Live-blogging the Lynch hearing

Loretta Lynch’s confirmation hearing is about to start. I’ll live-blog it for a few hours at least. I’ll keep the most recent entries at the top for those who want to keep up with the blow-by-blow. Others should read from the bottom up.

Here goes:

11:15 Dianne Feinstein is now doing the questioning. Time for a bathroom break.

11:14 Hatch said he hopes he’ll be able to vote to confirm Lynch. I hope he won’t, but after hearing his questioning, fear he will.

11:08 Hatch notes that in a speech Lynch favored not applying mandatory minimum sentences to certain crimes. What about that, Hatch wants to know? It’s a matter of prioritizing, she says. In other words, the executive branch can blow off statutory minimums.

11:04 Sen. Hatch is up now. He asks about defending the constitutionality of acts of Congress she disagrees with. Lynch says she will commit to defending them except in “rare” cases where there is no reasonable argument in favor of an act’s constitutionality.

But Hatch notes that Eric Holder gave the same commitment. That’s really the subtext of the entire hearing. Holder appeared no less committed to the rule of law than Lynch appears today. He appeared just as sincere. He too had stellar paper credentials and endorsements.

Given Holder’s reign of abuse and Lynch’s closeness with Holder, Lynch shouldn’t be confirmed unless she differentiates herself from Holder by disagreeing with him on key substantive positions and denouncing at least some of his abuses.

11:01 Lynch wisely declines Leahy’s invitation to overly tout the criminal justice system as the weapon of choice in the fight against terrorism. It’s just one tool in the arsenal, she intones.

As for waterboarding, she states unequivocally that it is torture. That seems to be the Republican consensus too, so it’s safe for Lynch to say this.

10:57 Now Leahy quotes Bill O’Reilly who apparently once called Lynch “a hero” for something she did.
It didn’t take long for this hearing to descend into farce.

10:55 It’s Leahy’s turn. He says Lynch’s opening statement was so moving he will send copies to his family and close friends. You can’t make this stuff up.

Now he throws her a softball so she can talk some more about police-community relations. It’s a canned, 100 percent content free presentation.

10:50 Grassley moves on to IRS targeting. Here, Lynch has an easy out. “There’s no place for bias” by federal agencies, she says, but she doesn’t know the facts of this case.

Grassley wants to know whether it was appropriate for President Obama to say there isn’t a “smidgeon of evidence” of targeting even though an investigation was ongoing. Lynch ducks the question.

10:47 Grassley follows up by asking for the “outer boundaries” of prosecutorial discretion, if an entire vast category can be exempted from prosecution. Lynch doesn’t answer. She just says that this instance of discretion is reasonable.

10:45 Lynch begins what is obviously a canned answer. She says she has looked at the DOJ internal opinion that says Obama has this authority. She finds the opinion reasonable.

In other words, she backs the legality of the executive amnesty. This should be sufficient reason not to confirm her.

10:44 Grassley begins the questioning. He starts with Obama’s executive amnesty. Does she believe Obama has the legal authority to defer deportation and grant permits to those who are here illegally.

10:37 Now she’s talking about prosecuting sex crimes. Then, she moves on to affirm her great respect for the police. She’s talking about the unshakable bonds between the police and the community, which she wants to strengthen.

Nothing about police racism and abuse. Lynch has put aside the Obama-Holder playbook for purposes of this hearing.

Is she sincere? I’m skeptical.

10:35 She begins the substantive portion of her statement by focusing on the war on terror. Smart move. Would this be the focus of her stewardship of the DOJ? I’m skeptical.

10:32 Lynch is telling her personal story. It’s a good one, but largely beside the point.

10:30 Lynch is introducing her family and will then deliver her opening statement.

10:26 Sen Gillibrand is introducing Lynch. Realizing what a tough act Schumer is to follow, Gillibrand wraps it up very quickly.

10:23 Schumer gets to the heart of the Democrats case. He says that no one can find anything wrong with Lynch, so her opponents are going to change the focus and talk about policies they disagree with. In other words, they will “politicize” the hearing.

Let’s hope so. The Justice Department has been thoroughly politicized, and thus, if Senators are doing their job, they need to make sure Lynch stands opposed to the politicizing.

The Attorney General has enormous power. Lynch should not be confirmed unless Senators are satisfied that she will use the power responsibly and, above all, lawfully. Her ability as an attorney is “table stakes,” not sufficient reason for confirmation.

10:21 Chuck Schumer is now introducing Lynch, in his capacity as her home state Senator. It’s one cliche after another.

This is good. Schumer says that Lynch has a reputation for keeping her head down and avoiding publiity — “just like me.”

10:18 Now, Leahy is bitching about how much DOJ money goes to prisons and how so many people are incarcerated. He could deliver this blather in his sleep, and it’s entirely clear that he isn’t.

10:16 Sen. Leahy is now giving his opening statement. He says he wants to focus on the nominee not the past. He’s telling Lynch’s “story” now and touting the fact that she would be the first African-American women.

10:14 Grassley says his vote will turn on whether she will be independent. He says he has no reason to believe she won’t. He adds that Lynch had nothing to do with Holder’s policy, but she can fix things.

10:11 Grassley continues his broad-ranging attack on the Holder Justice Department. He’s talking about Fast and Furious and the IRS targeting now.

10:08 Grassley begins his opening statement. He says the new AG will have to restore respect for the rule of law, for the co-equal branches, for transparency, for the faithful execution of the law, etc.

10:06 Grassley urges the audience not to get rowdy. “I know there’s a lot to protest about this administration, but this is not the place to do it,” he says.

10:05 Sen. Grassley, the Chairman of Judiciary Committee, bring down the gravel. It’s on!

India, Defender of the West?

The media are downplaying the fact that Obama left India empty-handed on the chief object of his state visit: he wanted India to reach some kind of climate agreement like the phony one Obama made with China a few months ago. India refused. The Hindustan Times reports:

India’s resistance to accept a peak year for emissions was a prime reason why US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to strike a climate deal along the lines of a US-China agreement on emission cuts.

The US wanted India to make specific commitments including a peak year for a new climate treaty to be signed at Paris later this year. But India refused as it feared it would have resulted in the world putting India in the same bracket as China on carbon emissions.

“Having a peaking year was not acceptable to us,” said an environment ministry official.

India did give Obama a modest rhetorical concession in the form of a “personal commitment to work together” with the U.S. to help reach a global climate agreement in Paris this summer.  But you can bet any agreement reached will exclude India from any real emission caps, or there will be no agreement. India’s new free-market oriented PM, Narendra Modi, rubbed it in on Obama by ordering increased coal production. It’s the environmental equivalent of building more homes on the West Bank while Vice President Biden comes calling.

Separately India has shown it won’t tolerate much environmental nonsense from Greenpeace and other environmental extremist groups. The Los Angeles Times reported recently about India’s “crackdown” on the extremist group:

The Indian government has launched a crackdown on Greenpeace and other U.S.-linked environmental groups after intelligence officials accused climate activists of harming the country’s economic security.

Authorities over the weekend barred a Greenpeace staff member from traveling to London to speak to British lawmakers about alleged legal and human rights violations in India by Essar, a British-registered energy company.

The government last year blocked Greenpeace from accessing foreign funds, and Indian media reported this month that authorities had imposed similar restrictions on four U.S.-based environmental advocacy organizations. . .

“They are acting as foreign propagandists and foreign agents.”

Soon after Modi took office in May, India’s intelligence agency, in a report leaked to the news media, said that advocacy campaigns by Western-funded nongovernmental organizations were “stalling development projects” and had reduced India’s annual economic growth by 2% to 3%. Greenpeace, it said, “is assessed to be posing a potential threat to national economic security.”

You might call the Western environmental groups “eco-imperialists,” but that little bit of truth-in-advertising might get them kicked of college campuses. In any case, I’m growing rather fond of India of late. (Don’t even get the Indians started on what they think of the Islamist threat from Pakistan. . .)

Rubio’s short course on Iran

In the January 21 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on our ongoing negotiations with Iran, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared as the principal witness. Senator Rubio questioned Blinken over twelve minutes toward the end of the hearing. In the course of his questions, Senator Rubio provided a short course on the problematic premises of our negotiations with Iran (video below). “We’re not dealing with Belgium here,” Senator Rubio argues, “we’re not dealing with Luxembourg.”

Senator Rubio’s short course is worth taking in by itself. It is also of interest for the response it elicits from Blinken. “We share your concern,” Blinken asserts. “But sometimes reality has a way of intruding…we also see the reality that’s intruding on the Supreme Leader’s thinking.” Unreal.

The Prediction Racket

One of John Kenneth Galbraith’s better and more sound witticisms was that economic forecasting was invented to make astrology look good. He should have lived long enough to take in climate change predictions. While we continue Beta testing our Climate Change Cliché Counter and scoreboard, we are pleased to take note of a new website that will surely be indispensable: ClimateChangePredictions.org. This group effort looks to be a one-stop shopping archive for all of the crazy—and contradictory—predictions that have piled up over the years. Like:

“By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

—Paul Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For Biology, September 1971.

Or even better:

“[By] 1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots…[By 1996] The Platte River of Nebraska would be dry, while a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers.”

—Michael Oppenheimer, published in “Dead Heat,” St. Martin’s Press, 1990

You’ll definitely want to bookmark this site, and send along suggestions for inclusion in the archive.  There’s an entry template for you to do that.

Meanwhile, my pals at the Pacific Research Institute have produced the following very snappy five-minute video on the classics of environmental hysteria, starting with “Why Haven’t We All Starved to Death?” Worth a look:

And while I’m at it, don’t forget to check out the Pacific Research Institute summer “Liberty-at-Sea” cruise while you’re thinking of vacation plans.

Greek Socialists to Send Lump of Coal to the EU?

Greece has elected a far-left socialist government that plans to dump austerity (and perhaps the Euro currency with it) into the dustbin of history. The socialist government is also likely to harsh some mellows among enviro-socialists who think socialism is the path for saving the planet. The Guardian reports the reality:

Syriza’s election victory has kindled hopes of an environmental champion pushing for greater climate ambition on the European stage, but the party will need to balance its green credentials with a commitment to new coal plants, and ambivalence about a major gas pipeline. . .

Syriza is torn between an economy that has contracted at a scale and speed not seen since the 1930s and a sizeable chunk of its party that is eager for growth now, at any cost. The government will need to quickly reframe the debate about ‘sustainable growth’ or lower green expectations, or both. . .

Syriza’s commitment to growth itself would be challenged by many European Greens, but Konstantatos said that ‘degrowth’ ideas would be viewed as “absurd” in the austerity-wracked Greece of today. Leading party thinkers see the ‘keep fossil fuels in the ground’ idea as equally inappropriate – when even Germany continues to burn coal.

“If we face fiscal difficulties from abroad in the medium term, then to burn more lignite instead of importing energy will seem a wise thing to do,” a Syriza source said. “If we don’t have money to import petrol then we will burn lignite which is free – not of a carbon footprint – but relatively cheaper. One way or another Greek lignite will be exploited.”

Those darn socialists. They let you down every time.

State Department funded group working to defeat Netanyahu

John has written about how President Obama’s campaign team is working to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s upcoming elections. To make matters worse, the anti-Netanyahu campaign is benefiting from U.S. taxpayer money.

As John noted, the organization “One Voice” wants to help take down Netanyahu’s party in the March 2015 Knesset elections that will ultimately determine the next Israeli Prime Minister. “One Voice” claims to be non-partisan, but it is working with V-15, an Israeli group dedicated to defeating Netanyahu. And “One Voice” itself admits that it is teaming up with V15 because Israel “need[s] a prime minister and a government who will be responsive to the people.”

I think we know the identity of the Prime Minister “One Voice” doesn’t mean. If not, here’s a hint: the son of Mahmoud Abbas reportedly sits on its advisory board.

“One Voice” is sufficiently well-financed to pay a crack team of five American campaign experts that includes Jeremy Bird, the Obama campaign’s national field director. But who is financing “One Voice”? According to Seth Mandel of Commentary, citing Alana Goodman, “One Voice” has been receiving money from John Kerry’s State Department. In fact, says Mandel, it obtained two State Department grants in the past year.

Confronted about this, “One Voice” didn’t deny the allegation. Instead, it claimed that the money it’s using in the campaign didn’t come from the State Department. A spokesperson stated, “No government funding has gone toward any of the activities we’re doing right now whatsoever.”

But money, as Mandel points out, is fungible.

John Kerry, absurdly cast by the Obama spin machine as Israel’s primary defender within the administration, has been attempting to bludgeon Israel into making reckless concessions to the Palestinians that Israelis oppose. First, Mandel reminds us, came his claim on Israeli TV that the alternative to more Israeli concessions was a “third intifada.” This lent respectability to the Palestinian violence that emerged after Kerry’s quixotic talks failed.

Then came the warning that if Kerry’s diplomatic initiative failed, there would be no stopping European retaliatory actions against Israel. This was an invitation for such retaliation.

But Kerry apparently wasn’t content to rely on violent Palestinians and anti-Israel Europeans to coerce Israel into changing its policy. His Department has been funding a group dedicated to unseating Israel’s Prime Minister, with portions of Obama’s political team taking a lead role, plus a share of “One Voice’s” money.

Our tax dollars at work.

Our Self-Obsessed President

Many commentators have noted how frequently Barack Obama’s speeches focus on himself. It is true: for Obama, no matter the topic, it turns out to be mostly about him.

Earlier today, Obama delivered a farewell speech in New Delhi, wrapping up his trip to India. The speech was only 33 minutes long, and yet…Barack managed to work in references to himself no fewer than 118 times. The folks at Grabien write:

Today in New Delhi, the president of the United States delivered an address to the people of India. Topics ranged from Obama’s pride in being the first U.S. president to visit India twice, to the historic nature of his attendance at India’s Republic Day Parade, to his grandfather’s occupation as a chef, to his graying hair, to his daughters … to his struggles against political critics back home. If this is starting to sound like the president spoke quite a bit about himself, that’s because he did. Somehow in the span of just 33 minutes, Obama referenced himself 118 times. (For those keeping score at home, that’s 3.5 Obama references per minute.)

Or once every 17 seconds. Here is the montage:

One thinks about world leaders who are serious men and women. Does Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, constantly talk about himself in speeches? I would say just about never, let alone once every 17 seconds. The real subject of pretty much every Obama speech is himself: his wonderfulness, his historic importance. The country may be in dire straits and the world may be going up in flames, but at least we enjoy the rare privilege of having Barack Obama as our president!