Is it safe to laugh?

The omniscient Glenn Reynolds picked up the image below from a Twitter feed. If Obama’s own incompetence isn’t making him “seethe,” this photoshopped image just might do it. I’m filing this under Laughter is the Best Medicine. All I can say is thanks, I needed that.

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New frontiers in freedom

I may be mistaken, but it has seemed to me for quite a while that the campaign for gay marriage is about something other than “freedom” or “acceptance” or “equal rights.” The point of the campaign seems to me that we are compelled to get our minds right, to borrow the resonant phrase of the jailers in Cool Hand Luke. The proponents of “marriage equality” demand our inner assent. We may not withhold our approval; disapproval is prohibited. If sexual practices are akin to racial characteristics there is a logic to the reorientation that the new civil rights regime means to engineer.

Consider the case of Donald and Evelyn Knapp:

[A] case has arisen in Idaho, where city officials have told ordained ministers they have to celebrate same-sex weddings or face fines and jail time.

The Idaho case involves Donald and Evelyn Knapp, both ordained ministers, who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel. Officials from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, told the couple that because the city has a non-discrimination statute that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Idaho’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the couple would have to officiate at same-sex weddings in their own chapel.

The non-discrimination statute applies to all “public accommodations,” and the city views the chapel as a public accommodation….

The Knapps certainly don’t represent the end of the road we’re on. New frontiers in freedom beckon.

Government case implodes as its former lawyers allege fraud against Holder DOJ

The New York Observer reports that two former Assistant United States Attorneys say the Holder Justice Department engaged in deceit and corruption of justice in connection with the DOJ’s litigation against Sierra Pacific Industries, a California lumber company.

As a result of the allegations, a federal district judge has ordered the recusal from the case of every judge in the Eastern District of California. He reasons that the court may have been defrauded by the government, thus requiring the appointment of an outside judge to handle the matter going forward.

The Holder DOJ brought the case against Sierra Pacific for allegedly being responsible for a wildfire that destroyed 65,000 acres in California. Sierra Pacific maintained that the fire started elsewhere and that state and federal investigators and DOJ attorneys lied about the origin of the fire so they would have a “deep pocket” from which to collect millions of dollars.

Nonetheless, as litigants confronted by the power of the federal government are wont to do, the company settled the case. It agreed to pay $55 million to the United States over a period of five years and to give up 22,500 acres of land.

But now two former DOJ lawyers in the office that prosecuted the action corroborate Sierra Pacific’s claim that the DOJ’s case was based on fraud and deception. Using information provided by these lawyers, Sierra Pacific told the federal court that “the United States presented false evidence to the Defendants and the Court [and] advanced arguments to the Court premised on that false evidence or for which material evidence had been withheld.”

In addition, the United States “prepared key. . .investigators for depositions, and allowed them to repeatedly give false testimony about the most important aspects of their investigation.” The United States also “failed to disclose the facts and circumstances associated with the. . .lead investigator’s direct financial interest in the outcome of the investigation arising from an illegal bank account that has since been exposed and terminated.”

One of the former DOJ lawyers says he was removed from the original prosecution by his boss, David Shelledy, chief of the civil division in the United States Attorney’s office, because he “rebuffed” pressure to “engage in unethical conduct as a lawyer.” According to the Observer, Eric Holder will this week award Shelledy the Department’s highest award for excellence.

It figures.

Another former DOJ lawyer left the prosecution team stating: “It’s called the Department of Justice; it’s not called the Department of Revenue.” He reportedly told defense counsel that in his entire career, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Naturally, the allegations of these former prosecutors made a big impression on the court. As noted, the chief judge of the District, Morrison England, Jr., ordered the recusal of all the Eastern District judges from the case due to evidence that the government defrauded the court. He referred the case to Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, so Kozinski could appoint a judge from outside the Eastern District to handle the case.

In a related case, a California state judge found that the investigation and prosecution of this matter by the state involved “egregious,” “pervasive,” and “reprehensible” abuses that amount to “government corruption.” The state court case “betray[ed] the primary purpose of the judicial system—to reveal the truth,” the judge stated.

The Department of Justice exists to promote justice, not to collect money by winning cases. A lawyer representing a private individual may have to take positions he considers unmeritorious in order to serve his client. Even so, such a lawyer cannot advance his client’s interest through fraud.

A government lawyer should never take an unmeritorious position. If doing so is required to win a case, the government shouldn’t pursue the case. Unlike a private party, the government has no valid interest in winning cases it doesn’t deserve to win.

This view is anachronistic, of course. Government lawyers are as ambitious as private lawyers — maybe more so because they are more likely to be shooting for a judgeship or a move into the lucrative world of private practice. Many government lawyers are also zealots.

Thus, the modern government lawyer has no compunction about trying to sell arguments with scant support in the law or the facts, and there isn’t much anyone can do about it. But when ambition and/or ideology induce government lawyers to rely on facts they know have been invented or to fail to meet the legal obligation to disclose facts, the line has been crossed.

It isn’t surprising that, in the lawless, leftist crony-favoring environment of the Holder DOJ, Sierra Pacific appears to be the victim of a lawless prosecution. The case against it fits a pattern of abuse.

In this instance, David Shelledy, who drove the prosecution against Sierra Pacific, reportedly had a history of resisting the disclosure in environmental cases of evidence the DOJ is required to disclose. The Department’s office of professional responsibility is said to have rejected his positions on this issue in previous cases.

But the Holder DOJ did not rein Shelledy in. And now, it is about to award him for “excellence.”

Shelledy is thus the very model of a Holder DOJ attorney. And if the reports of his conduct in the Sierra Pacific case are accurate, that’s a disgrace.

Tom Friedman Gets One Right

Maybe this needs to be filed under the “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” department, but Tom Friedman actually wrote an interesting and probative column a couple days ago about what’s going on with the falling price of oil, and I’m still picking myself up off the floor in amazement. Here are the three key paragraphs:

Is it just my imagination or is there a global oil war underway pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other? One can’t say for sure whether the American-Saudi oil alliance is deliberate or a coincidence of interests, but, if it is explicit, then clearly we’re trying to do to President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, exactly what the Americans and Saudis did to the last leaders of the Soviet Union: pump them to death — bankrupt them by bringing down the price of oil to levels below what both Moscow and Tehran need to finance their budgets. . .

The Russians have noticed. How could they not? They’ve seen this play before. The Russian newspaper Pravda published an article on April 3 with the headline, “Obama Wants Saudi Arabia to Destroy Russian Economy.” It said: “There is a precedent [for] such joint action that caused the collapse of the U.S.S.R. In 1985, the Kingdom dramatically increased oil production from 2 million to 10 million barrels per day, dropping the price from $32 to $10 per barrel. [The] U.S.S.R. began selling some batches at an even lower price, about $6 per barrel. Saudi Arabia [did not lose] anything, because when prices fell by 3.5 times [Saudi] production increased fivefold. The planned economy of the Soviet Union was not able to cope with falling export revenues, and this was one of the reasons for the collapse of the U.S.S.R.”

Indeed, the late Yegor Gaidar, who between 1991 and 1994 was Russia’s acting prime minister, observed in a Nov. 13, 2006, speech that: “The timeline of the collapse of the Soviet Union can be traced to Sept. 13, 1985. On this date, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the minister of oil of Saudi Arabia, declared that the monarchy had decided to alter its oil policy radically. The Saudis stopped protecting oil prices. … During the next six months, oil production in Saudi Arabia increased fourfold, while oil prices collapsed. … The Soviet Union lost approximately $20 billion per year, money without which the country simply could not survive.”

I have no idea whether the dynamics of the current oil market are the deliberate result of Obama Administration policy, but what I find more interesting here is Friedman’s retrospective ratification of the Reagan Administration’s deliberate policy to squeeze the Soviet Union economically back in the 1980s. Back in the day, liberals argued that the Soviet Union decided to throw in the towel on the Cold War because of the enlightened liberalism of Mikhail Gorbachev alone, and discounted any effects of deliberate Reagan policy. (We know that the Reagan Administration worked on the Saudis to help us crush Soviet oil revenues.) And now here’s Friedman saying that’s what happened after all, though he leaves Reagan out of it.

Wonder what Friedman’s successor will be saying about George W. Bush 25 years from now. I have a guess.

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“We Are Going To Win the Cold War”—A Conversation with Herbert Meyer, Part 3

In this installment of our conversations with Herbert Meyer (part one here, and part two here), we look back at the end of the Cold War, and especially Herb’s prescience in a memo he wrote in the fall of 1983, since declassified, entitled “Why Is the World So Dangerous?” (PDF link). Here he remarks that this memo was not just controversial, but also unwelcome even among many hard-liners in the foreign policy establishment.  (My sound turned out very poor; what’s important is Herb’s sound, not mine, so bear with this.)

NY Times Says: Obama Is Angry at Administration’s Incompetence!

Today’s New York Times headlines: “Amid Assurances on Ebola, Obama Is Said to Seethe.” Said by whom, one wonders. The answer is as you would expect:

“It’s not tight,” a visibly angry Mr. Obama said of the response, according to people briefed on the meeting. …

“He was not satisfied with the response,” a senior official said. …

Senior officials said they pushed Mr. Obama to name an Ebola coordinator….

At the meeting on Wednesday, officials said….

Administration officials insist….

“It’s not that people aren’t doing anything,” a senior official said.

So the Times story is basically a plant by the Obama administration. Multiple “senior officials” have bent reporters’ ears, trying to put the administration in the best possible light with regard to the ebola fiasco. No doubt they were confident the newspaper would act as their mouthpiece, reporting the administration’s spin as news.

Readers of the Times are assured that President Obama is not as lazy and incompetent as he appears:

Administration officials insist the president has been deeply engaged since late August….

Those frustrations spilled over when Mr. Obama convened his top aides in the Cabinet room after canceling his schedule on Wednesday.

This was Obama’s workaholic schedule for last Wednesday, as reported by the White House:

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 11.16.11 AM

That’s our Barry, laboring tirelessly on behalf of the people. But hey, that wasn’t all that the president canceled:

Within hours, White House aides canceled a planned trip by Mr. Obama to Connecticut and New Jersey. Hours later, Thursday’s trip to Rhode Island and New York City was also scrubbed.

The Times doesn’t mention that those were all fundraising trips. The sacrifices a president has to make! It’s not just the president, either; the aides who sat for interviews with the Times want us to know that they, too, are overworked:

In the days that followed, Mr. Obama carried on as usual while his aides gamely added Ebola to their bulging portfolios.

You have to be game to be a White House aide!

But the administration doesn’t just want us to know that Obama is on the case. The main point of this spin exercise is that Obama is really, really angry. So angry that he “seethes.”

[T]here is a deepening frustration, even anger, with how the government has handled key elements of the response. …

“It’s not tight,” a visibly angry Mr. Obama said of the [administration's] response [to ebola]….

People briefed on a cabinet meeting said Mr. Obama was angry at the Ebola response.

So we got that: Obama is angry. Is he angry at himself? Has he looked in the mirror and realized that incompetence starts at the top? Of course not. Obama has never in his life taken responsibility for anything:

At the meeting on Wednesday, officials said, Mr. Obama placed much of the blame on the C.D.C…..

And yet, even the sycophants at the New York Times can’t help noticing a pattern:

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and its arrival in the United States, is the latest in a cascade of crises that have stretched Mr. Obama’s national security staff thin. As the White House scrambled to stop the spread of Ebola beyond a handful of cases, officials were also grappling with an escalating military campaign against the Islamic State, the specter of a new Cold War with Russia over Ukraine, and the virtual disintegration of Yemen, which has been a seedbed for Al Qaeda.

We are experiencing a cascade of crises on the domestic front, too. Barack Obama must be the unluckiest president ever. It’s a good thing he still has the press running interference for him, or there is no telling what might happen.