In a famous case of overreaching, federal agents twice raided the renowned Gibson guitar company of Nashville, TN, for supposed violations of laws of Madagascar and of India. Madagascar and India had actually approved the export of the wood in question, but the feds were operating on the basis of their own interpretation of those foreign laws.
Curiously enough, the Martin guitar company, which uses exactly the same woods, but which donated money to democrat candidates was never bothered. Gibson’s CEO Henry Juszkiewicz was in the habit of making donations to Republican campaigns.
Though firmly asserting its innocence, the Gibson company ultimately concluded that it could not afford to spend millions of dollars fighting the case and settled, paying a $300,000 fine and contributing $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation “to promote the conservation of protected tree species.”
The feds sanctimoniously kept the Madagascar ebony in question, contending that Madagascar officials were “defrauded” by a local exporter about the nature of the product. But Gibson did get back all the seized Indian rosewood.
Gibson is commemorating its own persecution by producing a special “Government Series II Les Paul” model celebrating the return of its materials, complete with “fingerboards… made from solid rosewood returned to Gibson by the US government.”
This week Gibson has announced the “Government Series” of guitars, to celebrate the end of its tussle with the eager enforcers of the U.S. Customs Department.
It’s a series of guitars made, purportedly, with the very same wood that was seized by the United States government, which was later returned at the end of the fiasco.
Ladies and gentlemen, Here’s a photo of the Gibson Les Paul Government Series II. The body is painted in a custom color the company has named “Government Tan”—suitably drab—a nod to the joyless reality of living under the heavy thumb of stifling bureaucracy.
CNN’s Carol Costello admitted on Wednesday that President Obama’s staff “can be quite nasty” to deal with. Given Costello’s propensity to be a bleeding-heart liberal, her admission is all the more striking.
“I felt it first hand when I was, you know, reporting on the presidential race,” Costello noted. “I mean President Obama’s people can be quite nasty. They don’t like you to say anything bad about their boss, and they’re not afraid to use whatever means they have at hand to stop you from doing that, including threatening your job.“
C.J. Box, at Ricochet, has some unkind words about the recent behavior and long-term militarization of the National Park Service. Maybe we should be thinking about privatizing those parks. The Walt Disney Company wouldn’t let itself be used as a tool for politics and doesn’t stockpile assault rifles to be used on its customers.
The National Park Service was established in 1916 with a bill that mandated the agency “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” The Roosevelt Arch at the northern entrance to Yellowstone Park is inscribed as follows: “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”
No one at that time could imagine a scenario in the future where employees of that agency—on behalf of the federal government—would be engaged in acts of strong-armed intimidation of innocent visitors enjoying parks and monuments the public owns and pays for.
If you’ve been following the news since the faux government shutdown, you’ll know I’m not exaggerating. In addition to locking up open-air monuments like the World War II Memorial and threatening to arrest 80-year-old veterans, the NPS has spent extra staff time and money (during the aforementioned “shutdown”) putting up fences and barricades on public roadways in attempts to deny Americans the pleasure of even viewing national treasures like Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Tetons, and the Grand Canyon—from the road.
One of the worst example of NPS thuggishness occurred in my neck of the woods, Yellowstone Park, where rangers ordered seniors and foreign visitors back on their tour bus and accused them of “recreating.” Not only that, the busload of guests were ordered to not venture outside of the Old Faithful Inn, lest they see the famous geyser erupt. Armed NPS rangers stood outside the doors to make sure it couldn’t happen. Some of the foreign guests thought they were under arrest, and some seniors said they’d witnessed “Gestapo tactics.”
There’s long been a sickness in the National Park Service. I once heard a ranger explain to a fellow bureaucrat in Yellowstone that the NPS could really run the place well “if there weren’t all these damned people in it.” Another time, while interviewing park law enforcement for research for a novel, I was told by the highest-ranking park cop that he thought of his rangers as a “small army” that “could hold their own.” This, while showing off his massive armory of automatic weapons, combat shotguns, and tactical SWAT gear.
How did the NPS go from an agency charged with managing our national parks “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”—to a para-military force that would do this?
20. Crucial USDA Websites Taken Down – “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has turned off its entire website in response to the government shutdown, leaving farmers, reporters and others with no way to access any of the agency’s information online. …
The big news of the day is the outbreak of open war between veteran journalist Bob Woodward and Barack Obama.
Woodward last week challenged the Obama Administration’s blaming Republicans for the Sequester, pointing out that the idea of an automatic trigger was originated by the White House in July of 2011.
There was immediate pushback from the left’s commentariat, disputing his interpretation and dismissing the once-admired Nixon-slayer as “troutmouth Bob” and “a hack.”
Apparently, Woodward’s questioning the White House party-line on the grand budget battle du jour was perceived as potentially very damaging, because Woodward is retaliating now by revealing that when he discussed that upcoming column with the head of the President’s National Economic Council Gene Sperling, Woodward found himself on the receiving end of a half hour long tirade.
Sperling subsequently sent a lengthy email, in which he apologized for “raising his voice,” but which also asserted (obviously falsely) that Woodward was wrong about the fact in issue (that the Sequester proposal was initiated by the White House, and not by congressional Republicans), and warning him that he “will regret staking out that claim.”
Threatening prominent reporters is an awfully bold and bad thing for any administration to do, and historically trying to intimidate the press has not worked out well for those who’ve tried it.
Bob Woodward (not surprisingly) retaliated by releasing the email exchange.
Rather than being intimidated, of course, Bob Woodward is responding to the attempts to pressure him to shut up by openly attacking Barack Obama’s decisions in other areas. Yesterday, Woodward took a swipe at Obama’s declining to deploy a carrier to the Persian Gulf “because of budget cuts.” (See video)
James Capretta, at National Review Online, takes a look at the first six months of “reform.”
He finds the foundations well underway for massive bureaucracy resulting in the politicization of patient care decisions, with the Obama Administration engaging in disinformation campaigns and power plays, and making threats against the livelihoods of businesses affected which protest.
During the long national debate over the future of American health care, President Obama frequently chastised his opponents for launching exaggerated attacks on his plan for “reform.” He took particular exception to the criticism that the changes he was pushing amounted to a government takeover of the whole health sector. He knew full well that this kind of criticism might derail the entire effort in Congress, because most Americans recoil at the thought of a distant and bureaucratic federal government running the health-care system for everyone. So Obama vigorously denied that his program would lead to any such thing. In his Aug. 8, 2009, radio address, he described the “takeover” accusation as “outlandish” and characterized his approach as a mainstream and moderate attempt simply to reform the nation’s private health-insurance system.
It’s now been six months since Congress passed Obamacare — not a long time given the sweeping nature of the legislation and the long phase-in schedule for its most significant provisions. Even so, it is already abundantly clear that Obamacare’s critics were dead right: The new health law has set in motion a government takeover of American health care, and a very hostile one at that. The Obama administration’s clumsy and overbearing behavior since its passage proves the point.
Michael Barone observes HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius demonstrating exactly what Obamacare is really about: Power.
“There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”
That sounds like a stern headmistress dressing down some sophomores who have been misbehaving. But it’s actually from a letter sent Thursday from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans—the chief lobbyist for private health insurance companies.
Sebelius objects to claims by health insurers that they are raising premiums because of increased costs imposed by the Obamacare law passed by Congress last March.
She acknowledges that many of the law’s “key protections” take effect later this month and does not deny that these impose additional costs on insurers. But she says that “according to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts, any potential premium impact … will be minimal.”
Well, that’s reassuring. Er, except that if that’s the conclusion of “some” industry and academic experts, it’s presumably not the conclusion of all industry and academic experts, or the secretary would have said so.
Sebelius also argues that “any premium increases will be moderated by out-of-pocket savings resulting from the law.” But she’s pretty vague about the numbers—“up to $1 billion in 2013.” Anyone who watches TV ads knows that “up to” can mean zero.
As Time magazine’s Karen Pickert points out, Sebelius ignores the fact that individual insurance plans cover different types of populations. So that government and “some” industry and academic experts think the new law will justify increases averaging 1 percent or 2 percent, they could justify much larger increases for certain plans.
Or as Ignagni, the recipient of the letter, says, “It’s a basic law of economics that additional benefits incur additional costs.”
But Sebelius has “zero tolerance” for that kind of thing. She promises to issue regulations to require “state or federal review of all potentially unreasonable rate increases” (which would presumably mean all rate increases).
And there’s a threat. “We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014.”
That’s a significant date, the first year in which state insurance exchanges are slated to get a monopoly on the issuance of individual health insurance policies. Sebelius is threatening to put health insurers out of business in a substantial portion of the market if they state that Obamacare is boosting their costs. ...
The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone’s business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery. Like the Obama administration’s transfer of money from Chrysler bondholders to its political allies in the United Auto Workers, it is a form of gangster government.
Roger Kimball responds to the fresh hell that is reading Paul Krugman while living in a country with the current White House administration.
The White House, in addition to compiling its enemies list of people who say or write something “fishy” about its policies, has been urging its supporters to get out and “punch back twice as hard.” Obama flack Paul Krugman endeavored to do just that today, claiming that critics of the President’s plans for a government take over were — wait for it — motivated by “racial fear.”
Right. It’s another Dorthy Parker moment for the celebrated New York Times columnist. Let’s see if you have worked this out correctly. Presented with the bloated everything-but-the-kitchen-sink thousand-page obscenity that Rahm Emanuel is endeavored to shove down the collective gullet of America, why would you be critical? You might fear the government taking over another big chunk of the economy, since that way, you have learned “par expériences nombreuses et funestes,” is a prescription for waste, corruption, and inefficiency. You might be critical because you know that where similar systems have been tried, they have led to health care rationing and a denial of services to many vulnerable parts of the population, especially seniors> You might also be critical because you suspect that the plan will put a damper on medical innovation — one of the key ingredients that has made American health care the best in the world. You might further be critical because you have guessed the the price tag for this government sponsored boondoggle will be enormous and you do not relish paying yet higher taxes to fund it. I think you might be even more critical about the issue of freedom: the fact that, were anything like the Democrats’ plan to be passed, it would limit your freedom of choice in what doctors who see, what treatments you can get, and what sorts of insurance you choose to have (or, come to that, to forego). There are a dozen things you might not like about the Democratic plans. But what does Paul Krugman seize upon? “Racial fear.” Right. And I, as Miss Parker said, am Marie of Roumania.
Jake Tapper tells us the White House is denying using threats and intimidation against businesses opposing its plans.
A leading bankruptcy attorney representing hedge funds and money managers told ABC News Saturday that Steve Rattner, the leader of the Obama administration’s Auto Industry Task Force, threatened one of the firms, an investment bank, that if it continued to oppose the administration’s Chrysler bankruptcy plan, the White House would use the White House press corps to destroy its reputation.
The White House and a spokesperson for the investment bank in question challenged the accuracy of the story.
“The charge is completely untrue,” said White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton, “and there’s obviously no evidence to suggest that this happened in any way.”
How can anyone believe Barack Obama would allow his staff to do anything like that? Well, there are precedents from the campaign, like this one.