The “Phony” IRS Scandal

A former legal counsel for the IRS says it’s a 9.5 on a scale of one to ten. And the fear that we’ll never find out what happened is a legitimate one, since what is actually phony is not the scandal, but the investigation:

When the IRS inspector general found improper targeting of conservative groups in the Cincinnati office, Obama called the conduct “inexcusable.” Last month, though, he told Bill O’Reilly there was not a “smidgen of corruption” in the IRS.

The problem is the same one that gave birth to the post-Watergate law. If Justice finds no higher-ups were involved in the IRS misconduct, would that finding have credibility with the public? Would an outside probe have more credibility, or spiral out of control?

With the independent counsel law dead and buried, we’re not likely to find out.

This administration is getting away with things that Nixon could only dream of.

Hillary Clinton

You’re the problem.”

The advice to her is laughable, though:

Nothing in Hillary Clinton’s past suggests she’s ever been that dissatisfied with the way Washington and/or the country works. For pete’s sake, while secretary of state, she had Huma Abedin under a “special contract” that allowed her to be a consultant for private clients while keeping her $135,000-per-year State Department job.

The status quo has been very, very, very good for the Clintons. They have a net worth estimated at $55 million; Hillary Clinton’s speaking fee begins at $200,000, with Wall Street banks and private-equity firms most frequently picking up the tab: Goldman Sachs, KKR, the Caryle Group. Far from an impassioned reformer, eager to overhaul a system of crony capitalism and back-scratching, Hillary Clinton is our political and economic status quo in human form.

Expecting Hillary Clinton to be a transformative reformer of Washington is like expecting Donald Trump to become a Bolshevik, Kim Jong Un to renounce power and become a monk, or the New York Yankees to push for the end of free agency in baseball. Powerful people rarely if ever decide to completely overhaul the system that made them powerful.

Beyond that, the notion that she can somehow transmogrify herself into someone “warm,” and “human” is ludicrous.

The Conditions Of Omar

The Syrian Christians (who survive) are being forced to convert:

Just the other day in Pakistan, Christians “began the construction of a church on land donated by the Christian Akber Masih, a resident in the area. They built the walls of the building and placed a cross in front of the main gate of the small construction yard.” But “when a large group of Islamic extremists saw the Christian symbol they arrived unexpectedly with bulldozers and started demolishing the building.” Although the Christians notified police and authorities, “the perpetrators were not arrested.” As for the aggrieved Christians, they “have received threats and have to abandon the idea of the project to build a church.”

Thanks to Western intervention in the colonial era, the Conditions largely disappeared — not least because Muslim leaders and elites were themselves Westernizing. But today, as Muslims turn back to their Islamic heritage and its teachings — not least because Western leaders and elites are urging them to in the name of multiculturalism, if not moral relativism — the Conditions are returning. And woe to the Christian minority who dares break them by exercising religious freedom — what I call the “How Dare You?” phenomenon, which is responsible for the overwhelming majority of Islamic attacks on non-Muslims.

This is par for the course, and how Islam spread in the first place, not voluntarily through the evangelical preaching of its virtues and spiritual benefits. It was, in fact, the root cause of the Crusades.

Why Russia Invaded Ukraine

…because the West is weak.

And that’s just the way the Democrats, from Madeleine NotSobright to Barack Obama, seem to like it.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Putin was changing the map while Europe was fixing the climate.

What fools.

Also, when weak nations provoke stronger ones. Because part of strength is the will to use what power you have.

[Update mid-afternoon]

“It’s like they’re living on another planet.”

As he notes, if Obama’s unwilling to take on the Sierra Club, who should believe that he’ll take on Putin?


[Late afternoon update]

The West’s Ukrainian folly:

The real Cold Warriors understood that crushing the Evil Empire of Communism required us to take into account the interests of Russia as a nation. The elder statesmen who won the Cold War, including Henry Kissinger (whose opening to China flanked the Soviet Union), are trying in vain to inject a note of sanity into the clown show that passes for American foreign policy on both sides of the aisle. The Republican mainstream mistook Tahrir Square for Lexington Common, and then mistook Maidan for Tahrir Square. If only we were rougher and tougher, it is claimed, Crimea would be free today. That is just plain stupid; there is no possible state of the world in which Crimea would not be Russian. We had some ability to influence the terms under which it would be Russian, and we chose the worst possible course of action, namely open hostility combined with impotent posturing.

We have an elite that lives in its own virtual-reality world circumscribed by a failed ideology, unable to learn from its past mistakes (or even to admit that they were mistakes) and condemned to repeat the same blunders again and again. They posture at Putin the way a small boy stands up to the zoo lion behind cage bars. The lion, though, is not entirely without alternatives, as the alarming case of Iran should make clear.

It’s folly on every front.

Our Criminal Justice System

…has become a crime:

The combination of vague and pervasive criminal laws — the federal government literally doesn’t know how many federal criminal laws there are — and prosecutorial discretion, plus easy overcharging and coercive plea-bargaining, means that where criminal law is concerned we don’t really have a judicial system as most people imagine it. Instead, we have a criminal justice bureaucracy that assesses guilt and imposes penalties with only modest supervision from the judiciary, and with very little actual accountability. (When a South Carolina judge suggested earlier this year that prosecutors should follow the law, prosecutors revolted.)

In a recent Columbia Law Review essay, I suggest some remedies to this problem: First, prosecutors should have “skin in the game” — if someone’s charged with 100 crimes but convicted of only one, the state should have to pay 99% of his legal fees. This would discourage overcharging. (So would judicial oversight, but we’ve seen little enough of that.) Second, plea-bargain offers should be disclosed at trial, so that judges and juries can understand just how serious the state really thinks the offense is. Empowering juries and grand juries (a standard joke is that any competent prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich) would also provide more supervision. And finally, I think that prosecutors should be stripped of their absolute immunity to suit — an immunity created by judicial activism, not by statute — and should be subject to civil damages for misconduct such as withholding evidence.

It’s a travesty. They should take the whole federal criminal code and throw it out, and start over.

The STEM Shortage

It’s a myth.

I agree. The problem isn’t a shortage of workers in that field. But innumeracy and scientific illiteracy is a big problem in our society, particularly among the voters. And that includes the illiteracy of those who mindlessly accept a lot of bogus nutrition and climate “science.”

Putin’s Cold Hard Facts

Options for confronting them:

Obama’s post-aggression sanctions regimen is not merely inadequate, it is a joke. Russian hard-power aggression, annexation and expansion require a hard-power response. Here are some I recommend: (1) We can’t flip-flop NATO Article 5, NATO’s commitment to mutual defense. The U.S. must demonstrate it takes its NATO obligations seriously. So, deploy U.S. troops to Poland. The U.S. withdrew its last tanks from Germany in 2013. The Poland garrison needs a U.S. armor brigade. (2) Cancel all defense budget cuts. Faculty club snark aside, peace through strength means something. (3) Open federal lands to natural gas “fracking” and start shipping gas to Europe. Undermining Russian gas sales is a real economic sanction. (4) Arm the Baltic nations. They are also NATO allies. And (5) deploy the GBI’s to Poland, and build a more robust missile defense system. As for permanently deploying U.S. Patriot PAC-3 short-range anti-missile missiles in Poland — that’s an idea whose time has come.

I think we need a new Marshall Plan to quickly reconfigure Europe’s energy infrastructure. If Obama was really serious about his “phone and pen” there are things that are entirely within his power to do. He could open up Keystone and approve the permits for those LNG terminals tomorrow. Investments in new European pipelines and terminals could be paid for with revenues from gas sales. And despite Kerry’s idiotic blathering about an end to all life on earth, this is the real crisis, not carbon.

Woody Allen Versus The Coens

Lileks describes:

Woody Allen has put more wood in the mouth of his characters than the guy who invented the disposable tongue depressor. Perhaps it’s this: Allen is a nihilist whose characters search for meaning; the Coen Brothers are romantics whose characters confront reality. The former example is grounded in the futility of it all; the latter is a caution against finding too much meaning in the swells and peaks and troughs of life. Not to say you shouldn’t look: that’s what art is for, as “Finding” clearly suggests. Something makes him sing like that. But in the end it’s not art that redeems him. The idea seems ridiculous, a sophomoric conceit.


Commercial Supersonic Flight

What NASA’s up to:

“There are three barriers particular to civil supersonic flight; sonic boom, high altitude emissions and airport noise. Of the three, boom is the most significant problem,” said Peter Coen, manager of NASA’s High Speed Project with the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program.

There’s a fourth barrier not mentioned: the low L/D, which restricts range and makes for high fuel costs. If that problem doesn’t get solved, it will never become a huge market, and will mostly be restricted to business jets.