Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cruising the Web

I guess these two Census workers who made up their own answers on 10,000 forms have a future registering voters for ACORN>

Michael Barone looks at the polls in battleground districts this year and notes that the Democrats are doing poorly in mostly-white battlegrounds. John Fund makes the connection to racial gerrymandering. In building majority-minority districts, those drawing district lines had to dilute surrounding districts of reliable Democratic voters. In addition to the minorities who get elected, the Republicans are the beneficiaries of such racial gerrymandering. Another consequence is that the minorities who get elected are much more extreme than they'd be if they had to respond to a district that hadn't been gerrymandered.Now that whites have proven that they will vote for a black candidate - witness Barack Obama's election or the victory of Tim Scott in South Carolina's primary, isn't it time that everyone would benefit if we got rid of such racial bean counting?

Randy Barnett writes in the WSJ
about Justice Thomas's concurrence in the McDonald v. Chicago gun case and Thomas's willingness to revisit the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Read Barnett's explanation of why Thomas's opinion excites those who believe that the Supreme Court unjustly buried that Constitutional clause in 1873 and that it is time to resurrect the clause. Barnett points out that sometimes the fifth vote in a concurring opinion can become the determinative opinion as, for example, Justice Powell's concurrence in the Bakke decision formed the foundation for using diversity for affirmative action. Barnett is hopeful that Thomas's concurrence citing the Privileges and Immunities Clause in McDonald will serve the same role. I am very skeptical of that. The only opinion which matters is that of Justice Kennedy who seems to always be in the majority of any 5:4 decision. Does anyone doubt that Thomas would not have gone along with the majority on the Second Amendment? He was not the swing justice on that decision. As on so much else, Kennedy's vote is the one which matters. We're all just living in Justice Kennedy's world.

Michelle Malkin has a devastating list of all the ways in which the Obama administration, at all levels, has been avoiding transparency. It's quite an ominous list even if Obama hadn't made one of the hallmarks of his campaign about how he was going to bring back honesty and transparency to government while avoiding the dire influence of special interests. Yeah, right. This latest story about how White House aides are evading transparency by meeting lobbyists at coffee houses so that their names won't appear on White House visitor logs is just one more tear in the veil of honesty in which Obama tries to cloak his administration.

Carol Platt Liebau explains why it is so deleterious to our form of government if the Democrats plan to cram through bills that they can't pass now in a lame duck session where outgoing Democrats feel free to go against their constituents' wishes once they've already lost election.

A new study by
the Institute for Energy Research says that we would lose half a million jobs over the next five years if the Kerry-Leiberman cap-and-trade bill were enacted. And each household would face an average of over a thousand dollars if it passes. And the burden would fall much more heavily on lower income and elderly households. Remember, that's one of the bills that they're discussing cramming through in a lame duck session.

Michael Hirsh at Newsweek explains how the Dodd-Frank financial bill will maintain the status quo and reward the biggest banks. Basically, we'll now be on the hook for bailing out the biggest banks as they will be regarded as too-big-to-fail and now they'll essentially be government sponsored entities just like Fannie and Freddie. Did you expect anything better from a bill written by Chris Dodd and Barney Frank?

Here's a funny example of Harry Reid sending the chairman of his campaign steering committee over to pretend to be just a regular citizen protesting Sharron Angle. Talk about Astroturf! Can you imagine if it turned out that a GOP senator were doing that?

How Elena Kagan manipulated science for ideological reasons

The Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominations have become a kabuki theater. We all know that Elena Kagan will be confirmed. The only question is how many Republican votes she'll get. I suspect that, even if the Republicans controlled the Senate, she would still get confirmed. The GOP doesn't have the stomach to filibuster a presidential judicial nominee. Or they have ideals that a president's nominees should be confirmed as long as they were moderately qualified.

So we get the spectacle of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan pretending to be more open-minded and moderate than we all know they are. Sotomayor said in her hearings that she wouldn't defer to foreign law for decisions and then signed on to an opinion that cited foreign law considering whether a juvenile could get a life sentence instead of writing a separate opinion citing other reasoning beyond foreign law.

Liberals contend that Roberts and Alito violated their testimony for respecting precedent by their Citizens United ruling. Conservatives will disagree, but the point is that there is a script that all nominees know they must follow in how to answer questions.

There is nothing that will happen in the Senate hearings that will change any senator's vote or the final determination. The only thing that could block a nominee is what he or she had done prior to the nomination. That is why this story by Shannen Coffin on what Kagan did to manipulate the language used by a committee of obstetricians on the possible need for a partial birth abortion is so distressing and deserves to be a major subject of discussion. Coffin went through Kagan's time in the Clinton White House to look at her actions when the GOP Congress passed a law banning partial birth abortions and found that she crucially edited the language of the obstetricians' report and that her language was then cited by a federal judge in originally striking down the federal ban on partial birth abortion that Bush had signed.
There is no better example of this distortion of science than the language the United States Supreme Court cited in striking down Nebraska’s ban on partial-birth abortion in 2000. This language purported to come from a “select panel” of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a supposedly nonpartisan physicians’ group. ACOG declared that the partial-birth-abortion procedure “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.” The Court relied on the ACOG statement as a key example of medical opinion supporting the abortion method.

Years later, when President Bush signed a federal partial-birth-abortion ban (something President Clinton had vetoed), the ACOG official policy statement was front and center in the attack on the legislation. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf, one of the three federal judges that issued orders enjoining the federal ban (later overturned by the Supreme Court), devoted more than 15 pages of his lengthy opinion to ACOG’s policy statement and the integrity of the process that led to it.

Like the Supreme Court majority in the prior dispute over the Nebraska ban, Judge Kopf asserted that the ACOG policy statement was entitled to judicial deference because it was the result of an inscrutable collaborative process among expert medical professionals. “Before and during the task force meeting,” he concluded, “neither ACOG nor the task force members conversed with other individuals or organizations, including congressmen and doctors who provided congressional testimony, concerning the topics addressed” in the ACOG statement.

In other words, what medical science has pronounced, let no court dare question. The problem is that the critical language of the ACOG statement was not drafted by scientists and doctors. Rather, it was inserted into ACOG’s policy statement at the suggestion of then–Clinton White House policy adviser Elena Kagan.
So what was Kagan's role?
The task force’s initial draft statement did not include the statement that the controversial abortion procedure “might be” the best method “in a particular circumstance.” Instead, it said that the select ACOG panel “could identify no circumstances under which this procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.”


Notwithstanding its allegedly apolitical nature, ACOG shared this draft statement with the Clinton White House. Miss Kagan, then a deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy, already knew ACOG’s stance as a result of a July 1996 meeting at the White House, at which ACOG representatives told administration officials — according to a Kagan memorandum [PDF] — that “in the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health.”

Upon receiving the task force’s draft statement, Kagan noted in another internal memorandum [PDF] that the draft ACOG formulation “would be a disaster — not the less so (in fact, the more so) because ACOG continues to oppose the legislation.” Any expression of doubt by a leading medical body about the efficacy of the procedure would severely undermine the case against the ban.

So Kagan set about solving the problem. Her notes, produced by the White House to the Senate Judiciary Committee, show that she herself drafted the critical language hedging ACOG’s position. On a document [PDF] captioned “Suggested Options” — which she apparently faxed to the legislative director at ACOG — Kagan proposed that ACOG include the following language: “An intact D&X [the medical term for the procedure], however, may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.”

Kagan’s language was copied verbatim by the ACOG executive board into its final statement, where it then became one of the greatest evidentiary hurdles faced by Justice Department lawyers (of whom I was one) in defending the federal ban. (Kagan’s role was never disclosed to the courts.) The judicial battles that followed led to two Supreme Court opinions, several trials, and countless felled trees. Now we learn that language purporting to be the judgment of an independent body of medical experts devoted to the care and treatment of pregnant women and their children was, in the end, nothing more than the political scrawling of a White House appointee.

Miss Kagan’s decision to override a scientific finding with her own calculated distortion in order to protect access to the most despicable of abortion procedures seriously twisted the judicial process. One must question whether her nomination to the Court would have the same effect. (Links in the original)
Think of this: there was a doctors' opinion that said that partial birth abortion was not necessary and she, with no medical background at all, drafted a statement that said the exact opposite and that statement became part of the final report. Of course, blame lies with the executive board of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for adopting her switcheroo, but her role was apparently key since they used her language.

This story is parallel to how the Obama administration manipulated the report on deep-water drilling in order to institute their moratorium. And this isn't even getting to the whole climategate scandal. Yet liberals like to thump their chests and talk about how they're the ones who respect science unlike those neanderthal Republicans. Ha!

UPDATE: Go here for Shannen Coffin's explanation of why we should have doubts about Kagan's response when asked about this issue today in the hearing.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The pathologies of the federal bureaucracy

Dick Morris reports from Alabama how, every time the state came up with plans to protect its coast, the federal government stepped in to block what they were trying to do.
According to state disaster relief officials, Alabama conceived a plan — early on — to erect huge booms offshore to shield the approximately 200 miles of the state’s coastline from oil. Rather than install the relatively light and shallow booms in use elsewhere, the state (with assistance from the Coast Guard) canvassed the world and located enough huge, heavy booms — some weighing tons and seven meters high — to guard their coast.

But … no sooner were the booms in place than the Coast Guard, perhaps under pressure from the public comments of James Carville, uprooted them and moved them to guard the Louisiana coastline instead.

So Alabama decided on a backup plan. It would buy snare booms to catch the oil as it began to wash up on the beaches.

But … the Fish and Wildlife Administration vetoed the plan, saying it would endanger sea turtles that nest on the beaches.

So Alabama — ever resourceful — decided to hire 400 workers to patrol the beaches in person, scooping up oil that had washed ashore.

But … OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) refused to allow them to work more than 20 minutes out of every hour and required an hourlong break after 40 minutes of work, so the cleanup proceeded at a very slow pace.

The short answer is that every agency — each with its own particular bureaucratic agenda — was able to veto each aspect of any plan to fight the spill, with the unintended consequence that nothing stopped the oil from destroying hundreds of miles of wetlands, habitats, beaches, fisheries and recreational facilities.
Remember that President Obama tells us that he wakes up and goes to bed thinking of the spill. His daughter is worried about the spill. Yet he can't stir himself to provide the leadership to cut through all this typical bureaucratic craziness so that people can act like this is a real emergency. But somehow the bureaucracy can never shed its normal torpor even in such a crisis.

Add in this story of the opportunity missed because the administration turned down the help from the Dutch because of absurd environmental regulations.
Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway. "Our system can handle 400 cubic metres per hour," Weird Koops, the chairman of Spill Response Group Holland, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, giving each Dutch ship more cleanup capacity than all the ships that the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.

To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn't capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana's marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks.

The Dutch know how to handle maritime emergencies. In the event of an oil spill, The Netherlands government, which owns its own ships and high-tech skimmers, gives an oil company 12 hours to demonstrate it has the spill in hand. If the company shows signs of unpreparedness, the government dispatches its own ships at the oil company's expense. "If there's a country that's experienced with building dikes and managing water, it's the Netherlands," says Geert Visser, the Dutch consul general in Houston.

In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with "Thanks but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer --the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment --unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11, "We have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water--the oil has to be decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on that." In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf, requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls "crazy."

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer -- but only partly. Because the U.S. didn't want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.
Think of that - the regulations require the skimmers to be purer than Ivory soap! The EPA can worry about that 0.0015% contamination that the skimmers might release we have instead the hundreds of thousands of tons of oil streaming out mostly unchecked.

This all reminds me of the story from Katrina when we heard similar stories of people trying to help out but being blocked by the federal government.
FEMA issued a sternly worded release on August 29, the same day the hurricane made landfall along the Gulf Coast, titled "First Responders Urged Not to Respond to Hurricane Impact Areas." FEMA wanted all the responders to be coordinated and to come when they were called. And that was one plan they followed. As the New York Times reported September 5:
When Wal-Mart sent three trailer trucks loaded with water, FEMA officials turned them away, [Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard] said. Agency workers prevented the Coast Guard from delivering 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and on Saturday they cut the parish's emergency communications line, leading the sheriff to restore it and post armed guards to protect it from FEMA, Mr. Broussard said.
Those weren't the only examples. The city declined Amtrak's offer to carry evacuees out of the city before the storm. On September 2, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported, "Up to 500 Florida airboat pilots have volunteered to rescue Hurricane Katrina survivors, transport relief workers and ferry supplies. But they aren't being allowed in." Hundreds of firefighters responding to a call for help were held in Atlanta by FEMA for several days of training on community relations and sexual harassment.
When we have a crisis like the BP spill or Katrina, we start to see up close how difficult it is for a leviathan government to have the speed and flexibility to respond appropriately. A well-run state (think Jindal's Louisiana, not Blanco's Louisiana) might have the ability to respond more appropriately.

We can see all this when there is such a crisis and the media focuses on a story day after day. Imagine what goes on day by day across the entire bureaucracy of the federal government. One shudders to think what we'd see if we had the same sort of reporting on all the nooks and crannies of how the government is acting.

If Spitzer-Parker sets the bar....

Joe Queenan has some fun imagining whatever pairings other networks could come up with once they've established the pattern of coupling a disgraced former governor with a neutral commentator.
CNN's bizarre pairing of disgraced Empire State Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Kathleen Parker is a watershed moment in the history of television. A slap in the face of serious, professional, respected journalists like Keith Olbermann and Geraldo Rivera, the Spitzer-Parker duo demonstrates that embattled networks will now do anything to build ratings.

The days of serious, cerebral, contemplative programming like "Glenn Beck" and "The Rachel Maddow Show" are officially at an end. By this time next year it will be hard to believe that luminaries like Tucker Carlson and Donnie Deutsch and Jim Cramer once ruled the airwaves. From now on, it's going to be a freak show free-for-all.

And it's going to happen fast. Within hours of the news that CNN's groundbreaking, disgraced-governor talk show would begin airing soon, three other disgraced-governor talk-show programs were announced. Most fall squarely into the Spitzer-Parker mold—in that great attention has been paid to finding one host who everyone pretty much admires and one who has left the governor's mansion under a cloud.

ABC has already entered the disgraced governors talk show sweepstakes with "Spare the Rod," a Sunday morning show pairing controversial former governor Rod Blagojevich, currently under indictment for corruption, with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

"She's smart as a whip and he's crooked as the day is long," exults an ABC spokesperson. "In terms of bringing complete disgrace onto his office, Rod makes Spitzer look like a rank amateur. He told Maureen she could only be on the show if she kicked back a third of her salary to a trucking firm his cousin Freddy operates down in Moline. The guy's a natural."
There are so many disgraced former politicians out there that the possibilities are endless. And with the newspaper trade sinking every year, there are lots of pundits out there who would jump at the opportunity to make some more bucks from a TV deal.

Notice the other pattern from the Spitzer-Parker pairing. As they've done before, CNN is matching a politician with a pundit. The politicians like Carville and Begala or Buchanan will be totally partisan while the pundit will probably be happy to criticize both sides. If they really want to match it up, they should have either two disgraced former politicians or two pundits. Though who would be the liberal equivalent of Kathleen Parker - a liberal who has lapsed and criticizes his or her own side just as much as the other???? How about Mickey Kaus? Or would that be too intelligent a choice for TV?

Monday, June 28, 2010

More questions for Kagan

George Will is back today with another set of questions for Elena Kagan. All are very good. Since she's so hot to trot to limit freedom of speech in elections, here are some on that subject:
Pursuant to Elena Kagan's expressed enthusiasm for confirmation hearings that feature intellectual snap, crackle and pop, here are some questions the Senate Judiciary Committee can elate her by asking:

-- Regarding campaign finance "reforms": If allowing the political class to write laws regulating the quantity, content and timing of speech about the political class is the solution, what is the problem?

-- If the problem is corruption, do we not already have abundant laws proscribing that?

-- If the problem is the "appearance" of corruption, how do you square the First Amendment with Congress restricting speech to regulate how things "appear" to unspecified people?

-- Incumbent legislators are constantly tinkering with the rules regulating campaigns that could cost them their jobs. Does this present an appearance of corruption?
The Republicans seem to be aware that all they can do during these hearings is to use them as a "teachable moment" about the differences between liberal and conservative approaches to the role of the judiciary. I hope they understand enough to have short, clear questions and then politely stop her if she seems to be evading the question.

RIP, Robert Byrd

It's always sad when someone dies and my thoughts go out to his family. However, he was one of my least favorite senators and his sanctimonious pronouncements over the sacred rights of the Senate while bending if it would help the Democrats always grated on me. And his career as the King of Pork so that it seems that every major structure in West Virginia might have been nice for his state, but it was a terrible model for the rest of the country.

Not to be too crassly political, but his death this week does complicate this year's election picture. Nate Silver reports on West Virginia's vacancy law and it, apparently, makes a big difference that he died this week instead of next week.
Byrd's current term expires on January 3, 2013. Under West Virginia state law on handling Senate vacancies, "if the vacancy occurs less than two years and six months before the end of the term, the Governor appoints someone to fill the unexpired term and there is no election". Otherwise, Manchin would appoint an interim replacement, and an special election would be held in November to determine who held the seat in 2011 and 2012.
.
In other words, we are within a week of the threshold established by West Virginia law. If a vacancy were to be declared on July 3rd or later, there would not be an election to replace Byrd until 2012. If it were to occur earlier, there could potentially be an election later this year, although there might be some ambiguities arising from precisely when and how the vacancy were declared.
Given that the state stresses filling the vacancy "as soon as possible after a vacancy occurs" it would be quite wormy for the Democratic governor to try to get around the law by some shenanigans about declaring the seat vacant.

So We will have to figure out how an open West Virginia Senate seat will figure into this year's election. We'll see if West Virginia voters, in this climate, will vote Democratic in the election. I hope the GOP has a decent candidate to put forward.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty doesn't have much confidence that the Democratic governor won't wait a week to declare the Senate seat vacant so that he can appoint a replacement for the rest of the term instead of facing a vote this year. Who would put anything past the party that twisted state laws out of all proportion with the Robert Torricelli switcheroo?

Nate Silver
and the Washington Post identify another quirk in the WV election law that may play into all of this.
However, the law states that the special election would only occur after a candidate "has been nominated at the primary election next following such timely filing and has thereafter been elected."

Because West Virginia held its 2010 primary almost two months ago, many election law experts read that provision to mean that the "next" primary would not be until spring 2012, before the general election in November, 2012. Some legal experts, speaking privately out of deference to Byrd's family, wondered whether this wording could open a legal challenge and force a special election this November, similar to those happening in Delaware and New York to fill the remainder of Senate terms vacated by Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
By all means, let's have the lawyers settle this. Of course, the lawyers wouldn't enter into it at all if the governor acted in the spirit of the laws and called for an election this November. But are Democrats as interested in democracy and hearing from the people if they don't think they'll like what the people have to say?

Cruising the Web

California Democrats are worried that their guy, Jerry Brown, might just not be up to the task of taking on Meg Whitman and all her millions. How about worrying that they've nominated a retread from three decades ago to take on the calamity that they themselves have created.

Meanwhile, back in the states, liberal efforts to bypass the Electoral College are gaining momentum.

Jason Rantz lists
his choices for the eight most irritating liberal celebrities. All annoying people, but I can't rank Roger Ebert up there. His diatribes appear mostly on Twitter. If you don't like him, don't read his tweets.

The Democrats' blatant effort to stifle political speech that they don't agree with, while giving exemptions to groups that support them such as the labor unions demonstrates once again the wisdom of the founders in guaranteeing freedom of speech, particularly for political speech. You can't trust politicians when they get a majority to decide who should be able to speak and who shouldn't.

Jay Ambrose contrasts Bobby Jindal's leadership
in the Gulf oil spill and Barack Obama's. Now admittedly, a governor has a different role than a president does. But just picture if the roles were reversed. Can you imagine Bobby Jindal displaying the type of disengaged posture that Obama has taken and just jetting in for a some photo ops and a speech or two while letting his appointees on the ground muddle through? I just can't picture Jindal acting that way. That wasn't how he acted when Katrina hit his district when he was a congressman. He was the one politician who came out of Katrina with strengthened public confidence. And conversely, can you imagine Barack Obama as a governor being down there every day coming up with ideas and holding daily press conferences? Perhaps he would, but he's never displayed that sort of energy and dedication before unless you count the energy and dedication he put into running for president.

Jonah Goldberg examines how much better and cheaper things have become over the past fifty years. We can buy a whole lot of really cool stuff today that is much better than the stuff we could buy earlier. And we can get it cheaper. But some sectors of the economy have gotten more expensive: housing, cars, higher education, and medical care. And what do they have in common? The government's interference in the market place. Coincidence?

Ed Morrissey has posted a very funny caption contest. See what you have to contribute.

Moe Lane marvels
that Kevin Costner's investment in spill clean up technology seems to work. Unfortunately, government once again has gotten in the way.

This is just peachy. The Obama administration has picked someone who has been quite vocal in his criticism of immigration enforcement done on the local level to coordinate between the federal and local officials on their enforcement efforts. Yeah, that's going to work.

Michael Kinsley is quite funny as he ridicules CNN's efforts to create a Crossfire-type show without calling it Crossfire and with hiring two people, Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker, who seem to agree with each other more often than not. Ya think he's a bit bitter over CNN President's sanctimonious breast-beating over canning the show he helped inaugurate after Jon Stewart made fun of it? I usually don't enjoy these sorts of partisan shoutfests, but Kinsley was the best guy on the left that Crossfire had.

Mona Charen decries
the sexual double standard on how Peter Orszag's complicated sex life has been regarded and how it would be regarded if he were a woman.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

If George Will were on the Senate Judiciary Committee

In anticipation of the Kagan hearings starting this week, George Will puts forward some of his own questions. And they're some doozies. Regarding the health care mandate in the new bill, he puts forward these hypotheticals.
Given Elena Kagan's aversion to "vapid and hollow" confirmation hearings devoid of "legal analysis," beginning Monday she might relish answering these questions:

-- It would be naughty to ask you about litigation heading for the Supreme Court concerning this: Does Congress have the right, under its enumerated power to regulate interstate commerce, to punish the inactivity of not purchasing health insurance? So, instead answer this harmless hypothetical: If Congress decides that interstate commerce is substantially affected by the costs of obesity, may Congress require obese people to purchase participation in programs such as Weight Watchers? If not, why not?

-- The government having decided that Chrysler's survival is an urgent national necessity, could it decide that "Cash for Clunkers" is too indirect a subsidy and instead mandate that people buy Chrysler products?

-- If Congress concludes that ignorance has a substantial impact on interstate commerce, can it constitutionally require students to do three hours of homework nightly? If not, why not?

-- Can you name a human endeavor that Congress cannot regulate on the pretense that the endeavor affects interstate commerce? If courts reflexively defer to that congressional pretense, in what sense do we have limited government?

-- In Federalist 45, James Madison said: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite." What did the Father of the Constitution not understand about the Constitution? Are you a Madisonian? Does the doctrine of enumerated powers impose any limits on the federal government? Can you cite some things that, because of that doctrine, the federal government has no constitutional power to do?
I'm sure she'd find some reason to avoid answering any hypothetical. Her handlers are probably scrambling to come up with some replies right now. But the question on Madison and the limits of federal government are suitably abstract and relevant to make questions that should not be evaded. I hope that the Republicans on the committee have read and highlighted Will's suggested questions.

When they're done asking about those aspects of federalism, they can turn to his questions on the Arizona immigration law, overturning the Kelo decision on eminent domain and John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey's denial that federal civil rights legislation should give any race preferential treatment as well as the despicable attempts now underway in Congress to limit corporate speech just because they don't like corporations but have snuck in exemptions for the NRA just to get their political support.

These are just what the Republicans should be doing. Asking short, pointed questions that indicate how empty some of the liberals' judicial positions are. they don't have a hope of keeping her off the bench, but such exposure of the fatuity of the liberal arguments is always healthy.

The mysterious ways of the mainstream media

I've been deeply amused by the whole David Weigel contretemps at the Washington Post. Apparently, after having several liberal bloggers already on their payroll, the Post decided that they needed some balance. So they accepted the recommendation of one of those liberals, Ezra Klein, that David Weigel would be a good guy to cover conservatives. And then, as Ben Smith ridicules, the Post hired Weigel and never bothered to research or even ask him what his political affiliation was. When it became public that the guy had written emails expressing his derision for conservatives, even wishing for the violent death of some conservatives, the Post had to let him go.

Periodically, the liberal media wakes up and notices that there seem to be a heckuva lot of conservatives out there and perhaps it would behoove them to cover these alien life forms. So they have a liberal journalist go poke around the conservatives like some anthropologist who just discovered a new tropical island full of natives with strange mating customs. The reporter, like Weigel, will fixate on the very oddest of the conservatives he can find because that confirms his bias that anyone who would be vocally conservative must be either evil, weird, or dopey. Or all three.

The MSM just can't seem to understand these strange folks. They don't seem to have any problem understanding liberals because, hey, that's the people they've been hanging around with for a lifetime. No mystery there.

But, as Byron York writes, the problem is that they miss stories under their own noses because they both don't understand conservatives and miss the forest for the trees on the left. The conservatives are an alien life force to the liberals.
One question that hasn't received enough attention in the whole David Weigel/Washington Post brouhaha is whether the Post needs a reporter to cover the conservative beat in the first place. There's been a lot of discussion of what kind of reporter would be best on the beat -- a conservative, a liberal, or someone studiously uncommitted? -- but there has been less talk about why such a reporter is needed at all, or whether there should even be a conservative beat.

In the past several years, newspapers have assigned reporters to specifically cover conservatives, but they haven't done the same thing for liberals. It started in January 2004, when the New York times chose David Kirkpatrick to cover the conservative movement. The goal, as Times editor Bill Keller told then-ombudsman Byron Calame in 2006, was to identify "the [conservative] thinkers and the grass roots they organize" and explore "how the conservative movement works to be heard in Washington."

"We wanted to understand them," Keller said of conservatives.

If you were trying to craft the most concise statement of the distance between mainstream media figures and conservatism, it would be hard to do better than that.
That would explain their mystification about the whole tea party movement. They can't conceive of why ordinary people would get up off of the couch and go hold a sign to protest the growth of big government. The only reason that makes sense to them is that they must be racists. But when it comes to covering stories about what is happening on the left - things aren't as clear as they think they are.
Meanwhile, the Times did not, of course, create a liberal beat. To Calame, that simply reflected "the reality that the Times' coverage of liberals had no gaps similar to those in its reporting on the conservative movement." That is apparently still the thinking of the management at the Times and Post. And it makes some sense; most of the reporters and editors at those papers are liberals, so it's assumed they understand the liberal world better than they understand the world of conservatism.

The problem is, that's not the way the world works. Just because you're a liberal, and your fellow reporters and editors are liberals, doesn't mean you fully understand the liberal world. There might be other ways of seeing it.

For example, at the same moment the Times created the conservative beat, in January 2004, there was a movement gaining momentum on the left to create new "progressive" institutions that would reshape Democratic politics. In the space of a few years, the Center for American Politics, much of the liberal blogosphere, Media Matters for America, Air America radio, and a newly-revitalized and redirected MoveOn.org all appeared. At the same time, George Soros and other left-leaning billionaires poured unprecedented -- really, really unprecedented -- amounts of money into an effort to defeat George W. Bush in the 2004 election. It was a huge, extraordinarily rich, and carefully-directed movement. And after it failed to defeat Bush, it rebooted and recast itself in ways that would help elect a Democratic majority in Congress in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2008.

The Times and Post covered many of these developments -- the Times' Matt Bai wrote a book about some of them -- but the papers' managers did not see fit to assign a reporter, or reporters, to focus on the liberal beat full-time, even though what was going on among liberals dwarfed what was going on among conservatives at the same time. In addition, a significant amount of the coverage was not terribly critical in nature, and much of it failed to grasp the interconnected nature of many of the developments. So even with a huge story happening right in front of their eyes, the papers saw need to devote even a single reporter specifically to the story. Meanwhile, they looked for journalists to assign to the conservative beat.

There's little doubt that the most interesting coverage of events on the left and right generally comes from journalists on the other side. Much of the time, the right sees things happening on the left, and connects them, in a way that the left doesn't see, and the left sees things happening on the right, and connects them, in a way that the right doesn't see. In opinion journalism, it's a good thing to have each side examining the other.

The Post doesn't seem to understand that, even though it has jumped into opinion journalism with both feet. The paper hired a bunch of people from the left-wing blogosphere -- Ezra Klein, Greg Sargent, Garance Franke-Ruta, and, for a short time, Weigel -- who often write about the right, even though Weigel was the only one specifically assigned to it. But they haven't hired any conservative to write about the left. It's the worst kind of one-sidedness.

If Post editors really thought Weigel was a conservative, then their cluelessness is truly remarkable. Amusingly so: When Politico's Ben Smith reported that Weigel says he is a registered Republican but "has voted for the Democrat in every presidential election," the conservative blogger Erick Erickson inferred that Weigel had voted for Gore, Kerry, and Obama. Weigel sent Erickson a quick correction. He had actually voted for Nader, Kerry, and Obama. And that was the Post's "conservative" blogger.

But even if the Post really believed Weigel was a conservative, there is still the question of why they hired a (presumed) conservative to cover the conservative movement. Why not have some of the many liberals already on staff cover that and hire a conservative to cover liberals? Or maybe -- gasp -- hire two conservatives to cover liberals. After all, there are a lot of liberals in powerful positions these days. If the Post is going to practice opinion journalism, having the perspective of a couple of conservative journalists couldn't hurt, could it?
But that's fair and balanced from the MSM's point of view. Hire a faux conservative who voted for Nader, Kerry, and Obama to cover conservatives and then pat yourself on the back that you're demonstrating balance when he joins the liberals you've already hired.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Does being calm mean Obama's unengaged

Remember how during the campaign, pundits oohed and ahed about how calm Obama was in the face of his adversaries. It was that calmness during the financial crash in the fall of 2008 that had people like Christopher Buckley and David Brooks melting in admiration.

But now the guy is president and suddenly analysts, like Richard Cohen of the Washington Post are asking themselves - what does this guy believe in? Well, Mark Steyn has the answer. Obama is unengaged unless it's about him.
But what do McChrystal’s and BP’s defenestration tell us about the president of the United States? Barack Obama is a thin-skinned man and, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, White House aides indicated that what angered the president most about the Rolling Stone piece was “a McChrystal aide saying that McChrystal had thought that Obama was not engaged when they first met last year.” If finding Obama “not engaged” is now a firing offense, who among us is safe?

Only the other day, Sen. George Lemieux of Florida attempted to rouse the president to jump-start America’s overpaid, over-manned, and oversleeping federal bureaucracy and get it to do something on the oil debacle. There are 2,000 oil skimmers in the United States: Weeks after the spill, only 20 of them are off the coast of Florida. Seventeen friendly nations with great expertise in the field have offered their own skimmers; the Dutch volunteered their “super-skimmers”: Obama turned them all down. Raising the problem, Senator Lemieux found the president unengaged and uninformed. “He doesn’t seem to know the situation about foreign skimmers and domestic skimmers,” reported the senator.

He doesn’t seem to know, and he doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t care. “It can seem that at the heart of Barack Obama’s foreign policy is no heart at all,” wrote Richard Cohen in the Washington Post last week. “For instance, it’s not clear that Obama is appalled by China’s appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. . . . The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much.

“This, of course, is the Obama enigma: Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs?”

Gee, if only your newspaper had thought to ask those fascinating questions oh, say, a month before the Iowa caucuses.
So he seems disengaged on Afghanistan and the oil spill. He outsources his economic stimulus and health care policies to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. This financial plan was outsourced to that marvel of financial probity and insight - Chris Dodd.

People were so impressed with the idea of Barack Obama that they were less interested in his ideas.
To return to Cohen’s question: “Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs?” Well, he’s a guy who was wafted ever upward from the Harvard Law Review to state legislator to United States senator without ever lingering long enough to accomplish anything. “Who is this guy?” Well, when a guy becomes a credible presidential candidate by his mid-forties with no accomplishments other than a couple of memoirs, he evidently has an extraordinary talent for self-promotion, if nothing else. “What are his core beliefs?” It would seem likely that his core belief is in himself. It’s the “nothing else” that the likes of Cohen are belatedly noticing.
So Obama could make ridiculous claims about how he was going to give everyone a tax break and not change anyone's health care but still make all these monumental changes and additions to our government responsibilities all while cutting the deficit. It was foolish then and dangerous now. But the media was unengaged on those questions, too charmed by their cool, collected, yet unengaged idol.

Having to use "Decoy Jews"

Here's a pretty depressing story out of the Netherlands. It has become so unsafe for a Jew to walk down the street that the police have started walking the street dressed as "Decoy Jews" in order to catch those who attack Jews.
"Decoy Jew" is a new phrase in the Netherlands. Jews are no longer safe in major Dutch cities such as Amsterdam. Since 1999, Jewish organizations in the Netherlands have been complaining that Jews who walking the Dutch streets wearing skullcaps risk verbal and physical attacks by young Muslims. Being insulted, spat at or attacked are some of the risks associated with being recognizable as a Jew in contemporary Western Europe.

Last week, a television broadcast showed how three Jews with skullcaps, two adolescents and an adult, were harassed within thirty minutes of being out in the streets of Amsterdam. Young Muslims spat at them, mocked them, shouted insults and made Nazi salutes. "Dirty Jew, go back to your own country," a group of Moroccan youths shouted at a young indigenous Dutch Jew. "It is rather ironic," the young man commented, adding that if one goes out in a burka one encounters less hostility than if one wears a skullcap.

In an effort to arrest the culprits who terrorize Jews, the Amsterdam authorities have ordered police officers to walk the streets disguised as Jews. The Dutch police already disguise officers as "decoy prostitutes, decoy gays and decoy grannies" to deter muggings and attacks on prostitutes, homosexuals and the elderly. Apparently sending out the decoys has helped reduce street crime. The "decoy Jew" has now been added to the police attributes.
The Dutch experience a golden age in the seventeenth century partially fueled by its tolerance for all religious groups. Most of the descendants of those Jews who were welcomed into Holland then were killed during the Holocaust. And the few Jews who are left are now not safe because of a new set of immigrants to that tolerant country. Which country do those Moroccan youths want the Jews to return to? Surely not an Israel that many Muslims plus Helen Thomas regard as illegitimate.

Meanwhile, the left is protesting the police efforts to find those who are harassing Amsterdam's Jews.
The deployment of "decoy Jews", however, is being criticized by leftist parties such as the Dutch Greens. Evelien van Roemburg, an Amsterdam counselor of the Green Left Party, says that using a decoy by the police amounts to provoking a crime, which is itself a criminal offence under Dutch law.
Yes, it's now considered "provoking a crime" to walk down the street wearing anything that would identify a person as a Jew. Some crime, apparently, in the left's eyes.

And the situation is not any better in neighboring Belgium where JEws are packing up and leaving.
"We no longer feel safe and welcome here," a young Jew who is leaving for London told De Standaard. "Muslim immigrants blame us for what is happening in Israel." Another young Jew, who is leaving for New York, says: "New York is a paradise for Jews. Unlike Belgium, non-Jews in America are pro-Israel."

Ultra-orthodox Jews remain in Antwerp, but the less orthodox are leaving in droves. Even Jacques Wenger, the director of Shomre Hadas, the Jewish community center in Antwerp, is emigrating to Israel. If the current trend continues, he predicts, in fifty years' time there will be no Jews left in Antwerp except for the ultra-orthodox.
Wasn't the twentieth century enough of a lesson of how deep antisemitism runs in parts of Europe? Are they going to stand by while Muslim youths recreate a part of that dreadful past? How soon before they have to send out "Decoy Dutch?"

How to get around Obama's pledges on lobbying - head to Caribou Coffee

That right-wing rag, the New York Times has a story about how the Obama administration is evading the appearance of working hand-in-glove with lobbyists by meeting with them outside the White House. That way the names of the lobbyists don't appear on the White House logs that the Obama administration so proudly makes public. They just meet across the street.
here are no Secret Service agents posted next to the barista and no presidential seal on the ceiling, but the Caribou Coffee across the street from the White House has become a favorite meeting spot to conduct Obama administration business.

Here at the Caribou on Pennsylvania Avenue, and a few other nearby coffee shops, White House officials have met hundreds of times over the last 18 months with prominent K Street lobbyists — members of the same industry that President Obama has derided for what he calls its “outsized influence” in the capital.

On the agenda over espressos and lattes, according to more than a dozen lobbyists and political operatives who have taken part in the sessions, have been front-burner issues like Wall Street regulation, health care rules, federal stimulus money, energy policy and climate control — and their impact on the lobbyists’ corporate clients.

But because the discussions are not taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they are not subject to disclosure on the visitors’ log that the White House releases as part of its pledge to be the “most transparent presidential administration in history.”

The off-site meetings, lobbyists say, reveal a disconnect between the Obama administration’s public rhetoric — with Mr. Obama himself frequently thrashing big industries’ “battalions” of lobbyists as enemies of reform — and the administration’s continuing, private dealings with them.
The administration is caught between the President's rhetoric and the reality of how things get done in Washington.
Rich Gold, a prominent Democratic lobbyist who has taken part in a number of meetings at Caribou Coffee, said that White House staff members “want to follow the president’s guidance of reducing the influence of special interests, and yet they have to do their job and have the best information available to them to make decisions.”

Mr. Gold added that the administration’s policy of posting all White House visits, combined with pressure to not be seen as meeting too frequently with lobbyists, leave staff members “betwixt and between.”

....David Wenhold, president of the American League of Lobbyists, based in Washington, said the current “cold war” relationship between the White House and K Street lobbyists was one of mutual necessity, with the White House relying on lobbyists’ expertise and connections to help shape federal policies.

“You can’t close the door all the way because you still need to have these communications,” Mr. Wenhold said. “It makes a great sound bite for the White House to demonize us lobbyists, but at the end of the day, they’re still going to call us.”
And these meetings at nearby coffee houses are not the only way that the administration is doing one thing while vaingloriously promising that they're different.
Attempts to put distance between the White House and lobbyists are not limited to meetings. Some lobbyists say that they routinely get e-mail messages from White House staff members’ personal accounts rather than from their official White House accounts, which can become subject to public review. Administration officials said there were some permissible exceptions to a federal law requiring staff members to use their official accounts and retain the correspondence.

And while Mr. Obama has imposed restrictions on hiring lobbyists for government posts, the administration has used waivers and recusals more than two dozen times to appoint lobbyists to political positions. Two lobbyists also cited instances in which the White House had suggested that a job candidate be “deregistered” as a lobbyist in Senate records to avoid violating the administration’s hiring restrictions.
Oh, dear. What if the Bush administration had been caught doing that?

And here's another way to avoid the appearance of coziness with lobbyists - meet on the street.
One lobbyist recounted meeting with White House officials on a side lawn outside the building to introduce them to the chief executive of a major foreign corporation.
Notice how the anonymous quotes come from the lobbyists who must be wryly amused at being demonized by the President while his aides rush out to the street and to coffee joins to chug down lattes while talking up a storm with the very lobbyists who aren't supposed to be having influence on this administration. Yeah, right. Never believe a politician who tries to spin that yarn. They all meet with special interests. Some are just more self-righteous about it than others.

(Link via Timothy P. Carney)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Let's drill where it's safer

If the administration were truly concerned with limiting drilling to where it is safer, then they would drop their ideologically-motivated opposition to drilling closer to shore. It would be a lot safer and recovery from accidents would be a lot easier. Terry Anderson, the executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana explains how the environmentalists have pushed oil companies to drilling in the riskier deep sea.
Whether more exploration on federal lands would make the U.S. energy independent is debatable, but more onshore development would certainly be safer. In early June there was a blowout in western Pennsylvania. Did you see it on the nightly news? No, because it was capped in 16 hours. The Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates oil and gas production there, recorded 102 blowouts of oil and gas wells since the start of 2006, resulting in 10 fires, 12 injuries, and two deaths. None of those made the nightly news either. The largest oil spill on Alaska's North Slope in 2006 was from a pipeline leak. It dumped only 6,357 barrels and had no disastrous impacts.

Drilling can be done with greater environmental sensitivity onshore. For many years the Audubon Society actually allowed oil companies to pump oil for its privately owned sanctuaries in Louisiana and Michigan, but did so with strict requirements on the oil companies so that they would not disturb the bird habitat.
But the greens are shut down any hope of expanding our drilling where it is safer and so the oil companies are left with the deep-water drilling which is a much riskier proposition.

Once again a liberal position is full of good intentions, but ends up with the opposite impact than they intended.

How Obama undermines his own war

The war in Afghanistan might be, what the Democrats characterize as "the good war," but their own ambivalence to fighting is undermining chances for success. Obama vows to fight in Afghanistan, but clings to his July, 2011 exit date and doesn't contradict members of his administration who insist that that is a hard date for starting to leave. Charles Krauthammer explains why this is so damaging to any hope of victory in Afghanistan.
But beyond indecision in Kabul, there is indecision in Washington. When the president of the United States announces the Afghan surge and, in the very next sentence, announces the date on which a U.S. withdrawal will begin, the Afghans -- from president to peasant -- take note.

This past Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reiterated that July 2011 is a hard date. And Vice President Biden is adamant that "in July of 2011 you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it."

Now, Washington sophisticates may interpret this two-step as a mere political feint to Obama's left -- just another case of a president facing a difficult midterm and his own reelection, trying to placate the base. They don't take this withdrawal date too seriously.

Problem is, Afghans are not quite as sophisticated in interpreting American intraparty maneuvering. This kind of Washington nuance does not translate into Pashto. They hear about an American departure date and they think about what will happen to them when the Americans leave. The Taliban will remain, and what it lacks in popular support -- it polls only 6 percent -- it makes up in terror: When Taliban fighters return to a village, they kill "collaborators" mercilessly, and publicly.

The surge succeeded in Iraq because the locals witnessed a massive deployment of U.S. troops to provide them security, which encouraged them to give us intelligence, which helped us track down the bad guys and kill them. This, as might be expected, led to further feelings of security by the locals, more intelligence provided us, more success in driving out the bad guys, and henceforth a virtuous cycle as security and trust and local intelligence fed each other.

But that depended on a larger understanding by the Iraqis that the American president was implacable -- famously stubborn, refusing to set any exit date, and determined to see the surge through. What President Bush's critics considered mulishness, the Iraqis saw as steadfastness.

What the Afghans hear from the current American president is a surge with an expiration date. An Afghan facing the life-or-death choice of which side to support can be forgiven for thinking that what Obama says is what Obama intends. That may be wrong, but if so, why doesn't Obama dispel that false impression? He doesn't even have to repudiate the July 2011 date, he simply but explicitly has to say: July 2011 is the target date, but only if conditions on the ground permit.

Obama has had every opportunity every single day to say that. He has not. In his Rose Garden statement firing McChrystal, he pointedly declined once again to do so.

If you were Karzai, or a peasant in Marja, you'd be hedging your bets too.
Without the confidence and support of the population, our counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan are almost impossible. What Obama has adopted as his political approach to the war is actually dooming his efforts there an d betrays his fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to win a counter-insurgency war.

Obama seems to have adopted a split the baby approach to the war and his team to fight the war reflects those uncertainties. Trudy Rubin in the Philadelphia Inquirer outlines how the President's ambivalence is reflected in the people that Obama has in in place to implement his policies.
The article reflects serious tensions between Obama's civilian and military advisers in Kabul, fed by the conflicting positions of White House and cabinet officials on Afghan strategy. These tensions make it impossible to fashion a coherent policy that Americans - and Afghans - can understand.

McChrystal and Eikenberry differed over how to wage the war and how to deal with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The relationship between embassy and military commanders in Kabul remains distant and mistrustful.

To complicate matters further, the president's special envoy to the region, the brilliant but brusque Richard Holbrooke, is resented by embassy staff as well as many in the military. His infrequent presence causes confusion among Afghan officials about who speaks for the president.

Obama's D.C. team adds to the confusion, with Biden making statements about Obama's 2011 pullout deadline that conflict with those of the secretaries of defense and state, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton. The president has yet to clarify whose interpretation he endorses.

"This is a highly dysfunctional team," said former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, referring to those who work on the war in Afghanistan. "You can't win the big war if we're fighting the small ones with each other. And unity has to start at the top."
Obama said in his Rose Garden speech that he expects "unity of effort" in this war, but he has appointed people who don't reflect any sort of unity. And that ambivalence undermines his attempt to achieve a victory in Afghanistan. You don't win a war by a "split the baby" solution.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cruising the Web

Daniel Henninger advises future presidents that they have to be even more aware of how the new media is shaping politics than either Obama and Bush have been. Bush tried to ignore the new media, but Obama was supposedly the master of the new media. But his response to the oil spill showed less than a keen grasp of how the echo chamber of the media would play this.

Jonah Goldberg takes on the loony idea that the New York Times had an article about last week about how schools were discouraging children from having best friends because it might make school dynamics more difficult. Goldberg slams this thinking down and, as a benefit, cites one of my favorite movies "Searching for Bobby Fischer."

Law schools are searching for ways to help their graduates find jobs. One idea - just give every student a higher GPA ex post facto. Yeah, that'll work.

What is CNN thinking of in pairing Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker to go against O'Reilly and Olbermann? Such a show might work, but it has to have hosts that people of each side want to watch. Are there many liberals out there squirming to know what Client Number Nine has to say on politics today? Are there many conservatives who like Kathleen Parker that much? She is most known for her criticisms of conservatives and derision towards Sarah Palin. If the hosts aren't ones who have a big fan base among their own ideological base are they going to pull in any kind of audience? There are plenty of other ideologues out there who are much more popular among their own base. Are they all already signed up by Fox and MSNBC?

Doug Ross has a good laugh
about Nancy Pelosi using her fear of the GOP gaining seats and initiating investigations of the Obama administration to raise money. All she has is fear.

Weasel Zippers notes that MoveOn.org has scrubbed its website of the General Betray-us ad. Now that he's the pick of The One?

Just what Germany needs: George Soros telling them that they need to spend more money or just leave the Euro.

Joel S. Gehrke notes
that it was Ken Salazar who ensured his problems with the federal judge by including the phony recommendation of the experts supporting the moratorium in his pleading before the court one day after he'd acknowledged that moratorium section of the report had been prepared after the experts had signed off on it.

Going forward from here

I was sorry that General McChrystal had to go. I didn't think it was necessary, but it was within President Obama's prerogative to make that call and, at least, with appointing General Petraeus, the President has signaled that he's carrying forward with McChrystal's strategy. However, the President needs to make clear that he fully supports that strategy in all its aspects. The WSJ has some very good recommendations of what Obama now should do. First of all, he needs to clarify if his date of July 2011 is a deadline or not. There is confusion emanating from his administration and that is not acceptable.
The larger questions now are whether the President can exert as much policy discipline over his civilian subordinates as he has on the military—and whether he's willing to make a political investment in the war commensurate with the military sacrifice.

Mr. Obama seemed to acknowledge the first point in his remarks yesterday, saying that he had warned his national security team that, when it comes to war strategy, "I won't tolerate division." We hope that message got through to Vice President Joe Biden, whose opposition to the strategy has been leaked around the world and back, and who was recently quoted by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter as saying that "in July 2011, you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out [of Afghanistan], bet on it."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates flatly contradicted the Veep on Fox News Sunday, insisting "that absolutely has not been decided," and that the July 2011 date was only a "starting point" for withdrawal, contingent on local conditions.

The President ought to put this debate to rest, rather than trying to appease his liberal base by promising withdrawal while winking and nodding to our partners in Afghanistan that the deadline is effectively meaningless.

So far, his ambiguity has fueled the very infighting that led to General McChrystal's dismissal, persuaded our NATO partners to prepare their own exit strategies, and convinced Afghan President Hamid Karzai that he can't count on America's long-term support. The damage isn't merely the deadline but the sense projected by Mr. Biden that the U.S. will leave the Afghans in the lurch again, much as we did at the end of the Cold War.
Such ambiguity is unacceptable when we have our troops fighting and dying and are asking Afghan villagers to risk their family's lives by throwing in with us.

In addition, there is no benefit in having a divided civilian group over there in Afghanistan who are undercutting our mission there.
The President could help on this score by deploying a civilian team to Afghanistan that gets along with their U.S. military counterparts and Afghanistan's leaders. We like Senator John McCain's suggestion to replace U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry—whose relationship with Mr. Karzai is as poisonous as his dealings were with General McChrystal—with former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. Mr. Crocker, who also previously served as a highly effective U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, understands there is no diplomatic mileage to be gained by undercutting the very government the U.S. is seeking to shore up.
And the President needs to devote a fraction of his public attention and supposed sales abilities to the war in Afghanistan as he does to his domestic priorities.
Above all, Mr. Obama has to give General Petraeus more political backing and personal attention to the war than he has so far provided. It's remarkable that it took the firing of General McChrystal to hear again from Mr. Obama, for the first time in months, why he is committed to the war. Mr. Obama said yesterday that no one individual is indispensable in war, but if any single person is, it is a President. Mr. Obama too often gives the impression of a leader asking, "Won't someone rid me of this damn war?"

In choosing to throw a Hail Mary pass to General Petraeus, the President has chosen a commander who understands counterinsurgency, who helped to design the current Afghan strategy, and who knows how to lead and motivate soldiers. He—and they—need a Commander in Chief willing to show equal commitment and staying power.
Victor Davis Hanson notes the irony of Obama having to go to the general he spent his time as senator chastising for the surge in Iraq strategy.
A final note: It is one of ironies of our present warped climate that Petraeus will face far less criticism from the media and politicians than during 2007–8 (there will be no more “General Betray Us” ads or “suspension of disbelief” ridicule), because his success this time will reflect well on Obama rather than George Bush. It is a further irony that Obama is surging with Petraeus despite not long ago declaring that such a strategy and such a commander were failures in Iraq. And it is an even further irony that he is now rightly calling for “common purpose” when — again not long ago, at a critical juncture in Iraq — Obama himself, for partisan purposes on the campaign trail, had no interest in the common purpose of military success in Iraq.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Obama should follow Lincoln's example

President Obama would be well within his prerogatives to fire General McChrystal. The general has shown magnificent bad judgment in allowing the Rolling Stone journalist to see his pique with the President and others in the administration and civilian leadership in Iraq. He has apparently fostered an environment where his aides felt comfortable laughing at the general's civilian critics to a reporter. That is not appropriate. There are good and historic reasons why we have civilian control of the military.

But the fighting in Afghanistan takes precedence. We are at a crucial juncture there. General McChrystal is the man who designed the strategy for Afghanistan and the man trusted by both the military in Afghanistan and the Afghan government.

Daniel Foster has proposed a good solution
for President Obama.
Refuse McChrystal's resignation. The general is a man of honor, and no idiot. There's a good chance he'll show up in Washington with a resignation letter in hand. President Obama could refuse it, and then go to the public and say something like, "our efforts in Afghanistan are too important to let an unfortunate lapse of judgment like this undermine them. So I told General McChrystal that he must finish his task, and that I would not accept his resignation at this time."

This might allow Obama to look like the bigger man while having it both ways. He'd avoid adding instability to his command structure at a crucial juncture in the war in Afghanistan, and avoid looking weak by not dismissing an insubordinate general.

The messaging would be: McChrystal knew he goofed up, and came to me with his gun and his badge. But this was my call, and I did what was best for the country.
The President also needs to address the underlying problems revealed in the article. And he needs to figure out if the country is best served by having an ambassador in Afghanistan, General Eikenberry who is at odds with the commander in the field. As Eliot Cohen writes today in his column writing that McChrystal must be fired,
First, it assembled a dysfunctional team composed of Gen. McChrystal, Amb. Karl Eikenberry and Amb. Richard Holbrooke—three able men who as anyone who knew them would predict could not work effectively together. Mr. Eikenberry was a former commander in Afghanistan, junior in rank to and less successful than Gen. McChrystal, and had very differing view of the conflict. Mr. Holbrooke, a bureaucratic force of nature, inserted an additional layer of command into a fraught set of relationships. As a stream of leaks has revealed, the staffs loathe each other.


If the President believes that McChrystal can still be the most effective military leader in Afghanistan, then take this step for the good of our efforts there.

Obama could quote his favorite president. When General McClellan rudely refused to meet with Lincoln when the president had come to visit him at the general's house, the president was advised to fire McClellan. He replied,
"All I want out of General McClellan is a victory, and if to hold his horse will bring it, I will gladly hold his horse."
I don't think that even holding McClellan's horse would have given him the fortitude to win against Robert E. Lee, but Obama could borrow the sentiment.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The rule of law speaks

A federal judge has blocked President Obama's moratorium on deep water drilling. Here is his ruling. He concludes,
Nonetheless, the Secretary’s determination that a six-month
moratorium on issuance of new permits and on drilling by the
thirty-three rigs is necessary does not seem to be fact-specific
and refuses to take into measure the safety records of those others
in the Gulf.11 There is no evidence presented indicating that the Secretary balanced the concern for environmental safety with the
policy of making leases available for development. There is no
suggestion that the Secretary considered any alternatives: for
example, an individualized suspension of activities on target rigs
until they reached compliance with the new federal regulations said
to be recommended for immediate implementation. Indeed, the
regulations themselves seem to contemplate an individualized
determination by authorizing the suspension of “all or any part of
a lease or unit area.” 30 C.F.R. §250.168. Similarly, OCSLA permits
suspension of “any operation or activity . . . pursuant to any
lease or permit.” 28 U.S.C. §1334(a)(1). The Court cannot
substitute its judgment for that of the agency, but the agency must
“cogently explain why it has exercised its discretion in a given
manner.” State Farm, 463 U.S. at 48. It has not done so.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented, sad, ugly
and inhuman disaster. What seems clear is that the federal
government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater
Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf
deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of
irreparable harm. While the implementation of regulations and a new
culture of safety are supportable by the Report and the documents
presented, the blanket moratorium, with no parameters, seems to
assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully
knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet
also universally present an imminent danger.
On the record now before the Court, the defendants have failed
to cogently reflect the decision to issue a blanket, generic,
indeed punitive, moratorium with the facts developed during the
thirty-day review. The plaintiffs have established a likelihood of
successfully showing that the Administration acted arbitrarily and
capriciously in issuing the moratorium.
Perhaps the lawyers among my readers could weigh in on his reasoning.

The administration will appeal this injunction on their moratorium.

Cruising the Web

Bret Stephens looks to Rudyard Kipling, David Hume, and Max Weber to explain the decline of Obama.

Meanwhile, William McGurn wishes that Obama would be a fraction as tough on Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac as he's been on BP. Surely they deserve as much disdain and blame for the financial crisis as BP does for the oil spill.

Would waiving the Jones Act matter? Robert Bluey looks at this question.

Richard Cohen fears
that Obama's foreign policy lacks "a theme" or perhaps it's just that Obama "seems to stand foursquare for nothing much." Ouch.

Now that the Times Square would-be bomber admits that he trained in Pakistan and considers himself a "Muslim soldier," can we start to admit that we're at war with a certain strand of Muslim terrorism? Just wondering.

Tim Blair
links to this Reuters story that Parisian police are banning a giant wine and sausages party that was being planned in Paris to protest the closing down of streets on Fridays for Muslims praying. The day chosen for the party was the Friday when England is playing the mostly Muslim Algeria in the World Cup. It is also the 70th anniversary of De Gaulle's speech to his countrymen calling on them to resist the Germans. Seventy years later, they've already surrendered their culture to the fear of violent protests from their Muslim citizens.

Ooh, General McCrystal doesn't sound all that impressed with President Obama or the President's advisers on Afghanistan. The Commander-in-Chief is apparently not pleased. What was the general thinking? No matter his private opinion, he just can't go spouting off with criticizing the President. That's just not done.

David Brooks imagines the last few years as a liberal dream of all that would be necessary to allow the public to see how absolutely awesome liberal solutions for our country are. Except it just hasn't worked out that way. Oh, darn.

Debra Saunders reminds us of the promises that the Democrats made that they would always pass a budget, not like those stinky Republicans. So much for that.

John Hawkins has five reasons why bipartisanship is not the answer.

Frank Fleming of the humor site IMAO has ten reasons to elect Renee Ellmers over Bob Etheridge. Number One: If you ask her if she supports the Obama agenda, her answer is simply a polite,"No.”

This is why presidential commissions can be such a joke. The President has appointed his commission
to look into the prospects for future deep-water drilling and he didn't appoint a single expert on drilling or oil; instead they're all environmental activists already opposed to drilling or former politicians. He's just going to ignore the engineering experts who have already spoken out against his ban.

Anne Applebaum explores how the world has reacted to the vuvuzelas. Apparently, British stores are selling out of them and ordering thousands more. The Chinese are manufacturing them as fast as they can. Soon they'll be ruining every sporting event unless banned.

Why the rule of law matters

Thomas Sowell explains why we should care that BP was pressured by the President to put its money into an escrow fund administered by the President's hand-picked administrator. It's not because we hold any brief for BP or don't think that BP should compensate those harmed by the oil spill. But it matters in our country how things are done. The end does not justify the means. And the means should be lawful, not just to protect BP but to protect all of us.
Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.

And yet that is precisely what is happening with a $20 billion fund to be provided by BP to compensate people harmed by their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Many among the public and in the media may think that the issue is simply whether BP's oil spill has damaged many people, who ought to be compensated. But our government is supposed to be "a government of laws and not of men." If our laws and our institutions determine that BP ought to pay $20 billion-- or $50 billion or $100 billion-- then so be it.

But the Constitution says that private property is not to be confiscated by the government without "due process of law." Technically, it has not been confiscated by Barack Obama, but that is a distinction without a difference.

With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted to the government by the Constitution.

If you believe that the end justifies the means, then you don't believe in Constitutional government. And, without Constitutional government, freedom cannot endure. There will always be a "crisis"-- which, as the president's chief of staff has said, cannot be allowed to "go to waste" as an opportunity to expand the government's power.

That power will of course not be confined to BP or to the particular period of crisis that gave rise to the use of that power, much less to the particular issues.
You don't need to resort to the history of Hitler, as Sowell does, to understand why the rule of law matters. I'd go to the magnificent lines that the playwright Robert Bolt gave to Sir Thomas More in A Man for all Seasons as More explains to his son-in-law William Roper the importance of following man's laws rather than trying to discern God's ideals and act according to those.
Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
Tony Hayward and BP may not quite be the Devil, but they still deserve the protection of the rule of law. We have laws about corporate liability and just because you think that there is some higher cause of getting money to help people doesn't mean that we should brush those laws aside. It is ironic that the same administration that is so sanctimonious in claiming the rule of law to protect the planner of 9/11 doesn't have the same concern for BP.

The real Ted Kennedy scandal

While there has been a ripple of interest in the recently-opened FBI files on Ted Kennedy, most of that has been a prurient interest in long-ago sex romps or reports of the death threats against the Senator. Interesting perhaps, but not, in the long run, all that important.

The American Spectator reminds us of a much more important set of files on Ted Kennedy that should have short-circuited the man's political career or at least made big news. Instead...crickets.

KGB files contain the news of overtures that Kennedy made to the Soviet Union both during Carter's and Reagan's administrations to undermine American policies. We have the files due to a man who defected from the Soviet Union and had made copies of files that he then gave to the United States.
Kennedy's long history with the KGB is well documented, but underreported. It remains available through the writings of the now deceased Vasiliy Mitrokhin, who defected to Britain from the Soviet Union in 1992, and a separate 1983 memo addressed to then General Secretary Yuri Andropov. Kennedy's actions occurred at the expense of presidential authority and in violation of federal law, according to academics and scholars who are familiar with the documents.

The Mitrokhin papers highlight a meeting that took place at the behest of Kennedy between former Sen. John Tunney (D-Calif.) and KGB agents in Moscow on March 5, 1980. The information exchanged during this encounter is included as part of a report Mitrokhin filed with the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. The former KGB man continued to work with British intelligence until the time of his death.

Noted Cold War author and researcher Herbert Romerstein has described Mitrokhin as a "highly credible source" with vast knowledge of the now-closed KGB archives. Romerstein, who headed up the U.S. government's Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation and Active Measures during the 1980s, has explained in previous interviews that Mitrokhin made meticulous copies of KGB files by hand prior to his defection.
At the time of Carter's about face to a tougher stance against the Soviets after the invasion of Afghanistan, Kennedy was there to pander to the Soviets at the expense of his president, perhaps because he was getting ready to run against Carter in the 1980 primaries.
The KGB files Mitrokhin retrieved indicate that Kennedy fixed the blame for heightened international tensions on the Carter White House, not on the Kremlin. It is important to note that Kennedy was challenging incumbent Carter for the Democratic nomination for president at that time.

Tunney told his KGB counterparts that Kennedy was impressed by the foreign policy statements made by General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. Kennedy saw in Brezhnev a leader who was firmly committed to the policy of "d├ętente," the report said.

Moreover, Kennedy also blamed the Carter Administration for assuming an overly belligerent posture toward the Soviet Union after the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, according to the papers.

"The atmosphere of tension and hostility towards the whole Soviet people was being fuelled by Carter," Kennedy argued, as well as by some key advisors, the Pentagon and the U.S. military industrial complex, Mitrokhin wrote.
He continued his pandering to the Soviets while considering his political fortunes during Reagan's presidency, particularly in the period before the 1984 election.
KENNEDY ALSO OFFERED TO WORK in close concert with high level Soviet officials to sabotage President Ronald Reagan's re-election efforts and to orchestrate favorable American press coverage for Andropov and Soviet military officials, according to the 1983 KGB document.

Kennedy offered to have "representatives of the largest television companies in the U.S. contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interview," KGB head Viktor Chebrikov explained in a letter to the general secretary dated May 14, 1983, the file shows. The idea here would be for the Soviet leader to make an end run around Reagan and make a direct appeal to the American people.

The KGB letter to Andropov first came to light in a Feb. 2, 1992 report published in the London Times entitled "Teddy, the KGB and the Top Secret File." Paul Kengor, a Grove City College political science professor, included the document in his 2006 book: The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and The Fall of Communism.

Kennedy suggested that Walter Cronkite, Barbara Walters and Elton Raul, the president of the board of directors for ABC, be considered for the interviews with Andropov in Moscow. He also asked the KGB to consider having "lower level Soviet officials, particularly the military" take part in television interviews inside the U.S. where they could convey peaceful intentions.

Tunney, the former senator, once again served as an intermediary traveling to Moscow in 1983 to relay Kennedy's intentions. In the interest of world peace and improved American-Soviet relations, the Massachusetts Democrat offered specific proposals built around a public relations effort designed to "counter the militaristic politics of Reagan and his campaign to psychologically burden the American people," Chebrikov wrote.

Although it is not made clear who Tunney actually met with in Moscow, the letter does say that Sen. Kennedy directed the California Democrat to reach out to "confidential contacts" so Andropov could be alerted to the senator's proposals.

"Tunney told his contacts that Kennedy was very troubled about the decline in U.S -Soviet relations under Reagan," Kengor the Grove City professor said in an interview. "But Kennedy attributed this decline to Reagan, not to the Soviets. In one of the most striking parts of this letter, Kennedy is said to be very impressed with Andropov and other Soviet leaders."
Kennedy was willing to undermine Reagan in order to curry favor with Andropov. Think of that. Yet it's a story that few people know about even thought the information has been public for years.

We just have to be glad that the man's personal history was so disastrous that he never did become president. What might have happened if Roger Mudd hadn't asked Kennedy one simple question.