Tonight on The Independents: Peter Suderman on the IRS Hearings, Katherine Mangu-Ward and T

Purple hair, purple hair. |||Tonight's live episode of The Independents (Fox Business Network, 9 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. PT, with re-airs three hours later) will be filled with familiar Reason characters. Besides yours truly, there will be Managing Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward, who will be one half of the Party Panel (along with former GOP congressman Thaddeus McCotter), and will talk about the administration's heavily redacted legal justification for assassinating U.S. citizens, the Republican foreign-policy split between Dick Cheney and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), the laughable notion by Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) that when it comes to financial backers, the Democratic Party "doesn't have billionaires"; plus the lurid claims made in the new Clinton-Obama page-turner Blood Feud.

Are you watching the House hearings with Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinenon the missing IRS emails? Well, Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman probably is, and since he broke the relevant story about the IRS having a contract with an email backup company, he shall certainly add value. Remember the federal government's controversial Operation Choke Point that allegedly targets politically disfavorable businesses for prosecutorial sanction? Brian Wise from the United States Consumer Coalition will be on to discuss the latest developments, which involve cease-and-desist letters. And remember how international borders are crumbling to meaninglessness in the Middle East and in Russia's Near Abroad? Michael Weiss of The Interpreter will add his two cents.

Sexy aftershow begins on a few beats after 10. Follow The Independents on Facebook at, follow on Twitter @ independentsFBN, tweet during the show & we'll use the best of 'em. Click on this page for more video of past segments.

Ira Stoll Warns That the Obama Presidency Is Far From Over

ObamaNBC chief White House correspondent and political director Chuck Todd recently declared, about President Obama, "the public is saying, hey buddy, your presidency is over."

The pronouncement was met with a banner headline on the Drudge Report. Senator Rubio, Republican of Florida, ratified the sentiment by telling Sean Hannity on Fox News, "I saw a commentator say that these polls, what they reflect, is that the Obama presidency is over, and I agree with that. I think it is, in general."

Alas, with all respect to Senator Rubio and Mr. Todd, and even more respect to Matt Drudge's shrewd news judgment, warns Ira Stoll, Yogi Berra had it right when he said "it ain't over till it's over."

View this article.

Drone-Killing Memo Released, EPA Gets Gassy, Hard Look at Lerner's Hard Drive: P.M. Links

  • David BarronA previously secret Justice Department memo justifying the drone assassination of U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki was released today by a federal appeals court. The document argues that neither the law nor the Constitution prevented the president from ordering the killing. Its author, David Barron, recently won confirmation as a federal judge. Hmmm...Wonder whether he would have released the memo...
  • Fresh from claiming she and Bill were "dead broke" when they left the White House, Hillary Clinton now boasts that she pays taxes "unlike a lot of people who are truly well off." If she likes it so much, she can pay mine, too.
  • Despite trimming the Environmental Protection Agency's claims of authority just a tad, the Supreme Court largely let stand the EPA's efforts to regulate the emission of "greenhouse gases." So watch that spicy food.
  • Syria's government claims it has surrendered the last of its chemical weapons. Uh huh.
  • An island on Titan, a moon of Saturn, mysteriously disappeared over the course of just a few days. Astronomers say they hope J. J. Abrams has nothing to do with the explanation.
  • The odd fate of former IRS official Lois Lerner's hard drive, which reportedly crashed and ate two years worth of email, has taken on a life of its own in the investigation of the tax agency's treatment of small-government groups.

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i'll build my own train service, with blackjack, and hookersA child's abandoned school project led the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to suspend service on Metro-North, a commuter rail line that serves New York and Connecticut, for part of early Friday morning. The middle school student fashioned a cardboard box to look like head of Bender, a character in the animated series Futurama. The child said he accidentally left the project near the Unquowa Road bridge in Fairfield, Connecticut and meant to pick it up later.

Instead, it was spotted by a Department of Public Works employee who called police. Cops agreed the object was suspicious and called the MTA and a bomb squad from the state police. MTA then suspended service or, as Connecticut News put it, "the box forced Metro-North to suspend service."  The paper didn't seem to understand why not everyone would blame the box:

While Metro-North didn't have anything to do with the box, some commuters still blamed the railroad.

"I don't defend Metro-North any more," Joe Clyne, a Fairfield commuter for 16 years, said as he sat on the steps of Tomlinson Middle School overlooking the chaotic scene on the Unquowa Road bridge. "I used to say that Metro-North was better than the Long Island Railroad – not anymore."

Service was suspended for two hours while the cardboard box was checked out. Land of the free, home of the brave.

Did NASA/NOAA Dramatically Alter U.S. Temperatures After 2000?

hot enoughSome segments of the Internet are abuzz with the claim by climate change skeptic Steven Goddard (Tony Heller) over at his Real Science blog that NASA/NOAA have been jiggering the numbers so that they can claim that warmest years in the continental United States occurred recently, not back in the 1930s. Folks, please watch out for confirmation bias.

Via email, I asked Anthony Watts, proprietor of WattsUpWithThat, what he thinks of Goddard's claims. He responded...

...while it is true that NOAA does a tremendous amount of adjustment to the surface temperature record, the word “fabrication” implies that numbers are being plucked out of thin air in a nefarious way when it isn’t exactly the case.

“Goddard” is wrong is his assertions of fabrication, but the fact is that NCDC isn’t paying attention to small details, and the entire process from B91’s to CONUS creates an inflated warming signal. We published a preliminary paper two years ago on this which you can read here:

About half the warming in the USA is due to adjustments. We' received a lot of criticism for that paper, and we’ve spent two years reworking it and dealing with those criticisms. Our results are unchanged and will be published soon.

In his email, Watts also cites the strong criticisms of Goddard's earlier claims over at the Blackboard blog:

Goddard made two major errors in his analysis, which produced results showing a large bias due to infilling that doesn’t really exist. First, he is simply averaging absolute temperatures rather than using anomalies. Absolute temperatures work fine if and only if the composition of the station network remains unchanged over time. If the composition does change, you will often find that stations dropping out will result in climatological biases in the network due to differences in elevation and average temperatures that don’t necessarily reflect any real information on month-to-month or year-to-year variability. Lucia covered this well a few years back with a toy model, so I’d suggest people who are still confused about the subject to consult her spherical cow.

His second error is to not use any form of spatial weighting (e.g. gridding) when combining station records. While the USHCN network is fairly well distributed across the U.S., its not perfectly so, and some areas of the country have considerably more stations than others. Not gridding also can exacerbate the effect of station drop-out when the stations that drop out are not randomly distributed.

I note that Watts commented on the, hmmm, accuracy of Goddard's work over at the Blackboard as well:

Anthony Watts (Comment #130003)
June 6th, 2014 at 8:00 am

I took Goddard to task over this as well in a private email, saying he was very wrong and needed to do better. I also pointed out to him that his initial claim was wronger than wrong, as he was claiming that 40% of USCHN STATIONS were missing.

Predictably, he swept that under the rug, and then proceeded to tell me in email that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Fortunately I saved screen caps from his original post and the edit he made afterwards.


Before: http://wattsupwiththat.files.w.....before.png

After: http://wattsupwiththat.files.w....._after.png

Note the change in wording in the highlighted last sentence.

In case you didn’t know, “Steve Goddard” is a made up name. Supposedly at Heartland ICCC9 he’s going to “out” himself and start using his real name. That should be interesting to watch, I won’t be anywhere near that moment of his.

This, combined with his inability to openly admit to and correct mistakes, is why I booted him from WUWT some years ago, after he refused to admit that his claim about CO2 freezing on the surface of Antarctica couldn’t be possible due to partial pressure of CO2.

And then when we had an experiment done, he still wouldn’t admit to it.

And when I pointed out his recent stubborness over the USHCN issues was just like that…he posts this:


He’s hopelessly stubborn, worse than Mann at being able to admit mistakes IMHO.

In his email to me, Watts details the sort of bureaucratic bungling that produces what he thinks is a significant artificial warming signal in the lower 48 temperature records from which he concludes:

It is my view that while NOAA/NCDC is not purposely “fabricating” data, their lack of attention to detail in the process has contributed to a false warming signal in the USA, and they don’t much care about it because it is in line with their expectations of warming. The surface temperature record thus becomes a product of bureaucracy and not of hard science...Never ascribe malice to what can be explained by simple incompetence.

See my earlier reporting on Watts et al.'s U.S. temperature data paper in my article, "Everyone Freaks Out About Two New Climate Change Studies." In response to criticism of that paper Watt and his colleagues have, as noted above, recrunched the data and will release a new paper soon.

Sotomayor Praises Affirmative Action and Legacy Admissions, Doesn't Realize Those Things Are Awful

Sonia SotomayorThough the public has steadily turned against affirmative action schemes—and courts continue to limit their use—Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor remains a steadfast defender of race-based college admissions.

In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Sotomayor offered an interesting glimpse into her mindset on the issue. She maintained that race-based affirmative action was the only reliable way to ensure campus diversity.

Stephanopoulos asked her whether it made more sense for admissions offices to consider regional or economic background instead of race. Her answer was definitive:

Well, the problem with that answer is that it doesn't work. It's not that I don't believe it works, I don't think the statistics show that it works. It just doesn't.

But perhaps more shocking was that she defended affirmative action by likening it to legacy admission—a practice that virtually everyone who knows about it hates (some 75 percent of Americans, according to The New York Times), except Sotomayor, apparently:

Look, we have legacy admissions. If your parents or your grandparents have been to that school, they're going to give you an advantage in getting into the school again. Legacy admission is a wonderful thing because it means even if you're not as qualified as others you're going to get that slight advantage.

Is it "wonderful" that the scions of politically and financially well-connected families get to be judged on their last names, rather than on their academic merit? It seems like Sotomayor thinks legacy admissions are somehow helping the disadvantaged, when in reality they do the opposite.

This isn't abstract, theoretical, or even disputable. In 2009, Princeton accepted 40 percent of applicants whose parents were alumni, according to Inside Higher Ed. That was 4.5 times higher than the rate of admission for non-legacy applicants. People who didn't have famous parents got penalized when they applied to Princeton, plain and simple. That's the system Sotomayor just said was "wonderful."

Why should admittance to elite colleges be inherited like an aristocratic title? And why on earth would a Supreme Court justice whose ostensible concern is fostering diversity and assisting disadvantaged minorities be in favor of such a system?

Foes of inequality who criticize race-based affirmative action should demand the end of legacy admissions with equal fervor. It boggles the mind to think they would have Sotomayor against them in this fight, too.

Read Reason's Shikha Dalmia on why legacy preferences are the "original sin" of admissions policies.

DOJ’s Defense of Drone-Killing American Alleged Terrorist Without Trial: Because War

Anwar al-AwlakiToday, in response to lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and The New York Times, the Obama administration has finally released an important memo written by the Department of Justice explaining the legal authority to use drones to sometimes kill Americans without the benefit of a trial first. Anwar Al-Awlaki was an American citizen and also allegedly a terrorist organizer for Al Qaeda, killed in a drone strike in 2011 in Yemen.

The administration had been fighting the memo's release and losing. Today a redacted version of the memo was released. The ACLU has it posted here (the memo actually begins on page 67, following a lengthy court ruling). The "too long; didn't read" version: The Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) that gave us wars in Iraq and Afghanistan gave the administration permission to pursue and capture or kill members of Al Qaeda; Al-Awlaki was a member of Al Qaeda; therefore, killing was legal.

Al-Awlaki's Fourth Amendment right to due process is brought up toward the end. The Justice Department argues here that capturing Al-Awlaki was infeasible, yet he presented a threat to the United States as "continued" and "imminent," therefore lethal force was justified.

What sort of continued and imminent threat did Al-Awlaki present from Yemen? Don't know. That part is all redacted. The justification of why the CIA pursued this course of action is also almost entirely redacted. Even with the memo, we actually don't learn anything new from a leak of a similar memo NBC published last year. We don't know why Al-Awlaki was considered to be an imminent threat and why this drone strike was the only way the Obama administration believed it needed to deal with him.

Also note that the memo is entirely only about the execution of Al-Awlaki. The United States has killed four Americans abroad with drone strikes, including Al-Awlaki's teenage son. The son was not purposefully targeted, but was killed two weeks after his father's death after running off to Yemen. He had no known connections to terrorism himself.

The ACLU, in a release, said it would push for more information to be made public:

"We will continue to press for the release of other documents relating to the targeted-killing program, including other legal memos and documents relating to civilian casualties." [ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel] Jaffer said.

"The drone program has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, including countless innocent bystanders, but the American public knows scandalously little about who is being killed and why."

#Winning: Record Low 7 Percent of Americans Have Confidence in Congress!

Out of Gallup's regular list of American institutions, only the police (53 percent), small business (62 percent), and the military (74 percent) poll above 50 percent. And the military is actually down from a recent high of 82 percent in 2009.

For more information, go here.

EPA Can Regulate 83 Percent of Greenhouse Gases Instead of 86 Percent, Says U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a decision in the case of Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency in which it more or less affirmed the EPA's power to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide so long as they are emitted with other pollutants that the agency has the authority regulate under the Clean Air Act. The EPA claimed that since it had the authority to regulate any facility that emitted more 100 tons of other pollutants per year, it could similarly regulate any facility that emitted more than 100 tons of carbon dioxide annually. More than 6 million such facilities including schools, big apartment buildings, hospitals, dairy farms, and so forth emit that much carbon dioxide. The agency concluded that regulating that many facilities would be "absurd" so it decided to "tailor" its regulations so that they applied only to facilities that emitted greenhouse gases equivalent to more than 75,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The Supreme Court ruled today that the EPA can regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases from facilities that emit 100 tons of the other pollutants that it already has Clean Air Act authority to regulate. Since, for example, big power plants, refineries, and cement factories emit significant amounts of pollutants like nitrogen oxides, particulates, ozone and so forth, the agency will have the power to limit to their greenhouse gas emissions as well.

As the Associated Press reported:

‘‘EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case,’’ [Justice Antonin] Scalia said. He said the agency wanted to regulate 86 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted from plants nationwide, and it will it be able to regulate 83 percent of the emissions under the ruling.

Will the ruling have any effect on the Obama administration's proposals to force electric power generating plants to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent? Not really. From AP:

The EPA and many environmental advocates said the ruling would not affect the agency’s proposals for first-time national standards for new and existing power plants. The most recent proposal aims at a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 2030, but won’t take effect for at least another two years...

...David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the ruling was a green light for the administration’s proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. ‘‘There’s no adverse effect on EPA’s power plant proposal. In fact, it looks like the court is reaffirming EPA’s authority to set those standards,’’ Doniger said.

Given Republican obstructionism with regard to climate change policy, this is the sort of "second best" piecemeal regulation that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman feels forced to endorse today. 

The Pope Needs to Meet More Drug Users

As prohibitionists typically do, Pope Francis conflated drug use with drug abuse when he denounced marijuana legalization on Friday. "Let me state this in the clearest terms possible," he said. "The problem of drug use is not solved with drugs!" But what, exactly, is "the problem of drug use"? Francis seems to have in mind a harmful, life-disrupting pattern of heavy use. "Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise," he said. "To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem." Even if we agree that "drug addiction is an evil," prohibition clearly magnifies that evil by consigning users to a black market where prices are artificially high, quality and potency are unpredictable, dangerous methods of administration are encouraged, conflicts are resolved through violence, and consumers are subject to arrest at any moment. It is debatable whether these costs can be justified by reference to the potential addicts they deter, especially since the burdens are imposed on people who do not benefit from them. In any case, what about drug users who are not addicts? Francis seems to think they do not exist.

Although Francis referred to "alcohol abuse" as an example of addiction, he did not condemn drinking per se (a dicey proposition, given wine's role as a Catholic sacrament). But he made no such distinction in connection with the currently prohibited intoxicants, which most people manage to consume without ruining their lives. That black-and-white attitude may not be surprising coming from a man with "years of personal experience ministering to addicts in the drug-laden slums of the Argentine capital," as the Associated Press puts it. Similarly, the work of the cops and addiction treatment specialists who welcomed the pope's remarks regularly exposes them to people with drug problems. It is risky to draw general conclusions from such skewed samples. To put it another way, Francis' encounters with down-and-out paco addicts in Buenos Aires tell us nothing about the merits of letting lawyers and schoolteachers in Colorado unwind with a little Cherry O.G. after a hard day at work.