Posts Tagged: Joke

Oct 10

New CREW Report Shows Obama’s Transparency Pledge is a Joke

Transparency. It was supposed to be one of President Obama’s “Changes.” He promised this would be the most transparent presidential administration is US history.  According to the left-wing government watchdog organization,  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the Obama administration has not improved transparency compared to the previous one, and in some areas may be worse.

Remember this post from

Transparency like you’ve never seen before October 30, 2009 at 04:31 PM EDT ..Today marks a major milestone in government transparency — and an important lesson in the unintended consequences of such vigorous disclosure. We previously announced that the White House in December of this year would — for the first time in history — begin posting all White House visitor records under the terms of our new voluntary disclosure policy. As part of that initiative, we also offered to look back at the records created before the announcement of the policy and answer specific requests for visitor records created earlier in the year.

Foolish us! We thought that post meant that the President was going to make Washington more transparent, but if you checked the numbers this past March you would have seen that the Obama administration is less transparent than the previous administration:

An Associated Press review of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reports filed by 17 major agencies found that the use of nearly every one of the law’s nine exemptions to withhold information from the public rose in fiscal year 2009, which ended last October.

According to CREW a government watchdog organization partially funded by our old “friend” George Soros, they have been having the same fights with the Obama administration accessing information through the FOIA as they did with the Bush administration. So they tried to find out if other groups were facing the same problems as they were. So CREW created a survey, which was distributed by the American Society of Access Professionals on the group’s private list-serve. Because CREW did not have access to the list-serve, and thus cannot quantify the list’s demographics, the organization wrote in its report that the results are “not scientific or statistically valid, but are definitive on at least some topics.”

Overall the study blames lack of staffing/funding as the reason for the lack of  FOIA improvement, but it also points to the fact that under the Obama Administration FOIA staff is relying on the same FOIA’s exemptions to withhold information as in George Bush’s.  The full study is below, but the following is a summary of CREW’s more notable findings:

  • “Two of the touted reforms – creation of agency chief FOIA officers (CFOs) and agency FOIA public liaisons – have had virtually no influence on the work of agency FOIA professionals,” the report says. According to the survey results, more than 60% of respondents said that the CFO position had no effect on their job, did not make processing requests clearer, and did not make their overall jobs easier. Comments on the position included, “Chief FOIA Officer? Seriously, there is no position description for FOIA, it’s everybody do everything,” and “Did not know this position existed.”
  • Roughly 63% of respondents said the fact that FOIA is “not an administration priority,” was a problem.
  • Respondents have not seen a shift in policy since Obama and Holder announced FOIA reform. “Over 36% of respondents claim a ‘presumption of openness’ was part of their agency culture before the attorney general issued his memo, while only 22% state a presumption of openness has become part of their agency culture since the memo’s release. Change has yet to happen at a number of agencies: 16% of respondents said a change is underway but not completed, while 15% said nothing has changed.”
  • A majority of respondents also said that “guidance is not issued uniformly government-wide and there are limited agency funds to attend outside conferences and workshops.”
  •   “New policies have not induced FOIA staff to rely less on the FOIA’s exemptions to withhold information. The most common response to the question of whether specific exemptions are used with the same frequency as before the attorney general issued his memorandum was yes: 50% of respondents said at their agencies the exemptions are used with the same frequency.”
  • And this: “Many respondents identify staffing problems as a key impediment, particularly the lack of a clear career path for FOIA professionals. They suggest creating a federal job series, as the Office of Personnel Management has done for other government jobs, to professionalize the FOIA and attract and retain talent. They also call for using fewer contractors and more permanent staff and an overall increase in staffing levels.

Complete FOIA Report 9-29-10


Sep 10

Muslims demand apology for New Zealand PM’s stoning joke, but where is the indignation about the real thing?

If only they’d express that same indignation about actual stonings that have taken place or are pending in the Islamic world. Like this one, where you can see the practice Muhammad participated in and endorsed on full display. Or the sentence hanging over the head of Sakiheh Ashtiani in Iran. Or the fate endured by the young couple in Afghanistan just a few weeks ago.

Rather than directing their indignation where it belongs, standard procedure suggests two simultaneous, contradictory steps: They will insist stoning is not an issue for Islam because it is not in the Qur’an (click here for more on why that hasn’t made a difference for the Muslims who have upheld the practice over the centuries). And yet: they will try to divert or end the discussion rather than repudiating the practice itself.

“Muslims demand apology for New Zealand minister’s joke,” from Agence France-Presse, September 25 (thanks to all who sent this in):

WELLINGTON - New Zealand’s Islamic community has written to Prime Minister John Key demanding an apology for a joke one of his ministers made about Muslims, the Dominion Post newspaper reported Saturday.

The president of the Federation of Islamic Associations New Zealand, Anwar Ghani, said Muslims were “very upset” about the remarks made in a speech by Building Minister Maurice Williamson.

“We brought it to the notice of the PM saying that what was said was highly inappropriate and the minister should be reprimanded and apologise,” Ghani told the newspaper.

They doth protest too much. Perhaps some element of truth rubbed them the wrong way.

Williamson cracked a joke about Muslims and the practice of stoning while giving a speech at a building industry awards ceremony last month.

Ghani said he did not think comments centred on religious intolerance were commonplace in New Zealand, but this issue was “a big problem because it was uttered by someone who is regarded as being responsible and a public figure”.

A spokesman for the prime minister confirmed the letter had arrived and was being considered.

Jihad Watch

Sep 10

The joke that is the UN Human Rights Council (Zvi)

From Zvi:

To be a credible authority on human rights topics, an organization of states must ensure that a state can only participate if it provides basic human rights for its people and extends the same concepts of human rights to others. So it must:

* provide freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion
* provide free markets
* provide one person-one-vote in free and fair elections
* provide rule of law and criminalize terrorism
* rid itself of laws that are racist and anti-Semitic

While there could be some gray areas, it is absolutely clear which types of regimes would need to be absolutely and vigorously excluded.

Any so-called “human rights commission” that includes Libya and Iran is simply a farce and has zero credibility in the human rights arena. Human rights NGOs should boycott it, and governments should disband it. It is worse than useless. Any so-called “human rights” attack written by Venezuela and Cuba simply erodes the credibility of all human rights resolutions (possibly by design).

Any “human rights” forum that gives equal membership to a brutal dictatorship like Libya and a free country like Canada is the wrong forum for any kind of human rights protection, legislation, reporting, expertise or condemnation. Thus, the UN, which in theory treats all nations more or less equally (except for Israel, of course) is ABSOLUTELY THE WRONG ORGANIZATION to be in charge of human rights activities of any kind.

A separate international commission or organization could be established, one whose membership constraints are specifically crafted to exclude dictatorships (if dictatorships wish to join, they must give up power and establish free democratic systems, which most will refuse to do). There is nothing wrong with a 2-tier system - tier 1 consisting of democratic states and tier 2 consisting of those states that insist on repression. After all, you want dictators to have incentives to grant freedom to their people. Only the free countries would have a voting place in any body that defends human rights. Only such a body would have any reasonable claim to credibility as a world human rights forum.

Regardless, it is certain that the UN cannot and will not function as a competent human rights policeman. The ability of dictators to dominate the UNHRC demonstrates why the UN is fundamentally flawed as a human rights defender. At an international level, it imposes the “tyranny of the majority” (or of the large aggressive unified bloc, anyway), providing no protection against persecution of minority states. It treats thugs and dictators who climb into their UN seats on the backs of countless millions of oppressed people as if they had any right to represent those people. And it treats every government or regime, whether it is the world’s oldest or largest democracy or whether it is ruled by the world’s most brutal and repressive junta or theocracy, as being identical in rights and privileges. And that is simply wrong.

Some might complain that the people of dictatorships have as much right to be represented fully in the UN as do the people of democratic states. And they would be right! But the sad fact is that the people living under dictatorships are not represented at all in the UN today; only their dictators are represented.

Some might complain that the UN should be there to represent all states, because a UN that does not offer first-class treatment to dictators will be unable to mediate when dictators are involved. And they are perhaps correct, in principle, but only where mediation and security is concerned. Such a function does not require that the UN provide Human Rights Commissions and Relief Works Agencies.

Unlike some, I generally support the existence of a (MORE LIMITED) UN. The world does need a structure that allows governments to coordinate certain kinds of security efforts in a manner that does not reinvent the wheel in every single crisis. This function has been useful at reducing the scope of wars in a highly complex global society. Sometimes even the ability of governments to bluster and act hypocritically has been useful in that regard. But the UNHRC, UNRWA and other purely political organizations that do nothing but perpetuate a 60+ year brutal attack on one small democratic country add nothing to the international system and must be eliminated.

While it is too late to “fix” the UN, it is not too late to deny it credibility in areas where it manifestly cannot be credible.

Elder of Ziyon

Sep 10

After Lewinsky joke, Clinton endorses Brown in CA

 Former President Bill Clinton endorsed California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown on Tuesday.

Former President Bill Clinton endorsed California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown on Tuesday.

(CNN) - California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown won the endorsement Tuesday of the former president he mocked-and then apologized for mocking-in the days before.

“I strongly support Jerry Brown for governor because I believe he was a fine mayor of Oakland, he’s been a very good attorney general, and he would be an excellent governor at a time when California needs his creativity and fiscal prudence,” Clinton said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times and confirmed to be accurate by CNN.

The two faced off in a heated debate in 1992 when both were seeking the Democratic nomination for president, but Clinton said Tuesday that the contentiousness is water under the bridge.

“The tough campaign we fought 18 years ago is not relevant to the choice facing Californians today,” Clinton said. “Jerry and I put that behind us a long time ago.”

On Sunday, Brown made a not-so-subtle reference to Clinton’s involvement in the Monica Lewinsky scandal while responding to an ad being aired by his opponent that suggested he raised taxes when he was governor of the state from 1975-1983.

“You remember right? There’s this whole story about did he [Clinton] or didn’t he,” said Brown. “Ok, I did not have taxes with this state.”

Brown apologized Monday for making the joke.

CNN Political Ticker

Sep 10

TRENDING: Brown apologizes for Clinton joke

Jerry Brown apologized for a joke he made about President Clinton Sunday.

Jerry Brown apologized for a joke he made about President Clinton Sunday.

(CNN) - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown apologized Monday for comments he made over the weekend about former President Bill Clinton.

“Bill Clinton was an excellent president. It was wrong for me to joke about an incident from many years ago, and I’m sorry,” Brown said in a statement.

Brown’s comments were in reaction to a television ad released by his Republican opponent Meg Whitman’s campaign, which shows an interview with Clinton - then a presidential candidate running against Brown for the party’s nomination - during which he accuses Brown of raising taxes in California when he was governor in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

At a Democratic Party event on Sunday, Brown made a not-so-subtle reference to Clinton’s involvement in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

“Meg Whitman, she stops at nothing,” Brown told a crowd of supporters at a Democratic Party event in California.

“She’s even got Bill Clinton lying about me. That’s right. Did you see that, where he said I raised taxes? It’s a lie. I mean Clinton’s a nice guy, but whoever said he always told the truth?”

Clinton was basing his comment on a CNN report at the time. However the CNN correspondent who reported the story, Brooks Jackson, said Saturday that his reporting was inaccurate.

Brown also lambasted Whitman for continuing to run the ad despite its inaccuracies.

“I’ve made my share of mistakes, and my inappropriate joke about President Clinton is one of them. But from me you’ll always get the truth.”

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney contributed to this report

CNN Political Ticker

Sep 10

TRENDING: Schwarzenegger joke mocks Palin

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took a swipe at former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Friday.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took a swipe at former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Friday.

(CNN) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took a shot at former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Friday, writing that he was “looking everywhere but can’t see Russia from here” as his plane flew over Alaska.

The joke is an apparent reference to Palin’s now infamous - and often misquoted - answer to a foreign policy question during an interview in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election.

“Over Anchorage, AK. Looking everywhere but can’t see Russia from here. Will keep you updated as search continues,” Schwarzenegger joked, posting a photo along with his Twitter message.

Schwarzenegger’s flight was destined for Asia, where the California governor is on a trip designed to increase trade.

Actress Tina Fey and Saturday Night Live popularized the joke through its parody of Palin, in which Fey delivered the line: “I can see Russia from my house!”

But that’s not what Palin really said. The full quote came in an interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson in reaction to a question about U.S. policy toward Russia.

“They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska,” Palin said.

CNN Political Ticker

Aug 10

Making a Joke of Human Rights

Earlier this year, Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama signed legislation that threatens U.S. residents with prison if they fail to purchase health insurance.

This week, his administration told the United Nations that this legislation shows the United States is making progress on human rights.

Cato @ Liberty

Aug 10

Like Father Like Son, NBC’s Today Show Covers Ben Quayle Like He’s a Joke

NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, is a story aired on Friday’s Today show, traveled to Arizona to profile Republican Ben Quayle’s run for Congress and in the process gave Dan Quayle’s son the same sort of treatment the former Vice President’s received from the media, as the NBC correspondent treated him like a joke. While O’Donnell briefly mentioned that Ben Quayle is a small business owner, the thrust of her piece was making light of foibles of the son and even father.

In her story O’Donnell aired a joke from her NBC colleague Jay Leno to make fun of a Quayle campaign mailer, pressed Quayle to deny he "wrote under the name Brock Landers, a porn star character from the movie Boogie Nights" for a blog and of course dredged up old footage of his dad misspelling the word potato and being ridiculed by Lloyd Bentsen in a 1988 vice presidential debate.

The following is the full O’Donnell story as it was aired on the August 20 Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: As Vice President, Dan Quayle became well acquainted with the rough-and-tumble world of politics. Now his son is jumping into the fray running for Congress in Arizona and he is already facing some criticism. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell is in Scottsdale with details. Kelly, good morning to you.

[On screen headline: "Like Father, Like Son, Ben Quayle Runs For Congress"]

KELLY O’DONNELL: Good morning, Meredith. Well Tuesday is the Republican primary here in Arizona and Ben Quayle says growing up with all those pressures in politics and being a small business owner today has prepared him. Well it sure helps to have a thick skin because he is already taking some knocks and drawing attention.

(Begin ad clip)

BEN QUAYLE: Barack Obama is the worst President in history.

(End clip)

O’DONNELL: It is brash. And with that, the Quayle name is back in national politics.

(Begin ad clip)

BEN QUAYLE: Somebody has to go to Washington and knock the hell out of the place.

(End clip)

BEN QUAYLE TO O’DONNELL: I have great respect for the Office of the President and I didn’t take those, this statement lightly.

O’DONNELL: Ben Quayle was just a kid when his father Dan served as Vice President under George H.W. Bush. Now 33 and newly married, Ben is a lawyer and has a small investment firm with about 20 employees, running for an open seat in Congress, in Phoenix and Scottsdale, where his parents Dan and Marilyn and siblings now live.

BEN QUAYLE: I saw the bad side of politics. I saw what they did to my father and what my family had to go through and I didn’t know if I wanted to put my own family through that.

(Old clip of Dan Quayle)


O’DONNELL: Dan Quayle’s stumbles made him a punch line, mocked with no mercy when he misspelled the word "potato" adding an "e" and that stinging jab at the vice presidential debate.

LLOYD BENTSEN: I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

O’DONNELL: Did you expect your father might take a few hits with you as a candidate?

BEN QUAYLE: Well as a Quayle you kind of know you have a target on your back. We’re used to that. Doesn’t make it any easier.

O’DONNELL: Now Ben gets the late night treatment.

JAY LENO: Now Dan Quayle, remember Dan Quayle, former Vice President?

O’DONNELL: Jay Leno and Quayle’s Republican opponents took shots at this campaign mailer, where Quayle talks about raising a family in Arizona.

LENO: The trouble is he doesn’t have any kids. They’re rented for the brochure!

O’DONNELL: In fact, those little girls are Quayle’s nieces. But for a family values candidate, another controversy has caused quite a stir. Quayle admits he wrote racy blog posts for a website called the Dirty Scottsdale a few years ago. That site says Quayle wrote under the name Brock Landers, a porn star character from the movie Boogie Nights, but he denies that.

(Clip from the movie Boogie Nights)

BEN QUAYLE: I am not Brock Landers.

O’DONNELL: Do you regret even being involved at all?

BEN QUAYLE: The only downfall of this whole thing is that a terrible website has gotten a lot of attention and a lot of free publicity.

O’DONNELL: But do you regret your own contribution?

BEN QUAYLE: You know I can’t look back and, and think about regrets. I’m looking forward to the future. That’s what the American people want.

O’DONNELL: Well, Ben Quayle certainly has the name recognition here, but he is in a crowded field, one of 10 Republicans trying to get the nomination. He also has the most money. He’s raised more than a million dollars and former President Bush, George H. W. Bush, even held a fundraiser for him at his home. Meredith?"

VIEIRA: Alright, Kelly O’Donnell, thank you very much. - Exposing Liberal Media Bias

Aug 10

The White House’s Joke Transparency

During his presidential campaign, there were few subjects Barack Obama was more unequivocal about than transparency. He committed to bringing the sunlight, and bringing it hard — five days guaranteed for legislation posted online, debates held openly on C-SPAN, online access to all aspects of stimulus projects, and so on.

The news this week, of course, is an indication that these were all just words:

President Obama has abolished the position in his White House dedicated to transparency and shunted those duties into the portfolio of a partisan ex-lobbyist who is openly antagonistic to the notion of disclosure by government and politicians.

Handing Norm Eisen’s duties off to DNC lawyer and political hack Bob Bauer is just one of the more audacious aspects of this decision. So The New Ledger’s Brad Jackson and I sat down for a chat with Jim Lakely of the Heartland Institute about the nature of the transparency joke, the president’s technology policies, and the future of broadband and net neutrality.

Download Podcast | iTunes | Podcast Feed

Listen and learn. You can subscribe to our podcast feed by following the links above, and if you’d like to email us, you can do so at coffee[at] We hope you enjoy the show (there’s a good bit of news at the end about jetpacks).

Big Government

Aug 10

Conservative Elites, Cont’d: Being in on the Joke

by Conor Friedersdorf

Apropos my earlier post about conservative elites and the Park 51 controversy, I want to address the general relationship between certain influential figures in the conservative movement — Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Andrew Breitbart, Sean Hannity, and others — and the rank-and-file conservatives who make up their audience.

As a frequent critics of those particular coastal media elites, I am often presumed to be antagonistic to rank-and-file members of the American right who listen to them. Actually, that is not the case. Within the conservative movement, there is an unspoken belief at places like National Review and The Claremont Institute that while certain intellectual standards are important parts of their own institution, it's necessary to look past intellectually dishonest propaganda and extremes in ugly rhetoric when it emanates from sufficiently popular entertainers on the right. The idea is that public discourse is a big game — or sometimes an ongoing war — and winning it requires behavior that can't be defended on the merits, but should be excused or at least ignored because it's popular, or the other side does it, or you can't attract a Rush Limbaugh sized audience without the kinds of tactics that he employs, or certain people are too important to the ideological coalition to forcefully criticize. 

One problem with this approach is that it treats the conservative rank-and-file as means to an end. They're the base, and they need riling up, and yeah, some of what they're fed can't really stand up to scrutiny, but politics is a dirty business. People who take this view tend to be sophisticated elites, and too often they forget that a lot of talk radio listeners aren't in on the joke — that is to say, when Rush Limbaugh says that in Barack Obama's America it's okay for black kids to beat up white kids on buses, their reaction isn't to roll their eyes, or to cheer the hyperbolic zinger, it's to worry about their grandkids.

It isn't that these people are stupid. They just aren't media savvy or cynical in the same way as Washington DC based magazine writers or Los Angeles County based think tank staffers. It is their quaint belief that radio hosts aren't breezily misleading them on a daily basis, or that their favorite television personality isn't willfully profiting by selling them gold at outrageous markups, or that videos they're shown aren't egregiously stripped of context, or that the conservative author whose book they're buying to better understand American politics does a fair job when offering a summary of its debates. Some of them, when they read The Claremont Review of Books, an exceptionally written and edited publication, get the wrong idea when The Claremont Institute fetes Rush Limbaugh with a statesmanship award, despite the fact that the talk radio host has made all sorts of remarks well beneath the intellectual and moral standards of that think tank. Does anyone imagine that a less highly rated talk show host who said all the same things as Limbaugh would receive a statesmanship award? He's lauded by conservative elites because he is effective. But that fact, so obvious to everyone "in the know," isn't transparent to the average person who doesn't pay close attention to political discourse, is it?

I don't mean to suggest that people who put unwarranted trust in certain media personalities are beyond reproach. When someone has a long record of regularly misleading their audience, whether deliberately or through intellectual negligence, the audience has a responsibility to seek information elsewhere. But I must dissent from the argument I've heard in some quarters that any attempt to engage the talk radio audience or the hard-core member of the conservative movement's rank-and-file is doomed. The vast majority of these people are decent Americans who want what's best for their country, and would be perfectly pleasant company if you met them in an airport lounge or a neighborhood bar. This is true even of some people whose worst impulses are played upon by the media elites they've chosen, as I'll demonstrate in a subsequent post.

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Rush Limbaugh - Talk radio - Mark Levin - Sean Hannity - Barack Obama

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan