 Days of Purpose during the Series. So the story of the 40 Days of Purpose is more than the story of the book. And maybe we can get back to why that touched such a nerve around the world, because The Purpose Driven Life is not just the best-selling book in American history; it’s the best-selling book in about a dozen languages. It’s in about 30 languages right now and that’s why I was at this meeting last night with the Spanish…

The three largest churches in America are Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, outside of Chicago; the Lakewood Church in Houston, which is on television, so you might have seen that one (the pastor is Joel Osteen); and then Saddleback is the largest church in America. We had our 25th anniversary on Easter this year. I did 12 services. We had 45,000 in attendance and I preached 12 services in a row.

…every pastor in America knew who I was because I put all of my sermons on an Internet site and it gets 400,000 hits a day from pastors.

I’ve spent the last 20 years training about 400,000 pastors in 162 countries. …Now, I’ve got three advanced degrees. I’ve had four years in Greek and Hebrew and I’ve got doctorates. …I was teaching this Purpose-Driven church seminar, and we simulcast it to 400 sites across the continent, and I trained in that time just about 90,000 pastors, in that one week. …Last week I spoke to 4,000 pastors at my church who came from over 100 denominations in over 50 countries. …I have an email newsletter called Rick’s Toolbox that goes out every Monday to almost 147,000 pastors. And I write a little note every Monday. I sit in my pajamas, hit the button, it goes to 147,000 pastors….

Last night I signed a book for Viktor Yuschenko, who asked for a copy of The Purpose Driven Life. A few months ago, I signed a Purpose Driven Life for Fidel Castro, who asked for one.

He doesn’t seem to ever think, just talk. That same blog post excerpts a Larry King interview in which King presses Warren on whether God caused Hurricane Katrina and Warren evades the repeated question clumsily, as if he really has no idea how to answer it and never heard of the Question of Evil. And what Warren says about his reception from audiences that should be hostile is revealing:

I’ve had two state dinners in China in Tienanmen Square and People’s Hall with their government, with the bureaucrats there, with the Cabinet members. I’ve actually had them in our home and had them in our church, and they’ve given me pretty much carte blanche in China for some reason.

When I went to Harvard a month ago, I honestly expected a pretty hostile audience – I’m an evangelical pastor and I’m going into Harvard. And I went in and I spoke four times and they gave me a standing ovation…

… when the book hit 15 million, I called up Rupert Murdoch and I said, “What are you going to do to celebrate my book?” And he goes, “Well, what do you want to do?” I go, “I want you to throw a party and I want you to invite all your secular elite friends from Manhattan and let me talk to them.” And he goes, “Okay.” (Chuckles.) So he sends out a list, he invited 350 people, who’s who in Manhattan to the top of the Rainbow Room, and I went up there and you know, I just started talking to them – again, standing ovation.

He just doesn’t realize what he’s saying. Here’s a bit of logic. Major Premise: Audience X is hostile to Christians. Minor Premise: Audience X was not hostile to Rick Warren. Conclusion—you draw it.

I was wondering whether the problem was that Warren had perhaps never gone to seminary and studied the Bible and theology in classes. But the interview quoted above says otherwise. I guess he illustrates that “discernment” really is a spiritual gift. He has a pathological lack of it.

Something else. From a comment on the Baylyblog post cited above:

John Aravosis of Americablog noticed on Friday that Rick Warren’s church website explicitly bans gay people “unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle” from membership at Saddleback. (They are allowed, however, to attend services.)

Now Warren has removed the anti-gay language from the church website.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/12/23/rick-warren-scrubs-anti-g_n_153068.html

That’s bad. But I found something else that shows that Warren is actually much worse than I’d thought, though– that he knowingly perverts Christianity, and, more shocking to an academic like me even though it shouldn’t be, he intentionally misquotes the Bible. T

The Gospel: A Method or a Message? How the Purpose Driven Life Obscures the Gospel by Bob DeWaay is a very good essay on Warren’s misuse of the Bible and his hazy, bad, theology.

Rick Warren begins the first day of his journey by saying, “It’s not about you” (Warren: 17). Yet the entire book “feels” like it is about you and reads like self-help literature. He dedicates the book to “you” on the first page after the copyright information and uses the pronoun “you” continually throughout the book. Consider the following from day eight:

You were planned for God’s pleasure. The moment you were born into the world God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at your birth. He wanted you alive, and your arrival gave him great pleasure. God did not need to create you, but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment. . . . Bringing enjoyment to God, living for his pleasure, is the first purpose of your life. When you fully understand this truth, you will never again have a problem with feeling insignificant. It proves your worth. If you are that important to God, and he considers you valuable enough to keep with him for eternity, what greater significance could you have? (Warren: 63).

His statement that this is not about “you” is disingenuous (insincere). His style, word usage, Man-centeredness, distorted Bible translations, and many overt statements show that the book is about you!

and

Earlier I mentioned that reading The Purpose Driven Life and checking it out with the Bible is a tedious task. Let me illustrate this using one of Warren’s Bible references. Here is Warren’s quote, “The Bible says, ‘Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self’” (Warren: 19). There is an endnote that takes us to the back of the book. Once there, looking for endnote 3, we have to figure out which of the forty days we are in. So with one finger in the endnote section, we go back to where we started to find out we were in day one. Now we go back to the end note section for day one and find out the reference is to Matthew 16:25 Msg. Assuming that msg is not the food additive, we proceed to the section in the back of the book that tells us the meaning of the abbreviations, and we find out that it is from a Bible called The Message. Now, having determined what passage is under consideration, we get out a real Bible (not a paraphrase) and find out what Matthew 16:25 says. Here it is: “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).

Now we need to compare Matthew 16:25 with The Message perversion of it. In the context, Jesus was speaking of dying to self by taking up one’s cross (Matthew 16:24). The cross was not a burden to bear, but an executioner’s device. A person seen carrying his cross had literally been sentenced to death and was on the way to the place where he would be executed. So the person who “loses his life” is the one who has died to all hopes and dreams that the “self” ever had in this life. He is willing to suffer the loss of everything, even life itself if need be, for the sake of the gospel. His reward is eternal life. …

Having established the meaning of Matthew 16:25 in context, now we must return to the verse as cited by Warren: “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.” Matthew 16:25 is not discussing self-help, it is discussing life and death. Matthew 16:25 is not discussing “finding your true self.” The idea of a “true self” is a term of psychology and is not found in the Bible. Matthew 16:25 is not talking about self-sacrifice, it is talking about dying to self…. Warren’s version of the passage suggests that by self-sacrifice we find our “true selves.” All false religions teach self-sacrifice, and finding one’s true self is a New Age lie. The truth of the gospel is that we must die to self through the cross and put all of our hope in Christ by faith in His finished work.

Now, having established that The Message does not even have the same concepts as the Biblical passage it claims to be a paraphrase of, let’s return to Warren’s book and see how Warren uses it. He uses it to show that we need to find out the purposes God created us for. He says, “It is about becoming what God created you to be” (Warren: 19). Now we have been Bereans, searched the Scriptures, and found that Warren is abusing them. He has obscured the clear gospel message in Matthew 16:24, 25 and replaced it with a spiritual journey to find the “true self.” So Warren ostensibly is telling us we do not need self-help and then sends us on a self-sacrificing journey to find our true self (which is self-help). …

The essay ends like this:

In 1982 Robert Schuller announced his plans for a new reformation based on self_esteem.3 His stated purpose was to make theology less God-centered and more man-centered. Now that Rick Warren has sold eleven million copies of the Purpose Driven Life, he too wants a new reformation. He is promoting a PEACE plan to solve the world’s five biggest problems.4 Apparently, the church needs a new reformation every twenty years. What happened to Schuller’s reformation?

Thinking about this and carefully studying Warren’s book, I have come to the conclusion that Rick Warren is completely in step with Schuller’s reformation, and is carrying it forward in a way that is more appealing to evangelicals (whether or not he is consciously following Schuller). Warren’s man-centered theology comes with more evangelical ideas than does Schuller’s. Warren includes many more Biblical truths than Schuller ever did. In my opinion this makes Warren more deceptive than Schuller. Schuller ignored the Bible and depended on psychological concepts. Warren uses perverted Bible translations that change God-centered passages to man-centered passages. By carefully selecting the right mistranslation for each of his teaching points he has made the man-centered theology touted by Schuller seem Biblical.

Now Warren wants to reform the church to focus on social action rather than gospel preaching. Wow! Look how far we have come. One of these times this man-centered reformation will succeed. When it does the modern evangelical church will be the latest incarnation of liberalism.5

Each of us must choose between a man-centered, man-made method loosely derived from parts of the Bible and the clear message of the gospel. Rick Warren promotes the former, a broad path with millions of fellow travelers; John MacArthur promotes the latter, a narrow path that few follow.

The gospel is based on a crucified Jewish Messiah, a concept offensive to all sinners. However, to those who embrace the scandal of the cross and by faith escape the just wrath of God, that gospel is the power of God for salvation. Dear reader, you have a choice between a spiritual journey to discover your purpose and the message of the gospel that declares God’s purposes. The one will make you think you are on the path to heaven when you may not be, the other will put you on the path to heaven by God’s sovereign power. I urge you to embrace the gospel on God’s terms.

Categories: obama, politics, religion Tags:

The Lesson of the 2008 Election

November 22nd, 2008 No comments

I haven’t seen any pundit talk about the main lesson of the 2008 election: run a candidate that the voters like. A simple lesson, isn’t it? Think about what happened. The Republican favorites were Giuliani, Romney, and McCain. None of them were sound conservatives. Giuliani was an out-and-out liberal, and an adulterer. Romney was an out-and-out liberal who promised that he’d reformed and was really conservative, and he was a Mormon. Being a Mormon is not like being a Moslem or an Orthodox Jew— Mormons have some truly weird beliefs and require rigid obedience to the hierarchy. McCain was an inconsistent conservative, and a repentant adulterer. Worst, though, was that he had never been loyal to the Republican Party, preferring the praise of the media and the support of independents, and he clearly disliked social conservatives. If some real Republican had run, he would have won the nomination, Republicans would have been at least mildly enthusiastic and turned out in November, and he would have won. If even Sarah Palin, unknown governor of Alaska, had done that she would be our President-Elect. Thompson didn’t run, though and Brownback dropped out early. Huckabee, a smart man, did run, and did very well, but it turned out that he was not conservative on economics and perhaps on foreign issues, and he criticized our conservative President too freely. Indeed, Huckabee seems to have been an old 1920s Democrat on everything but race.

How about the Democrats? A similar story, but with a happier ending for them. Hillary Clinton was the overwhelming favorite, and she was trying to be moderate to get ready for the general election. The conventional wisdom was that she’d lose in November anyway. Thus, the Democratic leaders were unhappy. Also, she’s unethical, like her husband, without having his likeability, and reminds people of the embarassing Clinton years. But almost everybody was too chicken to run against her. Barack Obama was not. Being Not-Clinton, he won, strongly helped by being a true leftwinger and being black. With the Party’s left on his side, and the black and other party leaders secretly relieved he was running, he was able to replace Hillary.

Thus, in the general election the Democrats had acquired a candidate they liked and the Republicans had not. Democrats turned out to vote, and Republicans did not. Obama won.

It’s too bad I was at Oxford last year. I could have run for President. If I’d had 2 million dollars I could have gotten the nomination maybe. More seriously, if I’d energetically worked to get some other unknown with brains, good inside connections, and no track record of professorial eccentricity to run, I could have gotten him nominated. David Mackintosh, Joshua Davidson, Mark Baker, David Snyder, David Frum, or Steve Calabresi would have done nicely. It’s interesting that I have a harder time of thinking of anyone I didn’t meet via college.

Categories: elections, obama Tags: