Remy on the ISIS Crisis

Oh yeah, you knew this was coming: our hero Remy Munasifi and our pals at Reason.TV out this morning with a 90 second video that combines mockery of Obama’s unserious ISIS “strategy” and the NFL’s timorousness.  Enjoy: (more…)

Where the NEA Meets the EPA

Lots and lots of climate news right now, ahead of next week’s UN “Leaders Climate Summit” that no world leaders are attending, but there’s one story out the last few days that deserves special notice: did you know that $700,000 of your tax dollars went to subsidizing an off-Broadway musical about the evils of climate change? Yes, I know, this sounds like a plot to a lame Mel Brooks remake (especially since the play bombed worse that the Kyoto Protocol or Al Gore’s diet plan), but it actually happened:

The curtain has come down on Climate Change: The Musical and reviews of the taxpayer-funded play about global warming are downright icy.

The play, which is actually entitled “The Great Immensity,” and was produced by Brooklyn-based theater company The Civilians, Inc. with a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, ended its run early amid a storm of criticism from reviewers and lawmakers alike. It opened a year late, reached just five percent of its anticipated audience and likely fell short of its ambitious goal of informing a new generation about the perceived dangers of man-caused climate change.

Plus, it apparently wasn’t very good.

“Despite fine performances, the musical mystery tour is an uneasy mix of fact and credulity-stretching fiction. It’s neither flora nor fauna,” New York Daily News reviewer Joe Dziemianowicz wrote in a review at the time. “[The] songs — whether about a doomed passenger pigeon or storm-wrecked towns — feel shoehorned in and not, pardon the pun, organic.”

Remember this one, next time you hear people complaining about proposed cuts to the budget of the National Science Foundation. Or make the off-Broadway producers apply to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) instead, since that’s where most mediocre artists line their pockets. Better still: why don’t we just merge the NEA with the EPA, since the EPA specializes in fiction?

Besides, our federal science organizations have better and more important things to study with your tax dollars, like finding out why lesbians are obese.

Gov. Christie Exonerated

Did you hear on the national network news broadcasts that the U.S. Justice Department investigation into the New Jersey bridge closures has found no evidence of Gov. Chris Christie’s prior knowledge or involvement?  Or maybe you heard it on the 15-part series about the scandal—the biggest since Teapot Dome!, according to historian Dr. Albert Sharpton, Ph.D (I’m sure he has an honorary Ph.D from somewhere)—on MSNBC?  Me neither.

The U.S. Justice Department investigation into Gov. Chris Christie’s role in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal has thus far uncovered no evidence indicating that he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span, federal officials tell NBC 4 New York.

The September 2013 closures — where several entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee were shut down, causing a traffic nightmare for commuters – has been the subject of several federal and state investigations.

But of course the damage is done, as a subsequent paragraph makes clear:

When the final report is issued, Christie may still face complications from the scandal, said Lee Miringoff, Director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

That was the whole point.  As the “war on women” rhetoric loses its utility, watch for a new Democratic innuendo/talking point to emerge about how “every Republican governor in the country is ‘under investigation.’”

At least Joe McCarthy was after our country’s enemies with his reckless accusations.

UPDATE: Sure enough, I was right: Sharpton does indeed have an honorary doctorate.  (Hat tip: RS.)

A Walk on the Supply Side

A third installment of my conversation with CRB editor Charles Kesler about Ronaldus Magnus on the Claremont Institute’s “American Mind” is now up, just 6:30 long–perfect for a cup of espresso.  This time we look back on supply-side economics and spending controversies.  (Stand by, incidentally, for several Reagan-related announcements and items in the coming days.)

Verboten in Tehran

The Telegraph reports that six Iranian singers who were arrested for appearing in a viral video dancing to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy” have been sentenced to six months in prison and 91 lashes. The video appears to have received well over a million views at this point. Oliver Duggan writes:

The group became famous in May when their music video for the hit song circulated on YouTube, racking up more than 150,000 views before attracting the attention of Iranian authorities.

It featured three men and three unveiled women singing and dancing along to the four minute song in the street and rooftops of Tehran, mimicking the style of Pharrell’s official video.

Authorities arrested the group for contravening Iran’s strict vulgarity laws, which prohibit public displays of dancing, and paraded the six on state television, forcing them to express remorse for their behaviour.

The Islamic Republic condemned the video as a “vulgar clip which hurt public chastity” and in a trial on Wednesday sentenced the participants to a suspended sentence of six months in prison.

The director of the video was handed a suspended sentence of one year, while the whole group was told they would receive 91 lashes each.

Duggan also reports that the six have previously “confessed,” as featured on Iranian state television:

Speaking shortly after the group’s initial arrest, the brother of one of the video’s star told The Telegraph that their confessions on state television were “outrageous.”

Siavash Taravati, who lives in the US, said: “The IRIB’s (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) action in showing the “confession” of my sister and her friends…is just outrageous.

“Apparently they first arrest people without any charge or civil right to defend themselves, then interrogate them and then make them confess and finally broadcast their show.”

Duggan quotes Pharrell Williams commenting via Twitter this past May: “It’s beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.” The late singer/songwriter Tim Buckley had an album he titled Happy Sad. That doesn’t quite cover this situation, but it’s getting there. The video is below.

At FOX News, Lisa Daftari combines the video story with another piece of Iranian justice showing that the singers could have met a worse fate if they had been found guilty of “insulting the Prophet.” Daftari reports that an Iranian blogger found guilty of the offense will receive “the ultimate penalty.”

Via Stephen Gutowski/Free Beacon.

Bill Henck: Inside the IRS, part 7

William Henck has worked inside the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel as an attorney for over 26 years. We posted his personal account, including his testimony to a retaliatory audit conducted by the IRS against him, this past February in “Inside the IRS.” We followed up with subsequent posts including “Inside the IRS, part 5″ and, most recently, “Inside the IRS, part 6,” both regarding the promotion of Fred Schindler to a senior position within the Office of Chief Counsel. Bill now writes to suggest how a competent investigation of politically targeted IRS audits could be conducted:

According to a recent column by Jay Sekulow on the FOX News website and a statement by House Ways and Means Committee member Charles Boustany, 10 percent of the conservative donors whose names were improperly obtained by the IRS in the section 501(c)(4) scandal were subjected to individual audits. This is an extraordinarily high individual audit rate for any random subset of the population.

Mr. Sekulow discussed in his article the possibility that this high audit rate may be connected to the “special research project” initiated by Lois Lerner and others in the IRS. This is disturbing news, but it also presents an opportunity for Congress to break free from the current trench warfare involving missing hard drives and BlackBerries; a situation recently described by a congressman as “Ground Hog Day.”

Congressional investigators presumably know or could obtain the names of the specific conservative donors who were among the 10 percent audited by the IRS. If these taxpayers provided privacy waivers, congressional investigators could then trace back each individual audit and ascertain who and what triggered each audit.

Audits do not arise out of thin air; any given IRS audit is initiated by a Service employee in one manner or another. It would be relatively easy to trace back each audit to its ultimate source. It may be that the source in many, if not all, of the audits in question was the “special research project.” If so, that would explain much of the Service’s behavior toward the congressional investigations and would also explain Lois Lerner’s decision to take the Fifth.

To state the obvious, the Service is a labyrinth. In addition, the Service has “lawyered up” and is only forthcoming with relevant information if the congressional investigators ask the exact right questions. In this environment, congressional investigators would be better off reversing field from a focus on the IRS bureaucracy and focus their attention on the specific audits that may have been retaliatory.

I know for a fact that the Service conducts retaliatory audits; Leigh and I experienced one up close and personal. The issue now is whether the Service did it to a whole bunch of people for political purposes. We know that these people were audited and we know that there is nothing in the IRS organizational culture to prevent audits from being retaliatory in nature. The only question is why these individuals were audited. If they sign waivers, Congress has a golden opportunity to get to the heart of the IRS scandal. Furthermore, if the 10 percent audit rate is a statistical quirk, the Service has every reason to fully cooperate with such an investigation.

Based on a link in Mr. Sekulow’s article, the House Ways and Means Committee is only looking at the general audit selection procedures used by the Service, as opposed to investigating the specific audits themselves. I contacted the House Ways and Means Committee with the idea of looking at specific audits, but I never heard back from them. I have written this post because people on Capitol Hill are a lot more likely to read this website than my e-mail. I hope this helps them.

Thoughts from the ammo line

Our friend Ammo Grrrll reflects on SCHADENFREUDE. She writes:

Many years ago, when I still had to navigate the Minnesota highways in winter, I had one of those experiences that fall under the category of Schadenfreude. That is, of course, a fancy word for taking unseemly pleasure when someone is hoisted on his own petard.

Petards being in short supply generally, my first Schadenfreude involved a car.

After a couple of terrifying spin-outs, one with my 3-year-old baby in the car, I admit that I was a very cautious winter driver. On this day, we had icy, blizzard conditions, and I was driving on the freeway in the hinterlands. A red Corvette was tailgating my slow-moving little Saturn, honking and giving me the finger in a very un-Minnesotan manner. The approved method of indicating driving dismay in Minnesota is to pull even with the offender, make eye contact, and shake your head slowly while clucking your teeth.

The guy would not let up. Though I was in the right lane, he was clearly demanding that I drive faster and refusing to go around me. After many scary miles of almost touching my bumper, he pulled around in fury and gunned it. I had nearly pitted out my down coat and was very happy to see him go.

Not five miles down the road I saw just the top of a red Corvette buried in the right-hand snowbank. I’m pretty sure the Christian – and definitely the Jewish – thing to do would have been to stop to offer assistance. But, it was only a few short weeks until Spring thaw, and I didn’t want to ruin his teachable moment. I’m confident he couldn’t hear the giddy laughter over Merle Haggard singing about always being on a mountain when he falls.

The second memorable Schadenfreude event happened in the Ritz Carlton hotel in Naples, Florida. My room was not ready when I checked in. They apologized profusely, and I was waiting patiently in the lobby, sipping on the third tropical drink that was supplying the patience.

At last, the front desk clerk motioned for me to come up to the desk to get my keys. Before I could get there, a furious young woman pushed ahead of me, nearly knocking me over. She was dressed in designer clothes from head to toe. Her purse and briefcase cost more than everything in my closet put together, including the exercise bike behind the muu-muus. With no offense to Scott, John or Paul, I’m pretty sure she was a young lawyer. She was waving the room assignment she had in her beautifully-manicured hand.

She harangued the desk clerk in a loud imperious tone: “I clearly informed you that I wanted a room on the water when I made this reservation! This is completely unacceptable. How can you people be so incompetent?? You have put me on the golf course!”

And the desk clerk replied in that icy, yet courteous tone mastered by gay men: “Madam, ALL our rooms are on the water. We do not have a golf course. That room is on the Gulf.”

Oh Lord, I wish y’all had been there. Sadly, this time my laughter was not covered by Merle. If looks could kill, your humble humor columnist would not be alive at this time.

And so, this brings us to the present day and Barack Hussein Obama, mmm, mmm, mmm.

He is still our President, the only one we’ve got, and Commander in Chief in what may or may not be “war”-time, depending on the spokes-tool or the definition du jour of “war” or “terrorist” or “Islamic.” Bill was only unsure of the definition of “is.” Clearly, this whole crew needs a good dictionary.

When I think of the way that President Bush was treated by a sniping Mr. Vote Present and the left-wing of his party with the towers still smoking on the ground, it is really hard not to feel some measure of Schadenfreude that The Ocean Lowerer is being swamped by events. You can take months to decide which puppy most reminds you of the lapdogs in your press corps. You know they will wait forever, tails wagging, legs twitching, with their little reporter’s notebooks in their teeth. But you cannot dither forever acting on intelligence to rescue a hostage without disastrous consequences and “bad optics.”

I clearly remember a discussion in the letters section of the Minneapolis paper about whether it was moral to hope for America’s war plan to succeed if it meant that the Evil “Bushitler” – gosh, what cleverness! – would get credit for it.

I’d like to think that our side is better than that. Or at least better than me.