The Firearms Accountability Counsel Task Force

A disquieting report from the NYT:

After the Orlando nightclub massacre and a string of other mass shootings, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Covington & Burling; Arnold & Porter; and four other prominent law firms formed a coalition with gun control groups that until now have worked largely on their own. Together, the firms are committing tens of millions of dollars in free legal services from top corporate lawyers who typically bill clients $1,000 an hour or more. …

Rather than fighting the political headwinds, the coalition is focusing on courts and state regulatory agencies, among the few places where they might still gain some traction. The coalition is drafting lawsuits and preparing regulatory complaints that could be announced as soon as next month, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the nonprofit advocacy groups that helped form the coalition, along with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brennan Center for Justice, a legal think tank at New York University School of Law.

On one front, the coalition will seek to overturn state laws that have gone largely unchallenged, including new policies that force businesses to allow guns to be carried on their property. The group also plans to mount the first formal challenges to congressional restrictions on publishing government data on gun violence. …

“This coalition brings together more resources, more brainpower and more lawyers dedicated to making our clients and our nation safer,” said Charlie Lifland, the O’Melveny & Myers partner leading the firm’s work with the coalition. …

Richard M. Alexander, the chairman of Arnold & Porter, called the coalition an effective way of “addressing the worsening scourge of gun violence that plagues this country.”

Brad S. Karp, the chairman of Paul, Weiss, first alluded to the coalition in an email to colleagues just hours after the Orlando nightclub tragedy: “It is in our DNA to act when we see injustice,” referring to the firm’s work on same-sex marriage. …

“With this new coalition, our bench just got deeper,” said Avery Gardiner, the Brady Center’s chief legal officer. …

The … coalition, which the groups named the Firearms Accountability Counsel Task Force … will continue to work around the edges of that law — challenging the relatively small number of gun dealers who account for most firearms used in crimes — but its strategy hinges on new lines of attack. Eric M. Ruben, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, which, unlike the gun control advocacy groups, is a legal research institute, spent more than a year looking for new legal strategies.

One fresh avenue of litigation would involve challenging state laws that arguably force citizens and local governments to allow guns to be carried on their properties, including schools, airports, shopping malls and bars. Such laws, the coalition argues, could infringe on property rights and threaten the safety of customers and employees.

Separately, the coalition is considering taking aim at Congress’s longtime restriction on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from releasing certain data about the use of firearms in crimes. The coalition might also challenge a congressional policy that effectively chokes off funding to government research on the potential public health threat of guns. …

The coalition is also examining lawsuits against the gun industry over possible antitrust violations. In the past, some gun companies joined forces, the coalition said, to curb efforts by competitors to develop safety technology, including firearms that will not go off unless held by their registered owners.

Re: Gov.-elect Cooper’s first appointments…

Most intriguing of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper’s first administration hires is Brad Adcock, a 30-year lobbyist for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, as legislative director.

Interesting that the News & Observer speculates that Adcock will “likely have a contentious relationship with the Republican-led House and Senate,” considering the fact that it’s the eeevil insurance companies teaming up with the eeevil Republicans to deny North Carolinians affordable health insurance. Or so I thought.

New N.C. Treasurer will push back against sex-change benefits

News & Observer reports the board of trustees for the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees voted last Friday to remove exclusions that prevented healthcare coverage for sex changes and modifications—if they are deemed medically necessary.

The change in coverage takes effect Jan. 1. Officials said the new benefit complied with federal laws and regulations and “would have risked losing millions of dollars in federal funding and faced discrimination lawsuits for non-compliance,” according to the press secretary for the State Treasurer’s Office.

Outgoing State Treasurer Janet Cowell cast the decisive vote that allowed the motion approving the new plan to pass, but her successor, Treasurer-elect Dale Folwell, said he will take a close look at the legal and financial costs once he takes office:

“I pledged to the people of North Carolina that we would reduce the state health plan’s 32 billion dollar debt, provide a more affordable family premium especially for our lowest paid employees and provide transparency to the taxpayers,” Folwell said in an email. “The provision to pay for sex change operations does none of those three things.”

Folwell, the new treasurer, said he will conduct an investigation after he takes office about “the true legal and financial implications of this provision and report those findings to the citizens of NC who will be paying for it.” He also questioned the timing of the board of trustees vote Friday, because he said health plan staff members “have known about this for months … and chose to present it with less than 72 hours notice to the public.”

The state health plan covers more than 700,000 teachers, state employees, retirees, current and former lawmakers, state university and community college personnel, state hospital staff members and their dependents. As for Obamacare mandates that dictate these change to state health plans—well, in case you haven’t heard—there’s a new sheriff in town…..

The buck stops … somewhere else

J. Marsolo of the American Thinker website highlights one curious aspect of the Washington Post‘s recent coverage of a Pentagon scandal.

The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon buried a report about $125 billion in waste without once mentioning that Obama is president and that Obama did nothing about it.

The Post headline dated December 6, 2016 blared, “Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste.” The substance of the story:

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.

The report recommended that the bureaucracy be trimmed because it is overstaffed and overfunded. It describes the infighting at the Pentagon, with everyone shifting the blame to others.

But the missing name in the story is the name of President Obama. If you read the story, you could conclude that we do not have a president to make the decision to save $125 billion. It is all the fault of Congress, or the generals or the system or defense secretaries. The Washington Post must not know that the president should make the decisions and is responsible. But what is $125 billion to Obama? It is not the fault of Obama. Nothing is ever the fault of Obama, according to the MSM.

This is consistent with the report that Hillary Clinton “lost” $6 billion while secretary of state. I would bet that Hillary can account for every penny at the Clinton Foundation.

Meanwhile Trump, has called for cancelation of the Boeing presidential plane that costs $4 billion.

But Obama just spent $5 million of our money on his latest vacation, bringing the total for eight years to $85 million.

The Pentagon wastes $125 billion. The Hillary State Department loses $6 billion. Obama spends $85 million on vacations. Obama orders a $4-billion Boeing. Obama doubles the national debt. But Obama is not at fault or responsible.

But, of course, there’s no media bias.

A scheme that might work … unless you understand the Constitution, the law, tradition, etc.

Sean Davis of the Federalist website explains why a liberal scheme to install Merrick Garland on the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t work.

Having watched continued control of the White House slip away, progressive activists are now furiously searching for ways to rescue Merrick Garland’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Unfortunately for these activists, their latest scheme to install Garland, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama last March, has absolutely no basis in reality.

The primary torchbearer for this plan is Daily Kos editor David Waldman, who claims that Senate rules allow Democrats to confirm Garland after the current congressional term expires, but before new senators take office. …

… If you are completely ignorant of how the Senate works, it probably sounds great. If you are remotely familiar with Senate rules, precedents, customs, and procedures, however, it will likely strike you as nonsense. To be clear, this scheme has no basis in reality. To be believed, it requires one to completely ignore the Constitution, the Standing Rules of the Senate, Senate precedent, and basic common sense.

Waldman, to my knowledge, has no actual Senate experience, let alone the kind of experience that would over time have given him some measure of expertise on parliamentary matters. His analysis makes clear his lack of familiarity with the most basic of Senate rules and precedents. …

… By custom, Congress convenes on January 3 of even years to begin a new congressional term. By law, however, the term of duly elected senators within a particular class begins precisely at noon on January 3. The terms for new senators begin at the precise moment the terms for the previous senators expires. The 2016 class of the U.S. Senate consists of 34 senators. They become senators not at the whims of Joe Biden or Dick Durbin, but by the combined authority of the U.S. Constitution and the voters who elected them to office. This fact alone nukes the entirety of Waldman’s point, because the alleged gap of time during which he proposes his parliamentary chicanery simply does not exist. At this point, no other arguments need to be made against Waldman’s plan; the plain text of the Constitution utterly destroys it.

Why the sudden outrage over ‘fake’ news?

Scott Greer of the Daily Caller explores the controversy surrounding “fake news.”

What is clear is that left-leaning journalists and commentators are more sure than ever that fake news was an important factor in Trump winning the election.

This seems a curious conclusion to draw with all of the events of the campaign and the various social trends driving the election. Additionally, it seems entirely ridiculous on the part of traditional media to blame minor Facebook pages and a few anonymous Twitter accounts for brainwashing undecided voters to vote Trump when mainstream outlets like CNN still reach far more Americans.

The theory goes that if blue-collar Pennsylvanians and Michiganders had just read The New York Times’ great reporting on the election, they would know the truth and would have heroically cast their ballots for the first woman president. But evil forces manipulated these simple folk and turned them into rabid Trumpkins — hellbent on expelling noble Muslims from the U.S. and tweeting out mean things to courageous journalists.

With all the concern about fake news, you would think conspiracy theories were never heard of prior to social media and major news outlets never published false content. In order to have a healthy democracy, we need to leave journalism to a handful of trusted outlets — such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Alternative media needs to be nudged out of the way so we don’t elect another Trump and everyone can read more quality content, like The Washington Post’s recent op-ed “Trump’s election stole my desire to look for a partner.”

The current obsession over “fake news” ignores the complicity of major outlets like The Times and The Post in perpetuating erroneous reporting that convinced Americans to support the Iraq war, spurred a witch hunt against three innocent Duke lacrosse players, and spread a lie that Michael Brown had his hands up when he was shot by a Ferguson police officer.

Liberals discover danger of illiberalism

Charles Cooke of National Review Online ponders liberals’ recent worries about potentially illiberal government policies.

By a remarkable coincidence, on the same day that Donald Trump became president-elect of the United States, the progressive Left discovered a distaste for illiberalism. Writing on behalf of the “many scholars/journalists who study illiberal/authoritarian regimes” — all of whom are “deeply alarmed about [the] US right now” — Dartmouth’s Brendan Nyhan announced via Twitter that the twelve days since the 2016 election had been the “most alarming” of his “professional life.” The United States, Nyhan explained, was close to seeing a total collapse of the “norms of our democracy,” in part because “our institutions/elites keep accommodating illiberal behavior.” “Should democracy fail,” he warned, “there will be no one moment,” but rather a “slow descent into illiberalism.” A “slow descent” that began on November 9, 2016, mind you. A “slow descent” that came ex nihilo.

A “slow descent” that followed a perfectly flat plane, and for which the president-elect’s predecessor bears no responsibility. Intrigued, I asked Nyhan whether he would consider recent trends toward judicial imperialism, executive overreach, and the abandonment of due process as undermining the “norms of our democracy” – and, in concert, whether as a college professor in 2016 he might have any insight into which “institutions” or “elites” have been most aggressively “accommodating illiberal behavior.” His response? The problems to which I was pointing were “not the same thing.” “This is not an NRO culture-war thing,” Nyhan griped.

It seems that “tyrannize” is one of those irregular verbs: I engage in the culture war; you undermine democratic norms; he’s ushering in Nazi Germany. It is uncontroversial to observe that Donald Trump was a poor choice for the head of a free republic, and I will gladly add my name to those who hope, as Burke put it, to “snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.” But I cannot help noticing how silly and how capricious our newfangled doomsayers sound. How quickly did those who have cried “Obstructionism!” for eight years expect to be welcomed as bulwarks of Madison’s Constitution? How seriously did the purveyors of “privilege” imagine they would be taken when they abandoned overnight the claim that neutral principles are but a tool of the ruling class? In what manner did those who praised Obama’s “pen and phone” believe they would be received when the shoe was on the other foot? And, if excesses in pursuit of one’s goal are criticized only as part of a mere “culture-war thing,” why should anyone worry about Trump?

Arrogance, ignorance, and the response to Trump

Victor Davis Hanson explores progressives’ response to Donald Trump’s election in a column for National Review Online.

In media land, Donald Trump is a reckless tweeter; Barack Obama’s outreach to GloZell and rapper Kendrick Lamar is just kicking back and having fun (Lamar’s latest album portrayed the corpse of a judge to the toasting merriment of rappers on the White House lawn). In media land, Donald Trump risked world peace by accepting a phone call from the democratically elected president of Taiwan; Barack Obama’s talks with dictators and thugs such as Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and Raul Castro were long overdue. In media land, jawboning Carrier not to relocate a plant to Mexico is an existential threat to the free market; not so when Barack Obama tried to coerce Boeing to move to Washington State to produce union-made planes, or bullied a small non-union guitar company, or reordered the bankruptcy payouts of Chrysler and essentially took over the company.

In campus land, the election of 2008 was cause for ebullition; in 2016, elections by nature were traumatic as students were reduced to whining toddlers who needed cookies and milk.

(Note that campus post-election micro-parenting is not extended to departing students when they are hit with huge student-loan totals. Then they suddenly morph from helpless teenagers to full-fledged adults who must pay up what they borrowed to the colleges that did not educate them. Offering cookies and “caring” are a lot cheaper than not collecting overdue loans.) In campus land, federal laws should be rendered null and void — as in 1861 (over slavery) or 1961 (over racial integration of schools) — as colleges see fit; Donald Trump is a near fascist for wanting carry out the oath of his office by enforcing all federal statutes against states’-rights subversion.

The university and the media share two traits: Both industries have become arrogant and ignorant. We have created a climate, ethically and professionally, in which extremism has bred extremism, and bias is seen not as proof of journalistic and academic corruption, but of political purity. The recent election, and especially its aftermath, embarrassed journalists and academics alike — and should not be forgotten.