A new old regime

Hamburger29 I wrote at some length about the inconsistency of administrative law with what we understand to be our constitutional system in “Crisis of the administrative state.” Searching around online for additional sources of learning on the subject, I happened to discover a listing for Professor Philip Hamburger’s then forthcoming book, Is Administrative Law Unlawful?

I brought the listing to the attention of our friends at National Review, hoping the magazine would take note of the book. I was afraid the book might die on the vine for lack of attention, but it has been reviewed both in the Wall Street Journal (behind the Journal’s subscription paywall) and the Weekly Standard. That’s quite an accomplishment for a sober work of legal scholarship published by a university press.

Our friends at NR sent me their review copy. Thanks to Rich Lowry and Michael Potemra, my review of the book appears in the current (August 11) issue of NR, on your newsstand now. This morning NR has posted the review online with a rewritten introduction to relate the book to the week’s headlines. Please check it out: “A new old regime.”

In his vitally important book, Professor Hamburger demonstrates the regressive nature of the Progressive project. He explains and vindicates the original project of the Constitution in erecting barriers to the exercise of absolute power. As Barack Obama brings the crisis of the administrative state to full boil, I believe that Professor Hamburger has given us, not a book of the season, but a book for all seasons.

NOTE: Thanks to the folks at RealClearPolitics for including the review in their honor roll this morning.

Tweeting Conor Powell

Hamas carefully manages civilian casualty statistics in Gaza as a tool of war. It embeds its men and materiel among civilian facilities such as hospitals, mosques and UN schools. When Israel targets weapons depots and sources of fire, these facilities may be targeted with resulting casualties.

Yet Hamas itself frequently turns out to be the direct cause of the civilian casualties, as in the case of Jihad Masharawi in 2012 and other incidents this time around. The media nevertheless attribute the responsibility for every such incident to Israel. See, for example, this Washington Post story along with the embedded statistics by Sudarsan Rhagavan.

Yesterday was a bad day for civilian casualties in Gaza. The Wall Street Journal reports that “UN blames Israel for shelter attack.” The editors of the New York Post provide the sane response in “Obama’s friendly fire.”

It’s important to get both the facts and the moral calculus right. I don’t think anyone has done a better than Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal column “Palestine makes you dumb” (behind the Journal’s subscription paywall). He writes in part:

Consider the media obsession with the body count. According to a daily tally in the New York Times, NYT -1.40% as of July 27 the war in Gaza had claimed 1,023 Palestinian lives as against 46 Israelis. How does the Times keep such an accurate count of Palestinian deaths? A footnote discloses “Palestinian death tallies are provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”

OK. So who runs the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza? Hamas does. As for the U.N., it gets its data mainly from two Palestinian agitprop NGOs, one of which, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, offers the remarkably precise statistic that, as of July 27, exactly 82% of deaths in Gaza have been civilians. Curiously, during the 2008-09 Gaza war, the center also reported an 82% civilian casualty rate.

When minutely exact statistics are provided in chaotic circumstances, it suggests the statistics are garbage. When a news organization relies—without clarification—on data provided by a bureaucratic organ of a terrorist organization, there’s something wrong there, too.

But let’s assume for argument’s sake that the numbers are accurate. Does this mean the Palestinians are the chief victims, and Israelis the main victimizers, in the conflict? By this dull logic we might want to rethink the moral equities of World War II, in which over one million German civilians perished at Allied hands compared with just 67,000 British and 12,000 American civilians.

The real utility of the body count is that it offers reporters and commentators who cite it the chance to ascribe implicit blame to Israel while evading questions about ultimate responsibility for the killing. Questions such as: Why is Hamas hiding rockets in U.N.-run schools, as acknowledged by the U.N. itself? What does it mean that Hamas has turned Gaza’s central hospital into “a de facto headquarters,” as reported by the Washington Post? And why does Hamas keep rejecting, or violating, cease-fires agreed to by Israel?

The media blight is universal. Take, for example, FOX News Channel’s man in Gaza, one Conor Powell. FOX anchors regularly turn to Powell for his hysterical recitation of civilian casualties. I gave Powell a try on Twitter earlier this week. Here is what turned out to be my Twitter soliloquy.

About those new Lois Lerner emails

It didn’t require nasty emails from Lois Lerner to establish that the IRS targeted conservative groups for harassment. The numerical disparity in the IRS’s treatment of conservative vs. liberal groups makes the case.

107 conservative groups were scrutinized. They were asked an average of 15 questions and approved at a rate of 46 percent. Only seven liberal groups were scrutinized. They were asked an average of less than five questions. All seven were approved.

Nonetheless, we now have the nasty emails and they confirm what the numbers proved.

Most of the attention will be on Lerner’s use of an obscenity to describe conservative talk show hosts and their callers. But more telling is her claim that such conservative activists will do the work of “alien terrorists” and take America down, and that because of them America may be “through.”

An IRS bigwig might well view a group’s members as []holes yet still choose not to harass the group. But if she believes the group is going to take America down, she will likely consider it her duty to get in its way.

And, again, the numbers show that conservative groups were singled out for particular harassment.

Democrats tilt towards Hamas, blame Republicans

Caroline Glick makes a persuasive case that under President Obama, America has switched sides in the Middle East. It has switched, that is, from Israel’s side to that of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

You could argue that Obama has switched sides twice. First, during the failed peace process, from Israel to the Palestinian Authority; now, in the Gaza war, from the PA to Hamas. After all, Obama undercut the PA by rejecting the ceasefire proposal (Egypt’s) that it favored and instead pushing Qatar’s pro-Hamas concept.

Deep down, though, I suspect that Obama has been partial to the Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore to Hamas, all along.

But it isn’t just Obama that has switched sides in the Middle East. Democrats have too, albeit not to the same extent.

This is clear from recent polling. Seth Mandel points to a Gallup Poll showing that, by a 47-31 percent margin, Democrats do not think Israel’s actions in Gaza are justified. In addition, according to a Pew survey, Democrats are about evenly divided over whether Israel or Hamas is more responsible for the current violence.

Republicans, meanwhile, overwhelmingly side with Israel in both polls.

What explains the fact that Democrats now see Israel as no better than Hamas in a war precipitated by Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel and its refusal to accept a cease fire.

Pro-Israel liberals have come up with an odd but not unexpected excuse: it’s the Republicans’ fault.

This, as Mandel notes, was the thesis of the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg back in 2012. He argued that by criticizing President Obama for his policy towards Israel, Republicans make “supporting Israel distasteful to many Democrats.” Worse, they cause Democrats to “lump supporters of Israel in the same category they reserve for climate-change-denying anti-choice Obamacare haters.”

Lefty blogger Josh Marshall recently expressed a milder version of this theme. Israel, he argued, plays a “dangerous game” when it causes its alliance with the U.S. to be heavily identified with the Republican party.

As question-begging arguments go, this one belongs in the Hall of Fame. Why is there enough distance, when it comes to Israel, between Obama and Republicans that the GOP finds itself able to criticize Obama on this issue? Why has Israel’s alliance with the U.S. come to be closely identified with only the GOP? And how can Democrats even contemplate equating supporters of Israel with the conservative political activists they despise the most?

The obvious answer is that ideology drives contemporary Democrats to view Israel far less favorably than Republicans view Israel. The political fallout — criticism by Republicans of Obama’s Israel policy and the identification of the Israel-U.S. alliance with the GOP rather with both parties — is a symptom of the difference in the way the two parties view Israel, not its cause.

What accounts for the underlying ideological difference between the two parties when it comes to Israel? The answer, I think, is this: Israel is a U.S. ally with strong Western values and a willingness to use military force when necessary to protect itself.

Most Republicans are quite comfortable with these attributes. Indeed, we find them refreshing.

Many Democrats are uncomfortable with one or more of these attributes. Their ambivalence towards the U.S. and its values causes them view a hardcore U.S. ally skeptically (or worse). Their knee-jerk tendency to sympathize with what we used to call Third World nations engenders ambivalence (or worse) towards a bastion of Western values in the midst of the Third World. Their loathing of the use of force to further merely national interests makes them hostile to a strong nation that uses force effectively.

And it’s only going to get worse as old-time Democrats fade away.

Global Warming Hoax: The Basics

This video is a nice, four-minute summary of some of the basics of the global warming debate. It was shot at the Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change, between July 7 and July 9. If you have followed the science closely, you won’t learn anything you didn’t already know. But it is a good introduction for those who are new to the science, and an enjoyable overview for anyone. I recommend it. It is also a good resource to share with your less well-informed friends, to give them a taste of climate realism:

House Republicans Vote to Take Obama to Court

Today, the House voted 225-201, nearly along party lines, to authorize litigation against President Obama. This is the long-awaited challenge to Obama’s usurpation of power via executive decree. The vote was on House Resolution 676. Here is the text of the resolution:

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House leadership decided to focus the resolution only on Obama’s actions with respect to Obamacare. This seems counter-intuitive; I would think it would be helpful to show a pattern of disregard for the law. In the case of this administration, that would be easy to do. But the Washington Examiner reports Congressman Pete Sessions’ rationale for the resolution’s narrow focus:

“We have chosen to bring this legislation to sue the president over his selective implementation of the Affordable Care Act because it is the option most likely to clear the legal hurdlers necessary to restore the balance of power,” Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said.

No doubt a lot of thought went into that choice. I assume the House leadership also has a plan to get a decision in their lawsuit before Obama leaves office, but that won’t be easy.

Lost in the Democrats’ yammering about politics and the appalling cost of the lawsuit–the first time in some years the Democrats have worried about the cost of anything, which in this case is de minimis–is that Obama’s violation of the Constitution is undeniable. Article II does not authorize the President to rule by decree, or to nullify federal laws that displease him. Obama has obviously acted unconstitutionally by changing the Obamacare statute by decree–repeatedly–and, even more seriously, by gutting the nation’s immigration laws. Rather than “tak[ing] care that the laws be faithfully executed,” as is his constitutional duty, Obama has repeatedly undermined and even nullified the country’s laws. We have never had a president like him before; let’s hope we never have one again.

The Democrats have been raising money for some time on the threat of a lawsuit against Obama, but that is rather small beer. What they really want is impeachment. So they slyly characterize the lawsuit as a step toward impeachment, without any explanation of why that should be the case. I get three or four fundraising emails from the Democrats every day, talking about the imminent threat of impeachment. I have reproduced a few of them here. In fact, no serious Republican is talking about impeaching Obama, and there is zero chance of any such move in the House. (Unless, of course, Obama does something really bizarre.) But for the Democrats, money is pretty much everything, and impeachment is catnip to their base. So every day, they try to keep the idea of impeachment alive.

Grabien compiled this amusing montage of Democrats desperately trying to promote the impeachment of President Obama as a political threat. Grabien titles the clip: “Democrats not letting impeachment dream die.”

I don’t know. The Democrats understand their base better than I do. But can it possibly be a good idea to tell your party’s members–three times a day!–that the leader of their party is in danger of being impeached? That doesn’t seem like good publicity to me, but maybe I’m just behind the times. At least when it comes to fundraising.

Breaking: The (Leftist) Billionaire Boys Club

This afternoon there’s an important update on the story of the epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer, the billionaire promising to spend $100 million on behalf of Democrats, and John’s long analysis of the Democracy Alliance.

Senate Report copyThe Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have released a new report entitled The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA (PDF link).  The report gives the lie to the frequent hysteria over the Koch brothers, as it shows the extent of deeply politicized left-wing philanthropy dwarfs in amount and reach anything the Kochs and their friends carry on—often skirting the edge of the law regulating charitable activity.  The money flowing into the environmental establishment is massive and centrally coordinated.

One of the more striking findings of the report is not so much that billionaires like Steyer provide lavish funding, but how rich so many environmental organizations are.  Check out the assets values displayed in this table:

Green Assets copy

Just one organization on that list—the Natural Resources Defense Council—has a larger annual budget than all of the major conservatives think tanks combined, for all purposes.  This is what makes the constant whining about “climate skeptics” so incredible.

More significant than the dollars involved (I’m not sure I’d lump in funding of the Nature Conservancy, for example, with the climatistas on the list) is the details of how leftist foundations work hand in glove with the Obama Administration.

In one shocking example, the Committee learned of an arrangement between the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) and EPA where RFF agreed to pay the salary of Shalini Vajjhala, then an employee at the nonprofit organization Resources for the Future, to work at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). According to internal EPA documents, this arrangement benefited EPA as Vajjhala would have the opportunity to, “stake our claim there” – where “our” is the EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs and “there” refers to the White House. . .

In another outrageous email exchange, former Assistant Administrator for the Office of International and Tribal Affairs, Michelle DePass, and “Richard Windsor,” former Administrator Jackson’s alias, strategize over how best to leverage a public appearance before the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA). Reproduced in full, the email exchange states:

EPA email copy

The report goes on to detail the revolving door between activists and government agencies.  There’s lots more, especially about the growing effort by leftist foundations to strangle hydraulic fracturing that is key to natural gas production—the single best energy story of the last decade that has done more to reduce carbon emissions than all the windmills and solar panels the greens worship.  No good deed goes unpunished.