It’s Thursday, October 27th, 2011….and here’s The Gouge!
First up, a question for the Left side of the aisle: howz that “hopey-changey-transparency” thing workin’ out for ya?
Justice Department Proposes Letting Government Deny Existence of Sensitive Documents
A longtime internal policy that allowed Justice Department officials to deny the existence of sensitive information could become the law of the land — in effect a license to lie — if a newly proposed rule becomes federal regulation in the coming weeks.
The proposed rule directs federal law enforcement agencies, after personnel have determined that documents are too delicate to be released, to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests “as if the excluded records did not exist.”
Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, says the move appears to be in direct conflict with the administration’s promise to be more open. “Despite all the talk of transparency, I can’t think of what’s less transparent than saying a document does not exist, when in fact, it does,” Sekulow told Fox News. (“Less transparent”? Sounds more like outright lying to us!)
Justice Department officials say the practice has been in effect for decades, dating back to a 1987 memo from then-Attorney General Edwin Meese. In that memo, and subsequent similar internal documents, Justice Department staffers were advised that they could reply to certain FOIA requests as if the documents had never been created. That policy never became part of the law — or even codified as a federal regulation — and it was recently challenged in court.
A final version of the proposal could be issued by the end of 2011. If approved, the new rule would officially become a federal regulation with the force of law.
We don’t care if the policy goes back to Ed Meese or Pee Wee Reese (though we’d love those “Justice Department officials” to produce an original copy of Meese’s memo more convincing than The Obamao’s birth certificate!), it’s ill-conceived, ill-advised and very likely illegal.
Turning from the lamebrained to the braindead….
PETA Sues SeaWorld for ‘Enslaving’ Killer Whales
A federal court is being asked to grant constitutional rights to five killer whales who perform at marine parks — an unprecedented and perhaps quixotic legal action that is nonetheless likely to stoke an ongoing, intense debate at America’s law schools over expansion of animal rights. (Just what the country needs: animal ambulance-chasing attorneys!)
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is accusing the SeaWorld parks of keeping five star-performer whales in conditions that violate the 13th Amendment ban on slavery. (Yet another emanation from some hitherto unknown penumbra of the Constitution!) SeaWorld depicted the suit as baseless.
The chances of the suit succeeding are slim, according to legal experts not involved in the case; any judge who hews to the original intent of the authors of the amendment is unlikely to find that they wanted to protect animals. But PETA relishes engaging in the court of public opinion, as evidenced by its provocative anti-fur and pro-vegan campaigns.
PETA: yet another reason America needs to borrow from British tort law the concept of the loser in a civil action paying the legal fees of the prevailing party.
Meanwhile, as detailed in today’s Cover Story, proponents of a cradle-to-grave Nannystate press on:
Connecticut Officials Push Washington to Offer Free Diapers to Poor Mothers
Call it a baby stimulus. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloyhas declared Thursday “Diaper Need Awareness Day” as part of a campaign by The Nutmeg State to pressure Washington into providing free diapers to low-income families. Supporters will host a fundraiser and a panel discussion in New Haven on the public healthrisks for babies whose diapers aren’t changed frequently enough.
The move follows legislation introduced earlier this month by Rep. Rosa DeLaurothat would amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990. The act provides funding to help low-income mothers pay for day care services. The update would allow Uncle Sam to also provide funding for diapers and diaper supplies.
DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, estimates that families pay about $100 a month to cover babies’ bottoms. “No family should have to choose between buying diapers for their child or buying groceries – but that is exactly what is happening today,” DeLauro said in a statement. “Diapers are expensive, but necessary, to keep children health and in daycare, giving their parents the freedom they need to work.”
Let’s see if we’ve got this straight; the Dims want us to fund:
(1). Contraceptives for those too poor to reproduce.
(2). Abortions for those too lazy or forgetful to remember to use the contraceptives.
(3). Diapers and daycare for those too stupid to realize their too poor to reproduce….thus didn’t avail themselves of either the free contraceptives or abortions.
(4). Cellphones, cigarettes, cars, HD flatscreens, bling, booz, drugs, junk food and anything else the absence of which might adversely impact the poor’s self-esteem, hence reminding them of their poverty.
Yeah….we’ve got it straight!
Next, a follow-up to yesterday’s item regarding Hairplug Joe’s testy response to journalist Jason Mattera, courtesy of Guy Benson in Townhall.com:
Note the snippy question from a Biden staffer at the end of the clip: “Who are you with?” (For what it’s worth, I was asked a similar question by Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s handlers after this exchange). Mattera replies truthfully. A few days later, retribution is in the air:
Jason Mattera, who works for Human Events, a conservative magazine, used a pretext to catch Biden off guard (Which must be as tough as catching a cold in a pre-school!) in a Senate hallway and grill him on claims the vice president has made about jobs legislation. Biden’s office has also contacted the standing committee of correspondents, which oversees the gallery, regarding whether Mattera broke the rules by ambushing him. Heather Rothman, the chairwoman of the gallery’s standing committee, said the matter is under review. “We’re aware of the concerns,” said Rothman, a reporter for BNA. “It’s being discussed. We’re aware this occurred and the vice president’s office [has made] contact,” she added, noting the standing committee itself hasn’t met to deliberate the issue.
So distressed was poor Slow Joe over being asked an uncomfortable question about his own appalling rhetoric that his office is seeking to punish the inquisitor. Mattera explains his motives and tactics:
Biden’s visible irritation might be explained by how he was lured into the short interview. As the vice president left the Russell caucus room, Mattera weaved his way through the entourage, shook Biden’s hand and asked him to pose for a photo. While shaking Biden’s hand, Mattera asked him if he felt “regret using a rape reference to describe Republican opposition to the president’s bill.”
Mattera admits to using a pretext to momentarily disarm Biden (Again, a move with a degree-of-difficulty of about zero!), but argues his methods were justified. “ABC and CBS have done undercover sting operations and have done them for decades. The fact that a conservative publication goes after a public official who was misrepresenting himself and a Senate bill to the public and tries to get an answer from him, that’s great,” he said in an interview Monday.
“The media should take notice that this is how you ask a question. If I had said, ‘Hey, Mr. Vice President, a question regarding your rape comments,’ he would shrug it off. “He’s not going to take questions hostile to his agenda. I want to get him in that honest moment when he doesn’t have his talking points and isn’t prepared to spin,” Mattera added. Mattera said his technique is “premised on looking to get the most honest reaction from politicians used to conning the media daily — and even their constituents.” He said his request for a photo wasn’t a fabrication because someone had volunteered to snap his picture with the vice president, and noted in a follow-up email that he was wearing his press credentials.
Having been caught in an unflattering moment, Biden hopes to exact revenge for Mattera’s supposed sin, based on a technicality. But was he technically out of bounds? Capitol Hill journo-denizen Dave Weigel offers this analysis:
The case [against Mattera] is thin. Mattera was not as up-front as he’s been in other videos. As you can clearly see, he gets close to the VP not by asking a question and saying where he’s from, but by getting into a photo-op. “Mr. Vice President,” he says. “Picture?” Once Mattera’s got Biden he starts asking him a well-formulated question: “Do you regret using a rape reference to describe Republican opposition to the jobs bill?” Biden’s “don’t screw around” comment, which led the stories about this, might be a reference to the tactic. And yeah, the tactic is unfair. Most reporters are anonymous enough that, if they felt like it, they could sidle up to a politician in congressional offices, they could ask them questions without announcing that they were with the press. The answers they’d get might be different than the ones they get after they announce themselves as reporters. (Imagine the answers they’d get if they were carrying large bags of unmarked, non-sequential $100 bills?!?)
But that’s really the only hit on Mattera here. There are rules governing film in the Capitol, but not in the office where this was filmed. There are places where non-journalists and non-staffers can’t go, like the Speaker’s lobby outside the House, or the halls outside the Senate — the places where most reporters grab members and senators for quotes. But Mattera was next to reporters in a place where, technically, anyone could go. He ambushed the vice president, but his question could as well have come up at a press conference. And according to people who were there, Mattera did have credentials. (In a hurry, you could mistake a Hill press pass for a tourist badge, but it’s a stretch.) Let’s rap Mattera gently on the knuckles for pretending he just wanted a photo with Biden, but let’s not pretend the question or the setting was unfair to the vice president.
Dave also points out that Biden has — at least for now — ceased employing the lurid crime arguments to push the president’s jobs bill. Could the Vice President have been chastened by his encounter with Mattera? Might be have been shamed by multiple scathing fact-checks? Who knows. What is clear, though, is that this administration is thin-skinned, petty, controlling, and completely unaccustomed to being asked inconvenient questions in unexpected settings.
Or, for that matter, speaking before anything but pre-screened audiences from anything other than pre-rehearsed speeches or notes.
Which brings us to the “Business As Usual” segment, courtesy today of NewMediaJournal.com and politics….Chicago-style:
Top Emanuel Aide Set Herself Up for Sweet CTA Pension
Mayoral Chief of Staff Theresa Mintle helped enact a special early-retirement plan at her former employer– the Chicago Transit Authority — that entitled her to a $65,000 annual pension she wouldn’t have qualified for otherwise.
Official records obtained in a joint probe by Crain’s and the Better Government Assn. indicate Ms. Mintle is eligible for a pension of $64,908.53 at age 65, based on just eight years of service at the agency. The early-retirement sweetener passed in 2008, when she was chief of staff to then-CTA board Chairman Carole Brown. Ms. Mintle resigned from that job last spring to assume similar duties for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Ordinarily, Ms. Mintle, 47, would have needed 11 years of service to qualify for a pension at the CTA, a milestone she wouldn’t have reached until 2014. But in 2008, she was involved in the approval and possibly the design of an early-retirement sweetener for agency executives containing two separate clauses that, together, allowed her to buy extra service credits and lock in her pension in exchange for leaving her job by mid-2011. (Are Dimocrats great or WHAT?!?)
After days of avoiding questions from Crain’s and the BGA, Mr. Emanuel’s office said late Friday that Ms. Mintle has decided to forgo the CTA pension. “She has no intention of participating in the program” and has not contributed the $53,000 needed to secure her benefits under the plan, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office said. “Since Mayor Emanuel started running for mayor, he has made it clear that he is committed to reforming the pension system, which is in desperate need of repair.”
However, the terms of the early-retirement plan give Ms. Mintle eight years to change her mind, make the contribution and lock in the pension.
Public “Service”: it’s great work if you can get it!
Since we’re on the subject of schweeeeet deals, as Guy Benson reports, Mitt Romney’s gained another endorsement guaranteed to garner support from Generation I….as in”I”g’nant!
Then there’s this interesting bit of analysis from the WSJ‘s Paul Gigot detailing what he terms….
Rubio’s Good Fortune
Did the Washington Post do Marco Rubio a favor?
Did the Washington Post do Marco Rubio a favor? It’s heresy on the right to say so, and conservatives have been up in arms since the Post reported late last week that Mr. Rubio’s account of his family’s arrival from Cuba “embellishes the facts.” But Mr. Rubio is getting his first rough taste of life in the national spotlight, and better now than if he’s selected as the vice presidential nominee.
The core of the Post report was the fact that Mr. Rubio’s family had emigrated to the U.S. in 1956, well before Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959. The date is a matter of public record, which the reporter found and which also seemed to be news to Mr. Rubio. “I’m going off the oral history of my family,” Mr. Rubio told the Post. “All of these documents and passports are not things that I carried around with me.”
Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia went on to imply that all of this undermined Mr. Rubio’s moving family story of a flight from a tyranny to American opportunity. As Mr. Rubio pointed out in his rapid rebuttal, that is unfair, since his parents wanted to return to Cuba and could not because it continues to be a tyranny.
The episode should nonetheless serve as a warning of what Mr. Rubio can expect once the vice presidential mentioning begins in earnest. Had the date of his parents’ U.S. entry been disclosed after his selection as the vice presidential nominee, his introduction to most Americans would have been accompanied by Democratic and media charges that he was dishonest and his story mythical. However unfair, that would not help him or the presidential nominee who selected him.
Mr. Rubio gives a great speech weaving his personal and family history into a story of American aspiration and possibility. But politicians who stress their biography will inevitably have it picked apart. Mr. Rubio and his staff need to make sure that all the facts of that biography are buttoned up.
Gigot makes an excellent point. Furthermore, we can fully appreciate Rubio’s circumstances, as we too were recently disabused, in our case by our beloved Uncle Bobie, of an item of family history which was, in fact, family folklore. And like Rubio, we honestly believed the story we repeated to be the truth. Then again….we’re not virtually assured of the #2 slot on every possible GOP presidential ticket.
On the Lighter Side….
And finally, we’ll call it a day with this heart-wrenching tale from the “Here’s A Quarter” segment:
Madoffs Attempted Suicide, Wife Reveals
Ruth Madoff, the wife of Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, told CBS News that she and her husband attempted to commit suicide after the disgraced financier’s crimes came to light. “I don’t know whose idea it was, but we decided to kill ourselves because it was so horrendous what was happening,” Ruth Madoff said in an interview with “60 Minutes.” “We had terrible phone calls. Hate mail, just beyond anything and I said ‘…I just can’t go on anymore.'”
According to the article on CBSNews.com, Ruth said the two took some pills on Christmas Eve, some Ambien and possibly Klonopin. She said he swallowed more than she did. “We took pills and woke up the next day….It was very impulsive and I am glad we woke up,” she said, according to the report.
Although the thousands of investors bilked out of their life’s savings might rightfully offer Mrs. Madoof a quarter….
….and tell her to call somebody who cares, we honestly feel for the poor woman. She’s lost her husband to jail, one of her son’s to suicide, and from what we can discern, she was neither privy to nor ever suspected the true nature of Bernie’s “business”. In Mrs. Madoff’s case, money not only didn’t buy her happiness, it bought her a lifetime of misery and shame.