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Barack Obama

His latest. The Reason editor-in-chief has consistently focused on the Benghazi angle that should most concern libertarians, namely the Administration’s scapegoating of speech (I think I’ll go ahead and coin the term “speech-goating.”) Here he focuses on a David Brooks column seemingly intended as a defense of the process that led to the famed Benghazi talking points, but which winds up putting them in a bad light indeed:

…in the absence of a clear narrative, the talking points gravitated toward the least politically problematic story, blaming the anti-Muslim video and the Cairo demonstrations.

Why was it deemed “the least politically problematic” course to spread an untruth, already widely known to be such by many senior officials, that sought to focus public and world anger on private speech, and by implication on our First Amendment protection of free speech about religion?

One should note carefully Ken White’s powerful argument at Popehat that the arrest of filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula wasn’t in fact legally irregular because Nakoula had clearly violated the terms of his supervised release and revocation of his release was par for the course under the circumstances.

Even so, the questions remain. The Administration sent Susan Rice out to five talk shows on the weekend of the attacks, where she pressed the line that outrage about the video fueled the attack. Brooks makes the case that interagency rivalries and secrecy got in the way of telling a fuller story. Maybe so. But why should American free speech be left as the “least politically problematic” thing to blame after a terrorist attack?

Ilya Shapiro and Hans Bader make the case against Obama pick Thomas Perez. Senate Democrats have postponed a committee vote on Perez to May 8 “after Republicans threatened to use a separate hearing to criticize his handling of a whistleblower case.” [HuffPo]

Gun control roundup

by Walter Olson on April 19, 2013

  • “Who killed gun control?” [David Boaz] Democratic senators from rural states are in touch with public opinion back home. Is that actually sinister? [Jennifer Rubin]
  • Failed bill applied tough regulations to gun “transfers,” not just sales, and the difference was often not well explained in the press [Kopel via Lynch] The un-empirical debate [Sowell via Lynch]
  • We’re informed the late Margaret Thatcher was “divisive” in tone. What are we to think of Pres. Obama’s tone on gun bills? [Jacob Sullum; similarly]
  • Hometown paper: “As lead sponsor in House on gun legislation, Rep. Diana DeGette appears to not understand how they work” [Denver Post, followup in which DeGette digs in deeper]
  • Argument that making insurance obligatory for gun owners would generate insurer records documenting who owns guns, to which government might in due course demand access [Tom Blumer; related, Alex Pappas/Daily Caller; earlier here, here, here]
  • Bloomberg’s armed Bermuda bodyguards draw critics’ fire again [Cheryl Chumley, Washington Times; earlier]
  • “Connecticut’s Gun Control: A Rush To Pass Laws That Couldn’t Have Prevented Tragedy” [Tuccille, Sullum]

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Obama on patent trolls

by Walter Olson on February 18, 2013

The president has some opinions on the subject [TechDirt]:

Obama: A couple years ago we began a process of patent reform. We actually passed some legislation that made progress on some of these issues. But it hasn’t captured all the problems.

The folks that you’re talking about are a classic example. They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them. Sometimes these things are challenging. Because we also want to make sure that patents are long enough, and that people’s intellectual property is protected. We’ve got to balance that with making sure that they’re not so long that innovation is reduced.

But I do think that our efforts at patent reform only went about halfway to where we need to go. What we need to do is pull together additional stakeholders and see if we can build some additional consensus on smarter patent laws.

Also: RICO claim can’t shoot down Wi-Fi patent troll [Joe Mullin, Ars Technica]

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From Cato Institute chairman Robert Levy, who was co-counsel in the landmark D.C. v. Heller case. [National Law Journal] More: Trevor Burrus, The Blaze. And the New York Times takes up the topic of guns and suicide, but with some pretty big omissions [Tom Maguire, Ira Stoll/SmarterTimes]

Further: “Senate Judiciary Committee Hears from Cato on Gun Policy” [Ilya Shapiro, citing contributions by David Kopel, Randy Barnett, etc.] And while Bing’s real-time reaction tracker isn’t a scientific voter survey (though the sample size is large, and there’s a partisan breakdown) it seems I was not alone in being put off by President Obama’s demagogic “they deserve a vote” State of the Union wind-up on gun control. [Mediaite]

#SOTU

by Walter Olson on February 13, 2013

My tweets and retweets last night during the State of the Union address and the GOP response by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in regular rather than reverse chronological order:

Also, by way of pleasant contrast:

And here’s Cato’s response video with scholars Michael Tanner, Julian Sanchez, Alex Nowrasteh, Simon Lester, John Samples, Pat Michaels, Jagadeesh Gokhale, Michael F. Cannon, Jim Harper, Malou Innocent, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus and Neal McCluskey.

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I’ll be part of the Cato Institute commentary team Tuesday evening.

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On President Obama’s memo on targeted extrajudicial killing of Americans, a roundtable at NYT “Room for Debate“; Glenn Greenwald; Brad Wendel, Legal Ethics Forum; Jack Goldsmith and Benjamin Wittes/Susan Hennessey at Lawfare; Trevor Burrus, Cato, Lowering the Bar.

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Roger Parloff at Fortune on eye-popping new allegations in a case we’ve been following for a long time (e.g.):

In Manhattan federal district court this morning, Chevron filed the declaration of a former Ecuadorian judge, Alberto Guerra, who describes how he and a second former judge, Nicolás Zambrano, allegedly allowed the plaintiffs lawyers to ghostwrite their entire 188-page, $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron [in the Lago Agrio environmental litigation] in exchange for a promise of $500,000 from the anticipated recovery.

The bribery charge is completely new, and the ghostwriting charge is more sweeping and better substantiated than before.

Since some readers may be having a hard time keeping all the case’s scandals straight, here’s a précis. Chevron has now presented evidence of two distinct, large-scale, ghostwriting frauds which, among other problems, it maintains, taint the Ecuadorian judgment.

Complicating Chevron’s claims of vindication — and opening an avenue for the plaintiff’s camp to argue against giving any credence to the new allegations — the oil company acknowledges that it has made and intends to go on making payments of “living expenses” to the former Ecuadorian judge, now resident with his family in the United States. Read the whole thing here.

More from Kevin Williamson at National Review Online:

Curious fact: As a senator, Barack Obama did see fit to intervene in the Chevron case — on the side of the Ecuadoran government. After meeting with an old basketball buddy — the abovementioned Mr. Donziger, who stands to make billions of dollars as the plaintiffs’ attorney in the case — Barack Obama wrote a letter to the U.S. trade representative arguing that Ecuador’s actions should not be held against the regime when negotiating trade privileges. Donziger, with the help of a $10,000-a-month lobbyist, also got Andrew Cuomo to threaten to intervene in the case, even though the jurisdiction of the Empire State stops well north of Ecuador.

Yet more: Daniel Fisher, Forbes.

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A. “Buried in the middle of the penultimate paragraph.”

Q. “Where, amid a long rant against the D.C. Circuit’s decision striking down most recess appointments by the President (“A Court Upholds Republican Chicanery”), would you expect the Times to concede that the practice of holding pro forma sessions to stymie such appointments was pioneered under Democratic Senate rule as a way of restraining President George W. Bush?

No prizes, as distinct from amusement value, in demonstrating what the New York Times thought of the practice back then.

More on the Canning v. NLRB decision: Trevor Burrus/Cato, massive link roundup at How Appealing, John Elwood, Point of Law roundtable, Michael Fox/Employer’s Lawyer (implications for NLRB), @markcalabria (implications for Richard Cordray CFPB appointment), Michael Greve, Mike Rappaport.

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  • Labor/employment law: the last four years, and the next [Daniel Schwartz series: first, second, interview] “Some Thoughts on the Meaning of a Second Obama Term for Labor and Employment Law” [Paul Secunda]
  • “Alcoholic Tested Without Cause Can Proceed With Bias Claim” [Mary Pat Gallagher, NJLJ]
  • “The ‘I’s have it: NLRB says don’t shred those at-will disclaimers just yet” [Jon Hyman]
  • “Knox Supreme Court Decision Strengthens Worker Rights” [Mark Mix, Bench Memos]
  • “City Councils, EEOC Grapple with Employment Protections for Ex-Convicts” [Shannon Green, Corp Counsel]
  • Leftward efforts to constitutionalize labor and employment law [Workplace Prof]
  • Should this bother privacy advocates? “NLRB looks to give workers’ private contact info to unions” [Washington Examiner]
  • Drama unfolds as backers push right-to-work law in Michigan [Shikha Dalmia]

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Election roundup

by Walter Olson on November 6, 2012

The foreign policy debate

by Walter Olson on October 23, 2012

A few selected tweets:

And about the last debate:

While I’d rate the debate stylistically as a draw (this time Obama actually studied for the test) I’ve a feeling Romney may have made further voter inroads by continuing to emphasize his Massachusetts-moderate side. “Obama just talks the game on ‘assault weapons,’ but I actually got a bill passed” must be the unlikeliest Republican applause line of the evening. And was Romney really bidding to get to the left of Obama on education spending and government-guaranteed contraceptives, to name but two?

Highlights of my Tweets as part of the Cato debate-Tweet team, as usual in reverse chronological order:

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Will the Obama administration’s much-publicized restrictions on new coal burning electric plants really crimp the economy of the Midwest? Or, given that the market for new plants appears to have tipped decisively toward natural gas for the foreseeable future, do they amount to a “regulatory nothing-burger?” [Jerry Rogers and Peter Van Doren (Cato), Forbes, via David Henderson]

With prospects for the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) having fallen to zero in Congress, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been busy instead issuing rulings expanding the legal prerogatives of labor unions. One that has the business community up in arms concerns “micro-unions,” in which a union designates a bargaining unit smaller than would be considered natural under Board precedent, but within which it thinks it can muster a voting majority. We covered the issue last year, and a ruling this May confirms that the NLRB is headed down this controversial path. I summarize at Cato at Liberty.

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Details here on how you can follow along.

Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on October 6, 2012

  • Visual representation of debate result (courtesy Chris Fountain) “Obama should have spent more time in court” [David Frum] “Can you imagine the rewards points we earned by paying for wars with the national credit card?” [@BCAppelbaum via @TPCarney]
  • Correcting the tax side of the debate: factory relocation, oil deductions, corporate jets [Daniel Mitchell, Cato-at-Liberty]
  • Race heats up for three Florida justices [Insurance Journal, earlier] Unions campaign for incumbent justices even as court deliberates on pension lawsuit [Sunshine State News]
  • Maybe Rep. Todd Akin isn’t the most unscientific member of the House Science Committee after all [TPM]
  • Yes, the HHS welfare work waiver is a real issue [WSJ editorial]
  • “Whistle-Blower Lawyers Throw Support Behind Obama” [NYT via FedSoc]
  • Michael Greve doesn’t hold back, tells us what he really thinks of Mme. Warren [Law and Liberty]

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