Goodbye to Eric Holder, With One Question

Eric Holder is on his way out, thankfully. In a farewell interview with Politico, he demonstrated again why he was unfit to be Attorney General. He trashes his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales:

I had to take a Justice Department that was in shambles, you know, when I got here: political hiring, political firing, exclusion of career people from decision making for political reasons.

Someone in Gonzales’s Justice Department tried to bring a little diversity to the almost monolithically liberal department by hiring a few conservatives, and got slapped down for it. Holder continues:

And so, I had to rebuild the department, put in place people who I thought would share my — my view of what this department ought to be.

But wait! How is “put[ting] in place people who…would share my view of what this department ought to be” different from “political hiring”? In fact, it was Holder, not Gonzales, who brought an unprecedented degree of politicization to DOJ. But Politico’s Mike Allen, a fellow Democrat, fawns uncritically.

He asks Holder about the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin cases:

MIKE ALLEN: Travyon Martin’s mother says George Zimmerman got away with murder. You’re writing a letter to Trayvon’s mother, his parents, what will it say?

AG. HOLDER: Well, I’m going to try to — it’s yeah — I’m going to pen a letter to them. -I’ve worked on it already, and I think I’d like to kind of keep that personal. …

MIKE ALLEN: And it looks like no federal charges in Ferguson or Trayvon. I’m a young African-American. What do I think?

AG. HOLDER: Well, I would say, first, I would note I have not announced anything with regard to — to Ferguson. …

MIKE ALLEN: Mr. Attorney General, are the standards of the civil rights laws too high for you to make cases in instances like this?

AG. HOLDER: I mean that’s certainly something that I’m going to want to talk about before I leave. I think some serious consideration needs to be given to the standard of proof that has to be met before federal involvement is appropriate, and that’s something that I am going to be talking about before — before I leave office.

MIKE ALLEN: And in what sense have you come to realize that the standards in the civil rights laws are too high?

AG. HOLDER: Well, I think that if we adjust those standards, we can make the federal government a better backstop, make us more a part of the process in an appropriate way to reassure the American people that decisions are made by people who are really disinterested, and I think that if we make those adjustments, we will have that capacity.

Those pesky laws keep getting in the way! It is hard to imagine what Holder means by “standard of proof.” The laws they are talking about are criminal (principally 18 U.S.C. §242, which could apply to Ferguson, and 18 U.S.C. §249, which could apply to the Martin/Zimmerman case), and the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt.

Finally, Allen asks Holder whether people opposed him because of his race:

MIKE ALLEN: Now, there clearly have been times more recently since then when you have felt disrespected on Capitol Hill. How much of that do you think relates to race?

AG. HOLDER: It’s hard to say. You know, hard to look into people’s minds, you know, their hearts.

MIKE ALLEN: But were there times when you thought that was a piece of it?

AG. HOLDER: Yeah, there have been times when I thought that’s at least a piece of it.

MIKE ALLEN: Now, the piece of it that was racial, how did that make you feel?

This is the kind of tough questioning that Democrats get from “reporters.” A more appropriate question would have been, Since pretty much everyone who holds a high federal office gets criticized, what reason do you have to think that criticism of you had anything to do with race?

But I actually have a different question for Eric Holder: Your predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, was mercilessly savaged by Democrats. In fact, you savaged him in this very interview. Were Democrats’ criticisms of Gonzales based on race? And if not, why not?

When All You Have Is a Hammer. . .

You almost have to have some sympathy for Rep. Raul Grijalva, given that he’s a slave to the crudely Marxist reductionist view that economic interest determines everything. It has been the fundamental driving principle of the left for a very long time. When all you have is a hammer. . .

By coincidence, as Grijalva was rolling out his Climate Blacklist this week, I happened to be rereading portions of G.K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man. Chapter VII, “The War of Gods and Demons,” begins as follows:

The materialist theory of history, that all politics and ethics are the expression of economics, is a very simple fallacy indeed. It consists simply of confusing the necessary conditions of life with the normal preoccupations of life, that are quite a different thing. It is like saying that because a man can only walk on two legs, therefore he never walks about except to buy shoes and stockings. Man cannot live without the two props of food and drink, which support him like two legs; but to suggest that they have been the motives of all his movements in history is like saying that the goal of all his military marches or religious pilgrimages must have been the Golden Leg of Miss Kilmansegg or the idea and perfect leg of Sir Willoughby of Patterne. But it is such movements that make up the story of mankind and without them there would be practically no story at all. Cows may be purely economic, in the sense that we cannot see that they do much beyond grazing and seeking better grazing grounds; and that is why a history of cows in twelve volumes would not be very lively reading.

Let me suggest in passing that a history of cows in twelve volumes would likely be better than much of the academic writing in social science today. But save that for another occasion. The history of the climate change campaign is going to be similarly tedious in the fullness of time.

Netanyahu’s moment

The coming deal with Iran represents folly of a Chamberlainite proportion. One can easily see it in the administration’s prebuttal of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech, reported in today’s New York Times story by David Sanger and Michael Gordon. I hear the voice of Susan Rice in the unnamed administration official quoted by the Times. Whoever it is speaks out of the love that dare not be identified with his or her own name.

Now we too can know how Churchill felt when Chamberlain proclaimed that he had achieved “peace for our time” with Hitler at Munich. It’s not a good feeling.

What is to be done? The Senate has unanimously passed a resolution welcoming Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States for his speech before a joint session of Congress. Adam Kredo reports on the resolution here. I take it the resolution passed on a voice vote so that Democrats would not be identified with it by name. They can welcome Netanyahu and still protest his speech by skipping it.

Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry will of course be pursuing other interests when Netanyahu speaks before Congress.

Netanyahu is of course speaking out before Congress on Tuesday against the coming deal with Iran. I haven’t read a better backgrounder than the BESA paper by Brig. Gen. Yossi Kupperwasser (res.) titled “The struggle over the Iranian nuclear program.” Like the Munich Agreement, the coming deal entails consequences which will travel far with us along our road.

In her current column Caroline Glick sets the moment of Netanyahu’s speech in the context of the past six years of the Age of Obama. Glick notes how far Netanyahu has bent to accommodate the wishes of President Obama. Glick’s conclusion is addressed to her Israeli readers, but it hits home here as well:

Netanyahu is not coming to Washington next Tuesday to warn Congress against Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, because he seeks a fight with Obama. Netanyahu has devoted the last six years to avoiding a fight with Obama, often at great cost to Israel’s national security and to his own political position.

Netanyahu is coming to Washington next week because Obama has left him no choice. And all decent people of good will should support him, and those who do not, and those who are silent, should be called out for their treachery and cowardice.

The genocidal mania of Iran has been the focus of Netanyahu’s concerns for at least the past 20 years. Bill Kristol rightly calls this “Netanyahu’s moment.” Netanyahu can and will lay out the argument — no one can do it better — but he can’t give us the will to do something about it. For that we’re on our own.

The Week in Pictures: #FreeTheGrijalva7 Edition

Really, I haven’t had this much fun since Climategate (which, incidentally, I’ll be revisiting in the next couple of days).  But if you really want to see what a theater of the absurd the environmental world has become, check out the story about Sharon Stone being sued for backing out of an anti-Chevron protest in Eucador.  Seriously?  Sharon Stone is your protest headliner?  What—Leo DiCaprio wasn’t available?  Anyway, this week’s Grijalvations provide a good excuse to round up a “best of” climate material from Weeks past, plus one or two new ones.  Because why haven’t we heard from Al Gore yet?  But first up, lookie what I discovered on the trail map of the ski mountain where I’m currently looking for global warming.  I may have to wander by and snap a selfie.

Power Line

I swear I thought Greenpeace was a credible organization. Now what am I gong to do with all these Green Weenie Awards?

I swear I thought Greenpeace was a credible organization. Now what am I going to do with all these Green Weenie Awards?

Don'tcha just hate it when a House Dem backbencher makes a fool of the climate campaign?

Don’tcha just hate it when a House Dem backbencher makes a fool of the climate campaign?

Never forget.

Never forget.

Gore Noah copy Gore copy

Church of Climatology copy

Is Pachauri giving Gore tips on releasing his chakra?

No, no, Al: you hold your Green Weenie Award this way!

Climate Colder Winters copy Gore Marked Down copy

Seen Gore Lately? copy Climate Causes Everything copy

Weather copy Gore meme scandal copy

Gore Flamethrower copy IPCC HQ copy Climate Skeptic copy Debate Over copy

Dyson copy Peer Review copy

Hillary Denier copy

Michael Mann: Don'tcha just hate it when a Dem House backbencher. . . oh wait, Al already said this.

Michael Mann: Don’tcha just hate it when a Dem House backbencher. . . oh wait, Al already said this.

Mann Torture copy

Mann Cartoon copy

The perfect spokesman for the climate campaign.

Caption contest!

More ISIS Jobs copy Crusades again copy

Obama Pearl Harbor copy

50 Shades of Bray copy Biden Harris copy

Obama Keystone copy Dissent Hypcrisy copy

Obamacare Non Oscar copy

Net Neutrality copy

Clinton Dress copy

Hide Potato copy X-men copy Receive Bacon copy Pie Area copy To Be or Not copy Darth Heimlich copy

Stool Sample copy

Thumb Drives copy

Thellma and Llouise

Thellma and Llouise

And finally. . .

Hot 20Y copy

Are Washington Republicans Incompetent?

It is almost unbelievable how badly Congressional Republicans have botched their opposition to President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty and the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. The House, under John Boehner’s direction, did the right thing: it passed a bill that fully funded DHS, but barred spending to implement the amnesty that has now been declared illegal by a federal court. The action then moved to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried repeatedly to bring the House measure to the floor for a vote. Four times, the Democrats filibustered the DHS funding bill.

As a result of the Democrats’ filibuster, DHS was in danger of running out of money. That put Republicans in a strong position. All they had to do was…nothing. If they didn’t blink, pressure on the Democrats to fund DHS would prove irresistible. It’s not for nothing the voters gave the GOP a majority, right?

Instead, Mitch McConnell backed off. He gave in to Harry Reid’s demands, even though Reid was surely bluffing, and the Senate passed a “clean” DHS funding bill that did nothing to block the illegal amnesty. That put the House in an untenable position. With the clock ticking down to the last hours before DHS ran out of money, it was now Republicans–not Democrats–who were standing in the way of funding the Department.

Having been sold out by the Senate, House Republicans bowed to the inevitable. John Boehner tried to pass a three-week funding extension, but didn’t have the votes. At the last possible moment, the House fell back to a seven-day extension, with Democrats providing the needed margin of support. The seven-day extension can have no possible purpose other than to give Republicans an opportunity to beat an orderly retreat.

If the Republicans wanted to arm their enemies, they couldn’t have done a better job. This is the New York Times’ triumphant account:

Republicans vowing to govern effectively as a congressional majority failed a fundamental test Friday, when House leaders managed to narrowly pass only a seven-day funding extension to avert a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security just hours before money was to run out.

That’s a news story, not an opinion column. But it’s hard to blame the Democrats for exulting. They were in a corner; they had no cards to play; the voters have ejected them from the majority in both chambers; their objective was to keep alive a patently illegal program that had already been declared so by a federal judge. And the Republicans still couldn’t manage to pull out a victory.

Politics is like anything else: if you want to succeed, you have to be good at it. As best I can tell, Washington Republicans aren’t. We need new leadership, and we need it now.

The Obama Administration’s AR-15 Ammo Ban: What’s It All About?

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has unveiled a new “Framework For Determining Whether Certain Projectiles Are ‘Primarily Intended For Sporting Purposes.’” Under that rather bland rubric, ATF says that it will prohibit the sale of ammunition using the M855 bullet, which includes some of the most common types of ammunition used in AR-15 rifles.

This gets rather technical, but briefly, what we are talking about here is the projectile, or bullet. The M855 bullet has a lead core and a steel tip. It is commonly used in 5.56 and .223 cartridges. ATF proposes to ban the M855 as an armor-piercing projectile under the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. These laws generally prohibit the sale of armor-piercing ammunition in order to protect law enforcement personnel who wear bullet-proof vests.

Under the statutes, whether a bullet is armor-piercing depends on its materials. A bullet made entirely from steel or certain other materials is considered armor-piercing. However, the NRA argues:

[The M855] does not, however, have a core made of the metals listed in the law; rather, it has a traditional lead core with a steel tip, and therefore should never have been considered “armor piercing.”

Nevertheless, ATF classified the M855 projectile as armor piercing some time ago. Until now, it has been legal because the 5.56 and .223 cartridges in which the M855 is used have been exclusively rifle ammunition, and the definition of armor piercing ammunition includes the requirement that it “may be used in a handgun.” What has changed, according to ATF, is that 5.56 and .223 cartridges that include the M855 steel-tipped bullet can now be used in AR-15-style handguns:

As a result of the availability of these handguns, however, some conventional rifle ammunition now falls within the statutory definition and is properly classified as “armor piercing ammunition,” despite the fact that the ammunition itself has not changed.

Does ATF’s action make sense? Not really. The point of the statutes at issue is to protect law enforcement personnel against armor-piercing bullets fired from concealable handguns. ATF recognizes this purpose:

However, that analysis also necessarily implicates the officer safety concern LEOPA was designed to address—ammunition containing armor-defeating metals that may be fired from relatively small, concealable firearms.

AR-15-style pistols are not small or concealable. This, for example, is SIG Sauer’s P516 pistol. It is 23″ long:

P516-7IN-SB15-Detail-Hero

No one is going to take a police officer by surprise with a 23″ long weapon. The Washington Examiner quotes a former officer:

“Criminals aren’t going to go out and buy a $1,000 AR pistol,” Brent Ball, owner of 417 Guns in Springfield, Mo. and a 17-year veteran police told the Springfield News-Leader. “As a police officer I’m not worried about AR pistols because you can see them. It’s the small gun in a guy’s hand you can’t see that kills you.”

Moreover, a knowledgeable reader who works in the firearms industry points out that the “armor piercing” quality of a steel-tipped bullet is really irrelevant. Essentially all rifle ammunition will pierce the vests worn by police officers:

The ban is silly for a lot of reasons. It has been claimed that the ban will protect police officers from this armor piercing ammunition, but in truth ANY ordinary ammunition in .223 / 5.56 caliber will defeat virtually all bullet proof vests worn by police officers, regardless if the bullet is armor piercing or not. This is the nature of center fire rifle ammunition, and its very high velocity relative to pistol ammunition, not to mention long skinny bullets relative to short fat pistol bullets.

Critics of the ban suggest that the Obama administration is trying to achieve a ban on AR-15 rifles through the back door. This ATF standard won’t achieve that result by itself, of course, as most AR-15 ammunition will remain legal. But the fear is not irrational; liberals have openly argued for attacks on ammunition as an indirect means of achieving gun control.

Comments on ATF’s proposed new rule remain open until March 16. In the meantime, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte has written to object to the M855 ban; his letter is here. It says, in part:

The effects of these restrictive interpretations are untenable. For example, since 1986 ATF has considered the M855 5.56 x 45mm cartridge to be “exempt” under the sporting purposes test (although its core contains a substantial amount of lead, raising questions about its classification as “armor piercing” in the first place). ATF has now rescinded that exemption because repeating handguns that fire the M855 round are commercially available. Yet this round is amongst the most commonly used in the most popular rifle design in America, the AR-15. Millions upon millions of M855 rounds have been sold and used in the U.S., yet ATF has not even alleged – much less offered evidence – that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer. The idea that Congress intended LEOPA to ban one of the preeminent rifle cartridges in use by Americans for legitimate purposes is preposterous.

While the banning of these popular cartridges is the most visible and immediate effect of ATF’s shifting policy, the “Framework” has other serious implications. It will, for example, inhibit the development and use of rifle ammunition containing non-lead materials, even as efforts are afoot both at the federal and state levels to impose bans or restrictions on lead ammunition. The eventual collision of these trends could result in drastically reduced options for lawful ammunition users.

Which, one suspects, is what the Obama administration has in mind.

More Blowback

The American Meteorological Society, regarded as a mainstream science organization, has issued a strong statement critical of Rep. Grijalva’s “investigation,” whose central point is the same as mine yesterday.  You can find a PDF link at the top of the AMS website, but here’s the complete text of the letter (with a facsimilie below):

Dear Representative Grijalva:

Science and jurisprudence have in common the practice of the careful and critical evaluation of ideas, facts, assertions, and conclusions. The remarkable and time tested results apparent to all rely on guidelines for the practice of research, of argument, of evidence, and of integrity that are clear and clearly honored. It is in this spirit that the American Meteorological Society (AMS) is strongly committed to academic freedom, open scientific debate, and free expression of scientific ideas (see, for example, the AMS Statement on Freedom of Scientific Expression: http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/2012statement_freedom.html). The AMS is also deeply committed to transparency in science, the free availability of scientific data and academic research products, and full disclosure of funding sources and potential conflicts of interest (see, for example, the obligations of authors wishing to publish their results in AMS scientific journals: www.ametsoc.org/PUBSAuthorObligations).

Despite its commitment to transparency and full disclosure within the scientific process, the AMS is concerned by the “Letters to Seven Universities Asking for Documents on Climate Change Research” (http://democrats.naturalresources.house.gov/documents/letters-seven-universities-asking-documents-climate- change-research) posted on the Committee website on 24 February. Publicly singling out specific researchers based on perspectives they have expressed and implying a failure to appropriately disclose funding sources — and thereby questioning their scientific integrity — sends a chilling message to all academic researchers. Further, requesting copies of the researcher’s communications related to external funding opportunities or the preparation of testimony impinges on the free pursuit of ideas that is central to the concept of academic freedom.

The AMS maintains that peer-review is the appropriate mechanism to assess the validity and quality of scientific research, regardless of the funding sources supporting that research as long as those funding sources and any potential conflicts of interest are fully disclosed. The scientific process that includes testing and validation of concepts and ideas — discarding those that cannot successfully withstand such testing — is chronicled in the peer- reviewed scientific literature. We encourage the Committee to rely on the full corpus of peer-reviewed literature on climate science as the most reliable source for knowledge and understanding that can be applied to the policy options before you.

Sincerely,

Dr. Keith L. Seitter

AMS Executive Director

Incidentally, the climatistas’ real complaint about Roger Pielke Jr. is precisely that he uses the peer reviewed literature in ways they don’t like.

AMS Letter copy