May 22, 2013, 7:16pm | Guy Benson
This was one of the odder exchanges from today’s House Oversight Committee hearing. Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman smugly waved off any responsibility for abuses that occurred at his agency during his tenure. In fact, he pronounced himself “very comfortable” with his job performance, which entailed inaccurately testifying before Congress that conservative targeting was “absolutely not” happening in early 2012 — then failing to correct the record several weeks later, when he says he discovered the truth. Anyway, here’s Shulman responding…bizarrely to a question posed by Ohio Republican Mike Turner:
He just couldn’t bring himself to even express a personal opinion on whether a powerful agency improperly targeting groups of a particular political persuasion is an affront to American and democratic values. He winced, he stuttered, he invoked words like “inappropriate,” but he couldn’t flat-out say it was wrong. Most observers would’ve told him to say “yes, of course,” then move on. But he didn’t, and here’s why: First, it’s still the official IRS line that the targeting/”triage” practices were all about “efficiency” in the face of an avalanche of new applications. That excuse doesn’t jibe with 2010 statistics (when the abusive methods began), nor with the admitted fact that no liberal or progressive groups were caught up in the agency’s political targeting net. But “nonpartisan mistakes” is their story, and they’re sticking to it. After all, how can a simple clerical error be un-American? Second, all of Shulman’s answers were parsed and delivered in practiced legalese. He almost never answered anything with simple assertions, opting for “recollections” and “as far as I can remembers.” In his apparent painstaking efforts to avoid making any statement that might ensnare him in a perjury controversy, Shulman seemed unable to cleanly field simple questions about his opinion. So he hedged and qualified and dissembled — and looked really guilty doing so. Nevertheless, his former colleague Stephen Miller still takes the cake in the category of deer-in-the-headlights, noncommittal awkwardness. He couldn’t render a firm judgment either way on whether the IRS asking an organization about the contents of its prayers crossed the line. What a crew.
May 22, 2013, 6:20pm | Ed Morrissey
Star Trek’s food replicators had to start somewhere, no? NASA wants to develop a 3-D printer for pizza, which will require powdered food substances for raw materials. They won’t have an issue with expiration dates, either, but you have to wonder how good a pizza might taste when created with 30-year-old powders:
NASA has doled out a research grant to develop a prototype 3D printer for food, so astronauts may one day enjoy 3D-printed pizza on Mars.
Anjan Contractor, a senior mechanical engineer at Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC), based in Austin, Texas, received a $125,000 grant from the space agency to build a prototype of his food synthesizer, as was first reported by Quartz.
NASA hopes the technology may one day be used to feed astronauts on longer space missions, such as the roughly 520 days required for a manned flight to Mars. Manned missions to destinations deeper in the solar system would require food that can last an even longer amount of time.
I wonder how well it will work on Romulan ale …
May 22, 2013, 3:26pm | Ed Morrissey
Who knew? Here we thought Jorge Bergoglio was just a social-justice fan with a penchant for wearing robes, and it turns out that he’s Pope Francis. USA Today seems shocked, shocked to discover that Catholics think the devil is an active agent in the world:
Is Pope Francis an exorcist? The question has bubbled up ever since Francis laid his hands on the head of a young man in a wheelchair after celebrating Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square. The young man heaved deeply a half-dozen times, shook, then slumped in his wheelchair as Francis prayed over him. …
Fueling the speculation is Francis’ obsession with Satan, a frequent subject of his homilies, and an apparent surge in demand for exorcisms among the faithful despite the irreverent treatment the rite often receives from Hollywood.
Who can forget the green vomit and the spinning head of the possessed girl in the 1973 cult classic The Exorcist?
In his very first homily as pope on March 14, Francis warned cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel the day after he was elected that “he who doesn’t pray to the Lord prays to the devil.”
He has since mentioned the devil on a handful of occasions, most recently in a May 4 homily when in his morning Mass in the Vatican hotel chapel he spoke of the need for dialogue — except with Satan.
“With the prince of this world you can’t have dialogue: Let this be clear!” he warned.
I’m pretty sure that priests of any kind, bishops and Popes included, don’t walk around offering ad hoc exorcisms. Knowing what goes into the preparation for the rare practice (and what exorcists believe to be at stake) would warn anyone off from a casual attempt at it. The Catholic Church in fact warns that this should be undertaken after determining that there isn’t something else at work, such as psychological illness.
The laying on of hands has a much broader application in Christian tradition for healings as well as blessings. It’s at least as likely that Pope Francis prayed for healing or gave a blessing than performing an exorcism; in fact, it seems a lot more obvious a choice.
Finally, USA Today’s surprise that Catholics (and Christians in general) believe the devil to be an active agent speaks more to its own ignorance of faith than “a reflection of a Catholic Church weakened by secularization.” Kirsten Powers reached the same conclusion:
— Kirsten Powers (@kirstenpowers10) May 22, 2013
— Kirsten Powers (@kirstenpowers10) May 22, 2013
— Kirsten Powers (@kirstenpowers10) May 22, 2013
Update: AFP got the Vatican on record with a denial about the purported exorcism:
The Vatican on Tuesday denied that Pope Francis had performed an exorcism after an Italian religious television channel said footage of the pontiff blessing a boy in a wheelchair showed he had.
“The Holy Father did not intend to perform any exorcism,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement, after the claims by TV 2000, which is owned by the Italian bishops’ conference.
May 22, 2013, 2:17pm | Allahpundit
The more refined and well educated among us already knew that.
Among the thousands of file formats that exist in modern computing, the GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, has attained celebrity status in a sea of lesser-known BMPs, RIPs, FIGs and MIFFs. It was honored as a “word of the year” in 2012, and Tuesday night, its inventor, Steve Wilhite, will be accepting a lifetime achievement award at The Webby Awards…
He is proud of the GIF, but remains annoyed that there is still any debate over the pronunciation of the format.
“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”
End of story. And yet the battle rages: GIF as in “gift” or GIF as in “gin”? The latter is obviously correct. We’re dealing with an acronym here, in which case why not go with the more mellifluous pronounciation? Soft “G” makes the word sound impish and breezy. Hard “G” makes it sound like you’re grunting under your breath from some sort of spasm. C’mon, people.
Suggested compromise position: Pronounce it gee-eye-eff and call it a day.
May 22, 2013, 1:53pm | Ed Morrissey
I know that the President’s defenders have used recent job-approval polling to show that Americans don’t care about scandals in the administration, but except in the last few weeks of a presidential election, job-approval figures tend to be a lagging indicator. Michael Catalini explains that it takes a couple of months into a serious administration scandal before job-approval or personal-approval numbers will begin to slip:
The break-in at the Watergate occurred in June 1972, five months before Nixon rode to a landslide reelection, but the scandal did not damage his approval ratings until after two aides were convicted of conspiracy in January 1973. Between January and August, his approval rating dropped from 67 percent to 31 percent after the resignation of his top staffers, attorney general and deputy attorney general. Over that time, his approval rating dropped by an average of 3 points a month, according to Gallup. Nixon’s approval rating never recovered, culminating in his resignation on Aug. 9, 1974, when he left office with an approval rating of just 24 percent.
Ronald Reagan’s approval rating dipped from 63 percent in October of 1986 to 47 percent in December 1986, a month after Reagan organized the special commission to investigate whether arms were traded for hostages as part of the Iran-Contra affair. His ratings rebounded slightly as Vice President George H.W. Bush began campaigning for the presidency in the summer of 1988, reaching 53 percent, according to Gallup.
The Drudge Report and Newsweek reported on Bill Clinton’s affair in January 1998. Clinton’s job approval actually jumped to 69 percent in a Jan. 30 Gallup survey, up from 59 percent in a poll from earlier in the month. Clinton’s approval rating never dropped below 60 percent throughout 1998, and jumped 10 points from 63 percent to 73 percent in December, the highest approval of his presidency.
But while Clinton’s job approval remained high throughout 1998, his personal favorability took a dive in the wake of the scandal. Gallup found his favorability dropped by five points in August, after he gave a nationally televised speech admitting he had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. Clinton’s favorability dropped from 60 percent a week before the speech to 55 percent a week after the address. A month later, it had fallen to 51 percent but later rebounded.
Barack Obama faces three major scandals all at once, so perhaps we might expect an amplified impact. Still, I think it will take a while for those to show up consistently in job-approval ratings, assuming any or all of the scandals will maintain their own impact. Don’t be fooled by a lack of immediate movement.
Update: Breitbart’s John Nolte notes that some polls already show some erosion:
But Monday was a lifetime and countless revelations ago, and today,four newer polls all show Obama’s approval rating sinking below 50%.
Fox News has Obama upside down with 45% approving of the president and 51% disapproving. Rasmussen shows a similar trend with 46% – 53%; as does The Economist, 45% – 51%. Gallup sits at 49% – 44%.
Be sure to read it all.
May 22, 2013, 12:37pm | Katie Pavlich
“I’m actually an atheist.”
May 21, 2013, 6:54pm | Ed Morrissey
To further expand on the apparent wagon-circling taking place with this meeting of the ideologically-aligned commentators and the West Wing, the question has to be asked: Just where is Barack Obama getting this advice? The DoJ snooping on the AP and James Rosen has even normally sympathetic journalists angry. Now he’s going to bypass the White House press corps, which has been fed a steady stream of nonsense by Jay Carney to the point where reporters have to construct timelines to keep the White House’s “evolution” on what it knew about the IRS scandal straight.
If they think that sending out the ideologues to bypass the WH briefing room will make it easier for them to sell their message, the communications team is either desperate, delusional, or a little bit of both.
May 21, 2013, 4:27pm | Allahpundit
May 21, 2013, 2:28pm | Guy Benson
“Benghazi is a laughable joke. Benghazi is a laughable joke … the blaming of the president for that is a ridiculous joke.”
What a sharp, compassionate take from the former DNC Chair and presidential candidate. Throughout the segment, Dean analyzed the Benghazi massacre through a purely partisan prism, arguing that it has “no traction” (essentially, no one cares — perhaps with a few marginal exceptions) and that Republicans’ persistence in investigating what happened is evidence of “overreach.” Since he brought up the crude metric of public opinion, I’ll just point out that two new national polls demonstrate: (a) an 87/14 super-majority of Americans view the Benghazi talking points as an important issue, (b) a 59/36 majority now believes the attack could have been prevented, (c) a 57/32 majority thinks the administration is still covering something up, and (d) a 59/37 majority approves of Republicans’ handling of the controversy. All that aside, no amount of polling can or should alter the moral correctness of seeking the truth about a terrorist attack that claimed four American lives. Dean was also asked about the IRS and DOJ affairs. His verdict: “To call all these things scandals is a little on the silly side.” He instead harped on the House’s latest attempt to repeal Obamacare — which probably sounds better than ever to many Americans.
May 20, 2013, 11:12pm | Ed Morrissey
Remember when everyone congratulated Guatemala for being the first Latin American country to try and convict a former despot for genocide? Er … never mind, at least for now:
Guatemala’s top court overturned the genocide conviction of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and ordered on Monday that his trial restart.
Constitutional Court secretary Martin Guzman said the trial needs to go back to where it stood on April 19 to solve several appeal issues.
The ruling came 10 days after a three-judge panel convicted the 86-year-old Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in massacres of Mayans during Guatemala’s civil war. It found he knew about the slaughter of at least 1,771 Ixil Mayans in the western highlands and didn’t stop it.
Rios Montt only served one whole day in prison; he’s now in a hospital awaiting the replay of his trial. On the bright side, it doesn’t sound like Rios Montt’s chances are improving with the do-over:
The trial had been nearing closing arguments when that judge, Carol Patricia Flores, intervened. Flores had been in charge of the first phase of the trial, in which evidence was gathered and determined to justify a trial, but she was removed from the case in February 2012 after defense lawyers charged her with bias.
Flores was reinstated to the case in early April by the Constitutional Court. She tried to halt the trial, but the tribunal hearing the case went ahead with testimony and convicted Rios Montt.
Hopefully, Guatemala will get the opportunity to be the first Latin American country to succeed in twice convicting a former despot of genocide.
May 20, 2013, 5:30pm | Allahpundit
I’m not going to lie. I’m counting the minutes.
May 20, 2013, 3:33pm | Ed Morrissey
“I don’t largely because it’s sort of largely the same column for the last, like, eight years.”
”I don’t normally listen to Robert,” she wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO. “I don’t largely because it’s sort of largely the same tired defense of President Obama for the last, like, six years.”
On that, at least, Dowd and I are in agreement, as I noted earlier today. Who wins in this exchange? We do.
May 20, 2013, 2:29pm | Ed Morrissey
This comes to you from the administration of President Barack Obama, whose presidential campaign had no trouble accusing Republicans of waging a war on women by simply suggesting it was wrong to force employers to provide free birth control and sterilization to their staffs. On Friday, as Daniel Halper points out today, State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki — who as press secretary to the campaign fronted those attacks on Mitt Romney and the GOP — refused to criticize Iran for excluding women from campaigning for the presidency:
QUESTION: Jen, can I change the subject? It would seem that in Iran the Guardians Council, which is vetting the candidates for the upcoming elections next month, have decided and have ruled that women cannot contest, they cannot stand as candidates. I wondered what the United States reaction is to that, considering that 50 person of the population in Iran is women – are women.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t take positions on any candidates, as you know, and we hope that the upcoming elections will be free, fair, and transparent and will represent the will of the Iranian people. So we wouldn’t weight into decisions made by the government. Of course, broadly, we hope that women around the world participate in politics and elected office, but beyond that I don’t think I have anything specific for you.
QUESTION: Taking the word “fair” – if you’re being fair, it would seem to exclude 50 percent of the population from an election, would already mean that it is not a fair election.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t weigh in on to the candidates and the candidates that are chosen through the process in Iran. Of course, of course, broadly speaking we do want women to participate in elections around the world and rise up in elected office.
QUESTION: Just not in Iran?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not suggesting that, Arshad. I’m just suggesting that we leave it to the process that happens in Iran for them to pick their candidates.
QUESTION: But I mean why – it seems astounding that this Department – I mean, what if they decided to exclude, as this country once did, not merely women but black people? Would that be acceptable to you? That’s just their choice; they do it any way they want and you’re not going to stand up for democratic rights?
MS. PSAKI: I think we pretty broadly stand up for democratic rights from this building.
QUESTION: Just not for Iranian women, apparently.
MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what I was conveying. I think there are two separate issues here. Of course, we want women to participate in processes around the world, whether that is participating in voting or being elected to office. Of course. More specifically, in terms of how candidates are selected, we don’t weigh in on specific candidates, of course, as the Government of Iran is picking them. But broadly, yes, we would like women to be participating at every level.
QUESTION: Including in Iran?
MS. PSAKI: Including around the world.
QUESTION: But – no but –
QUESTION: This is not a process. This is a clear case of gender discrimination, no? Isn’t that a difference between a vetting procedure and just saying, “All women no”? I mean, you’ve got to take a stand on something like that.
MS. PSAKI: Again, Brad, I think I made pretty clear – I don’t know that I have much more to add – that of course we have long supported women being elected to office in the United States and around the world and participating in the process. We want this to be free and fair. There’s a lot of ways to, of course, define that. But again, we don’t select or play a role in selecting who the candidates are. We can take a look through the process, and happy to comment once it’s completed.
Is it too much to ask for a White House that’s at least as tough on America’s enemies abroad as it is on their political opponents at home?
Update: Originally, the headline said “no comment,” but strictly speaking, Psaki commented on it. It’s more accurate to say that the State Department took no position on the issue.
May 20, 2013, 1:17pm | Ed Morrissey
Not terribly surprising, as the consequences of this behavior have been less than noteworthy:
Three months after hackers working for a cyberunit of China’s People’s Liberation Army went silent amid evidence that they had stolen data from scores of American companies and government agencies, they appear to have resumed their attacks using different techniques, according to computer industry security experts and American officials.
The Obama administration had bet that “naming and shaming” the groups, first in industry reports and then in the Pentagon’s own detailed survey of Chinese military capabilities, might prompt China’s new leadership to crack down on the military’s highly organized team of hackers — or at least urge them to become more subtle.
But Unit 61398, whose well-guarded 12-story white headquarters on the edges of Shanghai became the symbol of Chinese cyberpower, is back in business, according to American officials and security companies.
Who thought that the Chinese military could be “shamed” in the first place? Isn’t this the same nation that forcibly aborts children in support of the one-child policy that Joe Biden “fully understand[s]“? Shame isn’t exactly high up on their response list. It looks like they only stopped long enough to try less-detectable strategies, and that’ll be their strategy the next time, too.
May 20, 2013, 12:54pm | Mary Katharine Ham
It was supposed to be a warm, fuzzy women’s coalition site for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, but it’s got no url! What now?
Unfortunately, McAuliffe forgot to buy the domain “WomenForTerry.com.” Instead, someone else bought it and set up a site making light about two incidents McAuliffe writes about in his 1997 book. In one, he skipped out for a Washington Post party while his wife was in labor with his daughter. (Note that despite the meme at right, McAuliffe wrote that he was present for his daughter’s birth.)
In the other incident, on the way home from the hospital from the birth of his son, McAuliffe writes that he left his wife and newborn in the car so that he could run in and make an appearance at a Democratic Party fundraiser.
Enjoy WomenforTerry.com. The goof on the credit-card line is my favorite. He really said this:
“She’s got a great life. Listen, her credit cards are paid and all that. She knows I do very well. But she has no idea. Myself and my accountants are the only people who know.”
May 20, 2013, 10:45am | Duane Patterson
I realize the gang here was all over all the relevant irrelevance spouted by Dan Pfeiffer, addressed mainly by subject. But it’s worth noting that for the first time in American culture, we now have two reigning men that are Mr. Irrelevant. And I don’t think Dan Pfeiffer played much football.
In an annual tradition that began in 1976 by former player, businessman and part-time actor Paul Salata, the very last person picked in the NFL draft each year, sometimes 450 selections after the draft commences, hosts a week long golf tournament, regatta, roast, and presents Mr. Irrelevant with the Lowsman Trophy, which is of course the opposite of the Heisman Trophy. The trophy itself strikes the same pose as the Heisman, except with the player fumbling the ball.
Until yesterday, Mr. Irrelevant lived only in the hearts of minds of only the most loyal followers of the draft. Thanks to his stunning performance on the Sunday show circuit yesterday, Mr. Irrelevant should now forever be linked to Obama special assistant Dan Pfeiffer, who saw the law, the Benghazi talking points, and where Obama was the night of the attack last September 11th on our consulate, all as being irrelevant.
Now if only we could undo the damange of Obamacare and make the rest of the administration just as irrelevant. The country would be far better off.
May 19, 2013, 12:22pm | Duane Patterson
We already have seen that the Obama administration doesn’t think much of the freedom of religion clause when it interferes with the HHS regulations. We’ve been shamed into giving up the 2nd Amendment, for the children. We’ve seen the freedom of the press isn’t really freedom anymore if the Justice Department doesn’t like what you’re writing about.
But with the testimony Friday of Steven Miller to the House Ways And Means Committee, we see now that what you pray about is a legitimate tax question. And on the Hugh Hewitt Show just a big ago, Texas Congressman Kevin Brady let this slip, when it comes to what happens when pro-life groups meet up with the Internal Revenue Service.
HH: Guy Benson, you have a question for Congressman Brady?
GB: Well, yeah, Congressman, I thought that your formulation, asking the question are we still in America, it was so apropos, especially when we heard that exchange between Mr. Miller and Representative Schock of Illinois, who talked about the pro-life organization…
GB: …that was asked by the IRS in writing what type of prayers they did.
GB: I mean, that, to me, is like a whoa, holy cow type of moment. Were you blown away by that as well?
KB: Yes, and we had obviously been reading through all the material throughout the week as this thing was coming out. And not only did they ask what were the contents of you prayers, but they were asking pro-life groups to have their board of directors commit that they will not protest in front of Planned Parenthood clinics, which again, never heard of in my life. And it ought to frighten people that the IRS, that the government, is that intrusive on behalf of a political agenda.
JC: Kevin, this is John Campbell. I haven’t heard this. They made them commit that they wouldn’t protest, or else they threatened they couldn’t get a tax exempt status?
KB: Absolutely. Abosutely.
KB: That was one of the intrusive questions they asked. And this is a simple C4 application. This has never been a cross-examination of your political or religious beliefs. But this is far beyond just conservative tea party type groups. This goes to the pro-life movement as well.
Yes, if you want to get tax exempt status, you have to have your board of directors remove the ability of your group to protest at Planned Parenthood clinics.
In any normal universe, regardless of the political ideology coming down here, the ACLU should go apoplectic over any group being leaned on by the federal government to waive their right of freedom of assembly.
Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be any normal universe.
May 17, 2013, 4:49pm | Ed Morrissey
What’s worse than a high-ranking federal bureaucrat dishonestly setting up a planted question in order to stage a modified limited hangout in order to downplay an explosive scandal coming on quickly? Using a lobbyist to do it:
Celia Roady, a lobbyist in the firm of Morgan Lewis, said she was called personally by Lois Lerner, the IRS head of the tax exempt division, on May 9.
“I received a call from Lois Lerner, who told me that she wanted to address an issue after her prepared remarks at the [American Bar Association] Tax Section’s Exempt Organizations Committee Meeting, and asked if I would pose a question to her after her remarks,” Roady said in a statement to U.S. News and World Report. “I agreed to do so, and she then gave me the question that I asked at the meeting the next day. We had no discussion thereafter on the topic of the question, nor had we spoken about any of this before I received her call. She did not tell me, and I did not know, how she would answer the question.”
Remember when Barack Obama pledged to reduce the influence of lobbyists in his administration? Less than five years later, his administration’s using them to set up alibis. Hopenchange!
No wonder two House Democrats want Lerner’s resignation tout suite:
Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Queens) and Sander Levin (D-Mich), top Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, on Friday demanded the resignation of Lois Lerner, head of the IRS division overseeing tax-exempt organizations.
Lerner, who heads the IRS division that includes the Cincinnati office responsible for singling out conservative groups seeking tax exempt status for scrutiny, worked to put a stop to the practice.
But she faces fire for failing to tell Congress about the problem, including at a hearing held just two days before she apparently used a planted question at a American Bar Association event to try to control news of the scandal.
The New York Daily News offers this uncharacteristic bit of understatement:
The apparent flubbed effort to soften the impact of the IG’s report irked lawmakers in both parties.