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Fast and Furious guns still enabling crime in Mexico

The scandal that is the DoJ’s “Fast and Furious” debacle continues to enable crimes and murders in Mexico:

Three more weapons from Fast and Furious have turned up at crime scenes in Mexico, CBS News has learned, as the toll from the controversial federal operation grows.

According to Justice Department tracing documents obtained by CBS News, all three guns are WASR-10 762-caliber Romanian rifles. Two were purchased by Fast and Furious suspect Uriel Patino in May and July of 2010. Sean Steward, who was convicted on gun charges in July 2012, purchased a third. The rifles were traced yesterday to the Lone Wolf gun shop in Glendale, Ariz.

During Fast and Furious and similar operations, federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) encouraged the Lone Wolf and other gun stores to sell massive amounts of weapons to questionable purchasers who allegedly trafficked them Mexican drug cartels.

Patino is said to have purchased 700 guns while under ATF’s watch. Ever since, a steady stream of the guns have been recovered at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S. But the Justice Department has refused repeated requests from Congress and CBS News to provide a full accounting. An estimated 1,400 guns are still on the street or unaccounted for.

What I find interesting about this is what happened in the immediate aftermath of the revelation that this operation had been so badly bungled. Remember the reaction from the administration when this began to become public knowledge?

Denial. The attempt to pin the blame on some “rogue agents” in Phoenix.

Ring any bells? What was their reaction to Benghazi? To try to pin the blame on some video producer.

IRS? I believe it was rogue agents in Cincinnati.

Name your scandal and the results are almost uniformly the same.

And the real result in every case? None of the initial spin had any credence whatsoever.  None.  Not once.

In fact, all were traced back to high level failures on the part of various executive agencies.

And they wonder why trust in government is at an all time low.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 14 Aug 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

The Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations report for August indicates that businesses expect 2.0% inflation for the year ahead, up from 1.8% last month.

July producer prices were unchanged overall, with the core rate up only 0.1%. On a year over year basis, the PPI is up 2.1%, and 1.2% for the core rate.

The MBA reports that mortgage apps continue to decline, down -4.7% last week, with purchases at -5.0% and re-fis at -4.0%.

~
Dale Franks
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It’s time to call Warmists “deniers”

Because they deny both science and fact to push an agenda that is demonstrably false.  Yet have the temerity to call those who are skeptical of their claims “deniers”.  And, of course, they have their “scientific” mouthpieces as well.  For instance:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released its “State of the Climate in 2012” report, which states that “worldwide, 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record.”

But the report “fails to mention [2012] was one of the coolest of the decade, and thus confirms the cooling trend,” according to an analysis by climate blogger Pierre Gosselin.

“To no one’s surprise, the report gives the reader the impression that warming is galloping ahead out of control,” writes Gosselin. “But their data shows just the opposite.”

Well of course it does. It’s not like we haven’t seen this sort of thing from them before. It is “Headline” science. It’s also Chicken Little Science.  Always the alarmist.  Always the problem … a problem that only government can fix, of course.  And a problem that also includes you losing some freedom of action.  You know, the usual prescription.

Then there’s the confusion:

Although the NOAA report noted that in 2012, “the Arctic continues to warm” with “sea ice reaching record lows,” it also stated that the Antarctica sea ice “reached a record high of 7.51 million square miles” on Sept. 26, 2012.

And the latest figures for this year show that there’s been a slowdown of melting in the Arctic this summer as well, with temperatures at the North Pole well below normal for this time of year. Meteorologist Joe Bastardi calls it “the coldest ever recorded.”

Oh, my … an “inconvenient truth”. Now what?

Well, because the facts don’t support the usual assertion, AP was forced to retract a photo and caption:

The Associated Press had to retract a photo it released on July 27 with the caption, “The shallow meltwater lake is occurring due to an unusually warm period.”

“In fact, the water accumulates in this way every summer,” AP admitted in a note to editors, adding that the photo was doubly misleading because “the camera used by the North Pole Environment Observatory has drifted hundreds of miles from its original position, which was a few dozen miles from the pole.”

I guess they were out of distraught polar bears hanging on to a sliver of ice or something.

And then there’s this:

NOAA also reported that the “average lower strastospheric temperature, about six to ten miles above the Earth’s surface, for 2012 was record or near-record cold, depending on the dataset” even while the concentrations of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, continued to increase.

But don’t worry … the real science will be ignored.  Why?  Because a certain set of politicans are sniffing the wind and they smell an opportunity to create a tax out of thin air.   And that, my friends, is all it takes.  Politicians and junk science … a marriage made in hell.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 13 Aug 13

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose 0.6 points to 94.1 in July.

ICSC-Goldman Store Sales were down -0.2% last week, and up 2.6% from last Year, Redbook’s reading shows a 3.7% year-over-year increase.

Retail sales for July rose 0.2% overall, and were up 0.5% ex-autos, and 0.4% ex-autos and -gas.

US export prices fell -0.1% in July, while import prices rose 0.2%. On a year-over-year basis, export prices are up 0.4%, while import prices are up 1.0%.

Business inventories were unchanged for June, as was the stock-to-sales ratio, at 1.29.

~
Dale Franks
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Assessing the administration’s foreign policy

You know, the folks who promised us engagement … “reset”, etc.  The one’s who told us how bad the other guy and his terrible foreign policy were.  You remember.  Well, here’s a CNN columnist’s view:

America’s foreign policy has gone into a tailspin. Almost every major initiative from the Obama administration has run into sharp, sometimes embarrassing, reverses. The U.S. looks weak and confused on the global stage.

Hey, if even CNN can’t spin this mess positively who can, and this lady doesn’t even try (well, she tries, but not very hard and certainly not very convincingly).  In fact, she hits upon a very concise description of our foreign policy’s state.  In fact, they’d like to have the state of foreign affairs George Bush left them.

For instance, recently in The Washington Post recently said, concerning our “reset” relationship with Russia:

U.S. relations with Russia officially settled into a trough this week when President Obama canceled a summit planned for next month with Vladimir Putin, familiar surroundings for two countries that regularly approach each other only to turn away in disappointment.

The White House decision to call off the summit, announced Wednesday, marked the end of Obama’s attempt to revive a relationship that by 2008 had reached its lowest point since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union!? … and some say before its fall.  Quite a “reset” – back 30 years.  Does anyone wonder why Russia felt froggy enough to keep Snowden?  See “weak and confused on the global stage”.

And then there’s this to ponder:

A headline in a major Egyptian state newspaper this week referred to the proposed U.S. envoy to Egypt as the “Ambassador of Death.” Posters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a center of pro-government rallies, depict President Barack Obama with a beard and turban, exclaiming his “support for terrorism.”

Another large Egyptian newspaper alleged Sen. John McCain, who traveled to Cairo this week in an effort to break a deadlock between the government and its Islamist rivals, has chosen sides by employing Muslim Brotherhood staffers in his office.

[…]

The moves highlight the depth of public distrust of U.S. policies, and draw from a “reservoir of anti-Americanism and conspiratorial theories,” said Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and a former senior Obama administration adviser.

America, he says, has few fans in the country after the 2011 overthrow of U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak and last month’s military ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi. “We’re caught in a situation of having to essentially try to find a balance between our values and our interests. It satisfies nobody,” Mr. Nasr said. “The Mubarak people are unhappy with the way he was shoved off without a thank you. The military thinks we coddled the Brotherhood and didn’t intervene to control them. And the Brotherhood thinks that we never supported them when they needed support, and then gave the green light to the military.”

Or said another way, this administration screwed the pooch about every way it can be done.  And that’s after that fabulous Cairo speech too.  Go figure?

Then there’s Benghazi, al Qaeda setting our open and closed times on Middle Eastern embassies, spying on Europe and giving Israel the cold shoulder … not to mention the apology tour.

Yes, it’s an unmitigated disaster.

But don’t worry – when Hillary finally runs for president, my guess she’ll still be haled as the greatest Secretary of State evah!

Just hide and watch.

~McQ

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Layers and Layers of Editors

There are always criticisms of the media for bias. Most people have come to accept that the media will report from a reliably liberal point of view, though there are idiots on the left—but I repeat myself—who say the “corporate media” has a conservative bias. But there is a bigger problem with the media than political bias. It’s the issue of competence. Most of the time the press reports on things we don’t know much about, so what with all those layers of of professional producers and editors, we just have to assume they’re doing due diligence to get the story right. Then, you see a story that concerns something you know a bit about, and you realize…they don’t. The real problem with the media isn’t bias, it’s incompetence.

Sometimes it’s egregious. Last month, TV station KVTU in San Francisco reported the Flight crew of the crashed Asiana Arlines flight as Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow. This report went through four levels of producers, all of whome were fired, of course—except for the on-air reporter and managing editor who gave final approval to air the names. She wasn’t fired, apparently, because she is Asian—not that seems to have made her any more knowledgeable about Asian names than her Caucasian subordinates—and the station didn’t want to upset the local Asian community any further.

As an aside, I should think that would make for an interesting discrimination claim by the fired producers and editors. Who were, also, by the way, in a pretty bad position no matter what they did. After all, if they had raised a red flag about the names, and the names turned out to be correct, then they’re the insensitive racists who think Asian names sound funny.  What a wonderful work environment of no-win situations our political correctness is creating.

Anyway, that was a pretty egregious error that touched on a sensitive subject, and even the Asian editor flubbed it. If they can’t even get something like that right, imagine how bad it gets on everyday stories. Well, happily, we don’t have to imagine it, because CNN provided a great example today. In a motorsports story on how Formula 1 racing will bring back turbocharged engines to their cars next year, CNN felt it was necessary to explain how this whole turbocharging thing worked to their less technical readers:

While a standard engine is powered by a belt connected to the crankshaft, a turbo engine runs on its own exhaust steam, making it more energy efficient.

So, can anyone tell me how many factual errors and fundamental physics violations are contained in that sentence? But CNN went further, to ensure their readers fully understood the issue.

Turbo engines also tend to be slower taking off — not ideal for F1 racing. But once in full flight, they maintain speed well, and today you’ll often find turbo engines used in trains, trucks and construction equipment.

Sure. And in industrial vehicles like the BMW M3, M5, and M6, the Subaru WRX STI, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Nissan 370Z,  and Mercedes’ AMG models. All of them are so much “slower taking off” that they struggle to hit 60 MPH in less than 5 seconds. Though, of course, they all do so.

As Jalopnik put it earlier today:

Oh boy. Is it possible for one little sentence to get so much wrong, so efficiently? It’s impressive, in its way. And, sure, it’s CNN, not a dedicated automotive site, but in an article about F1 cars and racing tech, you’d think there’d be at least some attempt to get this right. It’d be like writing an article about an election that said "While a standard election is decided by court decisions from individual citizen legislatures, a runoff election leverages polling data from the most recent census." Sure, those are real words, but they make zero sense.

The thing is, nearly every time I see a story on a subject I know something about, something in the story is inevitably wrong. So I can only assume that, when it comes to stories I know nothing about, they are equally wrong. Which means, basically, that everything you see in the news is…wrong.

That’s not “news”. That’s fiction.

~
Dale Franks
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Governing By Expert

On last night’s podcast, Dale and I discussed the rise of a soft tyranny and expansion of the regulatory state in this country. Pres. Obama has, on more than one occasion, unilaterally declared the power to pick and choose what laws to enforce, or to simply change the way they are enforced, without any consequences (i.e. checks and/or balances). He’s not the first POTUS to act that way (albeit the most brazen about it), and probably won’t be the last.

The primary reason he, or any other POTUS, is even able to act this way is because of the massive regulatory apparatus at the disposal of the Executive branch. An apparatus created by Congress; one it seems strangely reluctant to rein in. As Kevin Williamson notes, “Barack Obama did not invent managerial liberalism,” and while his agenda is painfully horrendous, it’s “a good deal less ambitious than was Woodrow Wilson’s or Richard Nixon’s.” However, Obama has used the leeway provided by Congresses past and present to further expand the regulatory state. Williamson characterizes this as Obama’s “utterly predictable approach to domestic politics: appoint a panel of credentialed experts.”

His faith in the powers of pedigreed professionals is apparently absolute. Consider his hallmark achievement, the Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of which is the appointment of a committee, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the mission of which is to achieve targeted savings in Medicare without reducing the scope or quality of care. How that is to be achieved was contemplated in detail neither by the lawmakers who wrote the health-care bill nor by the president himself. But they did pay a great deal of attention to the processes touching IPAB: For example, if that committee of experts fails to achieve the demanded savings, then the ball is passed to . . . a new committee of experts, this one under the guidance of the secretary of health and human services. IPAB’s powers are nearly plenipotentiary: Its proposals, like a presidential veto, require a supermajority of Congress to be overridden.

IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. The real import of Barack Obama’s political career will be felt long after he leaves office, in the form of a permanently expanded state that is more assertive of its own interests and more ruthless in punishing its enemies. At times, he has advanced this project abetted by congressional Democrats, as with the health-care law’s investiture of extraordinary powers in the executive bureaucracy, but he also has advanced it without legislative assistance — and, more troubling still, in plain violation of the law. President Obama and his admirers choose to call this “pragmatism,” but what it is is a mild expression of totalitarianism, under which the interests of the country are conflated with those of the president’s administration and his party.

(emphasis added)

I likened the expansion and independence of the regulatory state to 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Terminator in that these things that were created to ostensibly serve in the aid of their users developed a life, mind and interests of their own, and eventually turned on the users. A perfect example would be if the IRS scandal of targeting conservatives turns out to be completely divorced of any political direction, and instead was completely self-initiated from within the department. As James Taranto often points out, that is the far scarier scenario than the one where the White House directed the agency to target its political enemies. Corrupt politicians are bad, but they are expected and can be dealt with in a summary manner. An unelected, unaccountable and extremely powerful organization exercising its own political agenda is orders of magnitude worse.

Williamson continues:

Democracy never lasts long,” [John] Adams famously said. “It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” For liberal regimes, a very common starting point on the road to serfdom is the over-delegation of legislative powers to the executive. France very nearly ended up in a permanent dictatorship as a result of that error, and was spared that fate mostly by good luck and Charles de Gaulle’s patriotism. Long before she declared her infamous state of emergency, Indira Gandhi had been centralizing power in the prime minister’s office, and India was spared a permanent dictatorship only by her political miscalculation and her dynasty-minded son’s having gotten himself killed in a plane wreck. Salazar in Portugal, Austria under Dollfuss, similar stories. But the United States is not going to fall for a strongman government. Instead of delegating power to a would-be president-for-life, we delegate it to a bureaucracy-without-death. You do not need to install a dictator when you’ve already had a politically supercharged permanent bureaucracy in place for 40 years or more. As is made clear by everything from campaign donations to the IRS jihad, the bureaucracy is the Left, and the Left is the bureaucracy. Elections will be held, politicians will come and go, but if you expand the power of the bureaucracy, you expand the power of the Left, of the managers and minions who share Barack Obama’s view of the world. Barack Obama isn’t the leader of the free world; he’s the front man for the permanent bureaucracy, the smiley-face mask hiding the pitiless yawning maw of total politics.

(emphasis added)

I would add that, if the politics were reversed (i.e. “the bureaucracy is Right, and the Right is bureaucracy”) we would still have the same issue: an unaccountable power structure that invades every aspect of our lives. Coupled with a President who exercises that power based on political whims, and we have a serious issue:

The job of the president is to execute the law — that is what the executive branch is there to do. If Barack Obama had wanted to keep pursuing his career as a lawmaker, then the people of Illinois probably would have been content to preserve him in the Senate for half a century or so. As president, he has no more power to decide not to enforce the provisions of a duly enacted federal law than does John Boehner, Anthony Weiner, or Whoopi Goldberg. And unlike them, he has a constitutional duty to enforce the law.

So, one might ask (as Dale did last night), why isn’t the President being impeached for dereliction of duty? Partisan politics is one answer (see, e.g., the failure of the Clinton impeachment). A lack of will is another. Perhaps the simplest answer, however, is that Congress is quite complicit in this expansion and abuse of the regulatory state:

Congress’s supine ceding of its powers, and the Obama administration’s usurpation of both legal and extralegal powers, is worrisome. But what is particularly disturbing is the quiet, polite, workaday manner with which the administration goes about its business — and with which the American public accepts it. As Christopher Hitchens once put it, “The essence of tyranny is not iron law; it is capricious law.”

[snip]

Barack Obama’s administration is unmoored from the institutions that have long kept the imperial tendencies of the American presidency in check. That is partly the fault of Congress, which has punted too many of its legislative responsibilities to the president’s army of faceless regulators, but it is in no small part the result of an intentional strategy on the part of the administration. He has spent the past five years methodically testing the limits of what he can get away with, like one of those crafty velociraptors testing the electric fence in Jurassic Park. Barack Obama is a Harvard Law graduate, and he knows that he cannot make recess appointments when Congress is not in recess. He knows that his HHS is promulgating regulations that conflict with federal statutes. He knows that he is not constitutionally empowered to pick and choose which laws will be enforced. This is a might-makes-right presidency, and if Barack Obama has been from time to time muddled and contradictory, he has been clear on the point that he has no intention of being limited by something so trivial as the law.

I agree with Williamson that Obama has pushed the limits, but I think he lets Congress off the hook too easily. Every POTUS presses the limits. Indeed, Williamson provides the example of Nixon’s abuses, and even compares Obama favorably: “… it is impossible to imagine President Obama making the announcement that President Richard Nixon did on August 15, 1971: ‘I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States.'” Williamson notes that Nixon was able to make that announcement because of power invested in him by Congress. Just as Obama has been entrusted with incredible power via such instruments as the IPAB which requires a super-majority of Congress to override its decisions. While Obama is bad, clearly the issue here is that Congress isn’t doing its job either.

Recall that in Federalist #51, James Madison explained that the way the Constitution controls the new federal government, such that “the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights”, was to divide the different departments in a way that each had interests sufficiently distinct from one another so as to provide an incentive for each to jealously guard those interests and maintain their power. This system of checks and balances was meant to prevent consolidation of power in any one part of the government.

The problem we seem to have run into since then is when the two most powerful departments combine their interests and secret away their combined powers in an unaccountable regulatory apparatus, safe from the will of the electorate. That the office of POTUS would be willing to do this is to be expected, and indeed is a large part of why there was much resistance to its creation. However, that Congress has done so much to aid and abet the effort is contemptible. Unless and until Congress rights the balance, and vigorously pursues its checking role, the problem will only worsen.

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 11 Aug 13

This week, Michael, and Dale discuss many things.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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