The IRS scandal: A refresher

The House Oversight Committee has released the video below providing a short refresher in the IRS targeting scandal. One of the Obama administration’s greatest successes is the stonewalling, covering up and bald-faced prevaricating with which it has kept the lid on the scandal.

The video isn’t really comprehensible unless you’ve been following the story, so it is of limited usefulness. But it is good enough to have set me back a bit in my anger management therapy.

Via William A. Jacobson/Legal Insurrection.

More on the Obama Administration Scandal That the Washington Press Corps Tried to Bury

We wrote last night that the story Scott–and no one else–has been reporting for the last week has been confirmed. The computers in the Executive Office of the President have been down for two weeks because they were hacked by a foreign power–the Obama administration now says Russia–and administration technical personnel are having trouble bringing them back on line. This is a huge story, obviously, and it is inconceivable that Power Line knew about it, but no one in the vast Washington press corps got wind of the fact that computer systems belonging to the White House and dozens of important federal agencies (National Security Staff, to name just one) had been hacked and were out of commission.

Another item from yesterday’s limited disclosure by the Obama administration: “U.S. officials were alerted to the breach by an ally.” This means that when the intrusion occurred, we were unaware of it. It also implies that it may have gone on for a long time before someone who spies on Russia–the British? the Israelis?–tipped us off. In other words, even to the extent it has been described by the administration, this was a major failure of American intelligence and technical expertise which could have significant national security repercussions. No wonder the Washington press corps, which consists almost entirely of Democrats, wanted to keep it quiet until after the election!

A conversation with Christopher DeMuth

In the newly posted installment of Conversations with Bill Kristol, we meet up with the formidable public intellectual Christopher DeMuth (complete video below, broken into six chapters here, transcript here). As president of the American Enterprise Institute from 1986 to 2008, DeMuth built AEI into a powerhouse. He currently serves as a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute.

In this conversation, Kristol and DeMuth discuss political thinkers including Edward C. Banfield, James Q. Wilson, and Friedrich Hayek, and consider how ideas shape public policy. DeMuth also relates his story of a chance encounter with then-Senator Barack Obama in which they discussed Chicago politics. (Spoiler alert: the story doesn’t have a happy ending.)

Quotable quote: “The Obamacare implementation of the past seven or eight months is a sort of civics education course to the entire public about unintended consequences and how government says it’s doing this but it’s actually doing the opposite. Many things that were supposed to be getting better are getting worse.”

One more: “These [big government welfare] programs are not succeeding on the merits, they’re succeeding on power. And we’ve made a new discovery which is actually post- the work of these people that we’ve been discussing and that is that we can borrow money, not for emergencies or investment, which is what we used to do, but we can borrow money to finance transfer programs. In other words, current consumption. And once that gets going and the public gets used to the fact that the government is providing more benefits today than taxes to pay for those benefits, you’ve built a new engine.”

This is an incredibly rich conversation providing a short course in politics and public policy taught by someone who has thought deeply about them. DeMuth is, not coincidentally, the author of the best article I have read this year in politics/public policy –“Our democratic debt,” published this summer in National Review — and he persuades me that we must complete the required reading for his short course. Discussing these books (and one essay), DeMuth delights as he instructs:

Edward C. Banfield, Here the People Rule and The Unheavenly City (unfortunately, these books appear to have become collector’s items);

James Q. Wilson, Bureaucracy (see also the site devoted to Wilson); and

Friedrich Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (“this one article ended all pretensions of socialism”) and The Constitution of Liberty.

Who’s a Chickenshit?

In case you missed it, the Obama administration (a “senior administration official”) has gone on record calling Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit.” Somehow, that seems like a poor–not to mention vulgar–turn of phrase. The Netanyahu family is not known for its “chickenshit” qualities. Let’s just say that in his youth, Benjamin did not belong to a “Choom Gang.” Mark Hemingway responds on Twitter:

So who can resist bringing back this famous juxtaposition? Not me:

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Another pathetic sally by an increasingly risible administration.

Is the Washington Press Corps Covering Up Another Obama Administration Fiasco? [Updated]

Last week, we got information from a source in the Executive Office of the President that the EOP’s computer system had been down for, at that time, a week. Federal IT personnel evidently were having trouble identifying and fixing the problem that had brought the computer system down (although email and internet access had been restored), and EOP employees were instructed to say nothing about it. Scott followed up with posts here, here and here. He repeatedly emailed the White House press office, asking for information about the outage. The press office acknowledged receipt of his emails, but refused to answer his questions.

A major intrusion into the Executive Office of the President’s computer system is huge news, with potential implications for national security, among other things. The EOP’s web site identifies the many agencies that are part of EOP:

The following entities exist within the Executive Office of the President:

* Council of Economic Advisers
* Council on Environmental Quality
* Executive Residence
* National Security Staff
* Office of Administration
* Office of Management and Budget
* Office of National Drug Control Policy
* Office of Science and Technology Policy
* Office of the United States Trade Representative
* Office of the Vice President
* White House Office

In addition, the following entities exist within the White House Office:

* Domestic Policy Council
* Office of National AIDS Policy
* Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
* Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation
* White House Rural Council
* National Security Advisor
* National Economic Council
* Office of Cabinet Affairs
* Office of the Chief of Staff
* Office of Communications
* Office of the Press Secretary
* Media Affairs
* Research
* Speechwriting
* Office of Digital Strategy
* Office of the First Lady
* Office of the Social Secretary
* Office of Legislative Affairs
* Office of Management and Administration
* White House Personnel
* White House Operations
* Telephone Office
* Visitors Office
* Oval Office Operations
* Office of Presidential Personnel
* Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs
* Office of Public Engagement
* Council on Women and Girls
* Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
* Office of Urban Affairs
* Office of Scheduling and Advance
* Office of the Staff Secretary
* Presidential Correspondence
* Executive Clerk
* Records Management
* Office of the White House Counsel

Imagine the havoc that could result if a hostile foreign power accessed all of the computer files, including email, of all of those federal agencies. A large number of people work in the Executive Office of the President, and it seems hardly credible that no one in Washington learned of the massive computer outage described by our source. And yet, until today no news source other than Power Line had written a word about it.

This afternoon, I assume as a result of Scott’s persistence, the Obama administration made a limited disclosure that confirmed that our source’s information was correct. The administration’s belated disclosure is described in the Reuters article that Scott wrote about earlier this evening.

The Obama administration told Reuters that the outage affected “some EOP users.” Our source believed that it affected the entire EOP; be that as it may, “some” is critically ambiguous. Did it affect the National Security Staff, or the Office of the First Lady? The National Security Advisor, or the Office of Urban Affairs? The White House, or the Council on Environmental Quality? Or was the outage general across most, if not all, of the EOP? The administration spokesman offers no clue.

Further, the administration says the computer problems resulted from “suspicious cyber activity,” which suggests action by a hostile power. In an apparent effort to reassure, a second administration spokesman tells us that the outage impacted only unclassified networks, and “there were no indications at this time that classified networks had been affected.” This is a distinction that our informant did not draw. Whether it is accurate or not is vitally important, although at this point we have no information about what is stored on classified versus unclassified networks. It is also noteworthy that our informant says that he personally observed that portions of the State Department’s computer network were down last week, as well. Maybe that is just a coincidence, but history does not lead us to put great credence in the Obama administration’s initial spin on any event.

We may or may not ever know what persons or entity launched an apparent cyber attack on the White House and the many agencies that comprise the Executive Office of the President, what its purpose was, or whether it succeeded. If we do find out, it most likely will be after the Obama administration has departed the scene and its various coverups finally unravel.

In the meantime, an obvious question arises: how is it possible that such an attack could be carried out, affecting thousands of federal employees, without being reported? I find it impossible to believe that we at Power Line were the only ones to get wind of what was happening in the White House. Isn’t there a large group of reporters who are collectively referred to as the “White House press corps?” Isn’t covering the President and his Executive Office their full-time job? And aren’t there hundreds more reporters and editors in Washington who ostensibly are on the lookout for news? And did not a single one of these alleged news hounds get wind of the computer outage that our informant told us about?

It think it is almost certain that numerous Washington reporters knew about the cyber attack (if that is what it was) on the Executive Office of the President, and perhaps the State Department and other federal agencies, and chose not to report the story. Why? The only explanation I can think of is that an election is coming up next week. Most Americans have concluded that the Obama administration is incompetent, and President Obama’s unpopularity is dragging down the Democratic Party. Republicans likely will take over the Senate. If voters knew about the EOP computer fiasco, many would see it as another indication of the administration’s ineptitude, and of the fact that things are not going well for the United States of America.

Substantially all Washington reporters and editors are Democrats who went into journalism in order to advance a liberal agenda. They buried the computer story because they feared it would hurt Democrats and help Republicans in next week’s election. That’s my guess, anyway. At one time, reporters thought their job was to dig out information and make it public. Now, most reporters and editors see themselves as blockaders of information: they think their primary job is to make sure that citizens don’t get news that might confuse them or that they are better off not knowing. Especially when a tough election for the Democrats is looming.

UPDATE: The administration tells the Washington Post that the hackers responsible for the White House computer outage are “thought to be working for the Russian government.” Reset! It’s amazing how much information comes out once Scott’s persistence forces the administration’s hand. Whether it is accurate or not, of course, we won’t know for quite a while.

MORE here.

Something happening here

We have been reporting since this past Thursday that the Executive Office of the President has been hit by computer network issues suggestive of hacking, though we have yet to receive a response to any of the several inquiries we submitted to the White House press office. The White House has now chosen to leak the story to Reuters tonight:

Suspicious cyber activity has been detected on the computer network used by the White House and measures have been taken to address it, a White House official disclosed on Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not say who might have been responsible for the activity on what was described as an unclassified computer network used by employees of the Executive Office of the President.

“In the course of assessing recent threats we identified activity of concern on the unclassified EOP network. Any such activity is something that we take very seriously. In this case we took immediate measures to evaluate and mitigate the activity,” the official said.

It was unclear when the activity took place. The official said the technical measures to address the activity had led to limited access to some EOP network services. Some of the issues have been resolved, but the work continues.

“Our actions are ongoing and some of our actions have resulted in temporary outages and loss of connectivity for some EOP users,” the official said.

A second administration official said there were no indications at this time that classified networks had been affected.

The White House, like many government entities in Washington, frequently faces cyber threats.

There are a few loose threads hanging from the story, but we are not going to get help from the White House tying them up.

UPDATE: The Washington Post follows up here.

What’s Wrong With ‘American Studies’ in One Sentence

American Studies is intended to be a cross-discipline combining literature, history, political science, and one or two other fields (anthropology and philosophy perhaps), and that’s what it did when I emphasized the field through the History and Government departments at Claremont more than 30 years ago. It was a wonderful way of having truly interdisciplinary discussion on key issues past and present.

But today, like so many other areas in the humanities, American Studies has become a field for mediocrity, triviality, and politically correct orthodoxy—and often all three.

The American Studies Association is having its big annual meeting in Los Angeles in a few days. I’m not going. The reason is simple. The theme of this year’s meeting is (drum roll please): “The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain In the Post-American Century.”  Apparently it wasn’t enough for the ASA to spearhead the odious boycott of Israel a few months ago.

Here’s how the ASA set out the meeting agenda:

The call for proposals for the 2014 ASA convention in Los Angeles invited fun and fury, critiques of the good life, alternative realities, queer utopias and nothing short of a “new dialectics of pain and pleasure.”

Covering enormous ground (“From Furious Orientals to Funny Arabs,” for example), engaging the serious (“Matters of Life and Death”) and the flippant (“Eat Me: Consuming Urban Cultures”), not to mention the filthy (“The Filth and the Fury: The Cultural Politics of Waste in America”), the program represents this newly disorganized dialectic of pleasure and pain and spends considerable time outlining how and when and where a definition of pleasure for some might open out onto an experience of pain for others.

The presidential address will be given by Lisa Duggan of NYU. I’ve never heard of her either. Her address will celebrate what she calls the “transformation” of American Studies in the following way:

I am especially interested in tracing the impact of queer studies and queer of color critique, of performance studies and affect theory, of sexuality studies and the live arts, of new technologies and social media, on the interdisciplinary terrain of American Studies. I am interested in exploring how these approaches are interacting now with studies of empire and settler colonialism, analyses of the racial state and the history of work and capitalism. I am interested in the political implications of these interactions, and with their failures. Most of all, in the face of the brutal conditions of life and work so many humans and others on the planet confront, I am interested in exploring why we should care about the fun and the fury at all.

And professors of the humanities wonder why they’re losing student enrollment in their courses.

JOHN adds: The cherry on top of that banana split of stupidity was “…the brutal conditions of life and work so many humans and others on the planet confront.” American Studies is a wide-ranging discipline, indeed!