Obama Ties Himself to Fast and Furious Scandal


Much more to say about this later, but I have to say one thing right now: I’m shocked that President Obama would assert executive privilege over a set of documents pertaining to the Fast & Furious scandal right now (unless, of course, they implicate the White House in ways that haven’t been clear to this point).  Why shocked? Because his action pushes the scandal to the front pages and it ties his administration to something that they had heretofore managed to distance themselves from.

Obama does not want this to become an election year issue, yet his actions almost assure that it will be an issue. Sen. Grassley has it right:

“How can the president assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement? How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he’s supposedly never seen? Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme? The contempt citation is an important procedural mechanism in our system of checks and balances,” he said.

“The questions from Congress go to determining what happened in a disastrous government program for accountability and so that it’s never repeated again,” he said.

This move signals that something is being covered up; if there is nothing to see in those papers, though, why would the President paint himself in such a light? It doesn’t help that Holder has made misleading statements in an attempt to shift some blame to the previous administration— a tactic that the administration continues to use in other situations to explain away their own failures.

In a second major retraction over its version of the the gun-walking scandal, the Justice Department has retracted Attorney General Eric Holder’s charge in a hearing last week that his Bush administration predecessor had been briefed on the affair.

In a memo just released by Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa senator reveals that Holder also didn’t apologize to former Attorney General Michael Mukasey for dragging him into the Fast & Furious scandal that is headed for a major legal clash and likely contempt of Congress charge against Holder.

According to Grassley’s memo, Justice said that Holder “inadvertently” made the charge against Mukasey in a hearing.

That sound you hear is Republicans thanking the President for handing over another powerful campaign issue– and you might also hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the left as they realize that this is turning ugly.

If I might echo Vice President Biden for one moment: the Fast & Furious scandal is a big fucking deal.

Happiness: Still Overrated

The Murrays

This article on The New Republic is mildly interesting to me, but it loses me when it starts talking about the religious view of focusing on things other than personal happiness. That is, focusing on something other than the fleeting, typically shallow response to fulfilling our small desires.

In Christianity, for most of its history, the treasure, not pleasure, was to be stored up in heaven, not down here where thieves break in. After all, as a pre-eighteenth-century theologian would put it—or as a modern and mathematical economist would, too—an infinite afterlife was infinitely to be preferred to any finite pleasure attainable in earthly life.

The un-happiness doctrine made it seem pointless to attempt to abolish poverty or slavery or wife-beating. A coin given to the beggar rewarded the giver with a leg-up to heaven, a mitzvah, a hasanaat; but the ancient praise for charity implied no plan to adopt welfare programs or to grant rights of personal liberty or to favor a larger national income. A life of sitting by the West Gate with a bowl to beg was, after all, an infinitesimally small share of one’s life to come. Get used to it: For now and for the rest of your life down here, it’s your place in the great chain of being. Take up your cross, and quit whining. What does it matter how miserable you are in this life if you’ll get pie in the sky when you die? Such fatalism in many religions—“God willing,” we say, “im yirtzeh hashem,” “insh’Allah,” “deo volente”—precluded idle talk of earthly happiness.

Not quite. At least, not entirely.

While I’ve personally heard preachers make some arguments with various fidelity to the message as portrayed here, it is rarely so simple as this. And my own personal crusade to find meaning in things other than personal happiness has nothing to do with denying myself earthly pleasure. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to drink, laugh, eat, live, love, and generally eat up all the experiences life can hand me. I truly enjoy life and there has been no shortage of happy moments in my life. What I believe, though, and what I’ve heard preached is that putting so much importance on those transient moments leads to an empty life.

Happiness is overrated not because it’s such a bad thing in and of itself, but because the pursuit of happiness leaves people painfully short of their real potential.Those things that I have done in life that bring me the most contentment– the overwhelming sense that my time here is not being wasted– are not necessarily those things that bring me the most happiness. They are the moments where I have served others, where I have accomplished the hardest tasks, or where I have maintained the struggle even when I wanted to give up. Those are the things that have brought me the most lasting value, the strongest sense of self-fulfillment.

Mere happiness simply doesn’t compete on the same emotional plane.

What I learned in church wasn’t fatalism or some un-happiness doctrine; what I learned was that focusing on such small bites of  emotional pleasure left damned little room for reaching heights far greater.

I don’t live a miserable life and people around me tend to laugh a lot, but I’ll be damned if I let these little pleasures keep me from finding greater meaning in my life. Your mileage may vary and I don’t expect everyone to follow the path that I’ve chosen. For me, though, it is obvious that our contemporary culture has placed so much emphasis on personal, selfish, worldly happiness that it can have the effect of drowning out those better angels of our nature. Or, to say it another way, “Happiness is most definitely overrated.”

I’ve strayed a bit, of course, and the referenced article still gives an interesting discussion on the subject of quantifying the value of happiness and the science of “hedonics.” It’s an article, in fact, that starts leaning a bit toward my own views on the subject (although I’m not entirely certain that McClosky would agree).

What I know, though, is that happiness and contentment are yours to define for yourself not because anyone else has found a way to measure your most personal emotions, but because our modern, wealthy, liberal (in a not-overly-political sense) society has allowed you the opportunity to find and cherish your own path. There aren’t too many societies in our history that could give its citizens that level of self-determination.

We are blessed.

Die, Big Gulp, Die Die Die

Sea of Soda

I’m not keen on the idea that any government body should take the unusual step of banning a substance like sugary beverages. Further, I think that if we, the people, sit and allow it to happen, we utterly deserve the gradual loss of freedoms that will follow.

Keep in mind that I’ve mocked the occasional Super Big Gulp drinker; I see no realistic reason why any one person should be carrying around a half-gallon of sugar water for casual sipping throughout their day. It isn’t healthy, it isn’t good, it isn’t a particularly good idea.

But that doesn’t make it my business or the government’s, either. No more, in fact, than it’s my business whether any reader out there is munching on Burger King’s latest multi-patty, bacon-rich, cheese and mayo-slathered sandwich. And that BK sandwich is likely even more damaging to your health than the Bucket o’ Jolt.

Beyond any question of the government’s right to govern my food choices so arbitrarily, though, there are pragmatic issues that really bug me.

Obviously, there is the reality that anyone who wants the bucket-sized soda will probably find a way around the ban. Many have noted that folks inclined to suck down that much cola will probably just order more than one, will visit the fountain for refills more often, or will otherwise find ways to fight the power.

But I would like to know what exactly it is that is to be banned. Is it the sugary beverage or is it the cup? If it’s the sugary beverage– that is, the bit that is actually bad for you– then will it be legal to sell the cup for use with things like non-sweetened teas and diet beverages? How about fruit juices? Juices that made from concentrates and water and fortified with high fructose corn syrup are obviously on the naughty list, but what about the unadulterated stuff? It might not be bulging with big, bad corn juice, but it is filled with sugar– sugar that, in significant quantities is still bad for the consumer. Has anyone accounted for the typical load of ice a customer uses in those giant cups? What is the actual volume of soda in there? Will there be special, undercover cops trolling the local Wendy’s in hopes of finding someone filling the giant cups with unapproved liquids?

So perhaps it is better if the cups are banned altogether. Even though the cups have done nothing wrong, even though people could use them for legitimate refreshment purposes, it is simply too easy to get around the ban by using the cups for evil purpose. Not that there aren’t potential loopholes even then; if I were in charge of marketing for any of the companies that sell this stuff, I’d simply re-position my cups as being intended for multiple users. That is, these aren’t Super Big Gulps, they are Family-Sized Big Gulps. It’s a drink for a family of four and each one would come with four straws and a warning label encouraging drinkers to drink responsibly.

One of the perpetual problems with government is that they feel the need to constantly fix our lives. We gave them a podium, they feel smarter and more capable than us, and they are fairly certain that we will never be able to guide ourselves as well as they can guide us. Worse, they know with certainty that they have to have “accomplishments” on their resume if they have any hopes of being hired for that next term of power, good pay, perks, and the opportunity to shift big government contracts to family and friends.

There is a constant struggle between we, the people, and our elected officials. What is so worrisome about this proposed legislation is that it isn’t that surprising to me; many of us have warned against the excesses of the state (and, in particular, about Bloomberg) simply because the trend has been so obvious. If the trajectory to this point is obvious, then what follows is just as obvious. Every encroachment on our freedoms will be for our own good, and there are a lot of people who think that you need to be saved from yourself.

As the good captain said, “I do not hold to that.”

This is a wonderful warning shot, though, and a reminder that the government’s natural inclination is to want to control you; it should be your job to ensure they don’t succeed.