Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: June 17, 2010

Inspections for fire extinguishers take precedence over stopping the oil from reaching shore

Bobby Jindal is fit to be tied. The governor of Louisiana has had to essentially ignore the federal government and order sandbags lifted and dropped between barrier islands in an attempt to keep the oil away for the the state’s marshlands.

He also got tired of waiting on others to skim the oil that has gotten through the barriers and so he deployed barges that suck up oil. But the Coast Guard had other ideas. They ordered the barges to “cease and desist”.


The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.

This is the type of stupidity for which federal leadership is being questioned. The sort of inflexible bureaucracy that can’t seem to put the oil emergency in perspective, give it priority and work around doing what it thinks it needs to do while allowing the barges to continue their work. Another example is the Corps of Engineers red tape that has delayed the construction of man made barrier islands off Louisiana’s coast.

Understandably, Jindal is frustrated about the barges (a governor cannot overrule the Coast Guard).

“They promised us they were going to get it done as quickly as possible,” he said. But “every time you talk to someone different at the Coast Guard, you get a different answer.”

After 24 hours of constant pushing by Jindal (displaying leadership and trying to get the job done), the barges were finally released to get back to work. There was no reason for the delay, and certainly a work around could have been done to allow the barges to keep working. And Louisiana isn’t the only state having problems:

In Alabama today, Gov. Bob Riley said that he’s had problems with the Coast Guard, too. Riley, R-Ala., asked the Coast Guard to find ocean boom tall enough to handle strong waves and protect his shoreline. The Coast Guard went all the way to Bahrain to find it, but when it came time to deploy it? “It was picked up and moved to Louisiana,” Riley said today. The governor said the problem is there’s still no single person giving a “yes” or “no.” While the Gulf Coast governors have developed plans with the Coast Guard’s command center in the Gulf, things begin to shift when other agencies start weighing in, like the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It’s like this huge committee down there,” Riley said, “and every decision that we try to implement, any one person on that committee has absolute veto power.”

For those of you still wondering why the leadership of the administration is being questioned as it pertains to this crisis, these are the sorts of examples that are apparently daily fare down there. They are why the effort has been called uncoordinated and “chaotic”. And they’re not because of BP.

They are also why you’re beginning to hear a lot more frustration expressed by those impacted by the chaos.

Leadership means taking charge, not managing by committee as Gov. Riley observes is the case he discusses. It also means cutting through the bureaucratic crap that often impedes efforts in a crisis – just as it is doing now in the Gulf.

If it is still unclear why people are charging lack of leadership, these incidents should help illustrate the problem.



Dale’s Observations For 2010-06-17

Fed regulators: Banks have to stop charging big overdraft fees to the losers. Banks: Then we have to end free checking. #

When they call me “stiff” and “wooden”, they aren’t talking about my personality, if you know what I mean. #AlGorePickupLines #

Tropical storms will soon begin in a Gulf of Mexico polluted with thousands of barrels of flammable oil. My nightmare: fire hurricanes. #

Via @bdomenech: RT @katiemconnolly: Obama is more popular abroad than at home: Well, they don’t have to live with him. in reply to bdomenech #

I’m shocked–shocked!–to see Nigerians accused of identity theft. I guess they won’t be sending that oil money to me. #

Striking Chinese workers use technology to get their message out. Cell phones won’t stop Chinese gov’t tanks, though. #

Weekly initial claims for unemployment rose by 12,000 to 472,000 last week. As expected, this rise in claims was unexpected. #

Is The No-Fly List Unconstitutional?

I have an article up at The Washington Examiner that explores whether or not the rights of Yahya Wehelie are being violated. Mr. Wehelie has essentially been deported from the U.S. without any charges being brought against him, nor any due process whatsoever:

Yahya Wehelie, 26, said Wednesday that after landing at the airport in Cairo in early May, he was told he would not be able to board his connection to New York and would have to go to the U.S. Embassy for an explanation. Embassy officials later told Wehelie and a younger brother with whom he was traveling that they would have to wait for FBI agents to arrive from Washington.


Wehelie, who was born in the United States to Somali immigrants, said U.S. officials took his old passport and issued him a new one that was good only for a one-way trip to the United States. But, he said, he was also informed by an FBI agent that he cannot board any plane scheduled to enter U.S. or Canadian airspace, leaving him in a kind of limbo.

You can read my take at The Washington Examiner.

As an aside, is there any doubt that if this had happened during the Bush administration that the hue and cry from the MSM would have been deafening?


Why Turkey’s change of attitude toward Israel is important and could be ominous

Someone apparently had an extra bowl of Cheerios this morning:

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Israel’s attack on the Gaza aid flotilla has increased the chances of war in the Middle East, in a BBC interview on Wednesday. Assad said that Syria was working to prevent a regional war but he added that there was no chance of a peace deal with the current Israeli administration, which he called a “pyromaniac government”.

The rhetoric keeps ratcheting up as if various Arab factions are trying to talk themselves into testing Israel again. It’s been a while, but the in the past the results have been uniformly bad for the Arab nations.

But there has been a recent change. Turkey is now talking tough as well. And, add in Iran’s attempt to ingratiate itself with the Arab world and suddenly it’s a little different ballgame.

Turkey’s inclusion against Israel in the rhetorical wars now being waged has encouraged many Arab pundits to hail the Turks and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan as the much awaited “leader” of the movement against Israel. One writer hailed him as “more Arab than the Arabs” while criticizing Arab leaders as too passive.

There have been huge pro-Turkey rallies in Gaza, Beruit and Damascus. Recently, text messages from viewers displayed on Al-Jazeera TV during a June 4th Erdogan speech in Konya, some of which said: “Erdogan, you are king of the Arabs,” and “Son of the sultans, you have restored the glory of the Ottomans.”

Hizbullah considers Erdogan the new rock star of anti-Israeli leadership, and some Gazans are naming their children after him.

What Turkey and Erdogan have apparently managed to do, according to one writer, is bring those who have rejected Hamas and Hizbullah because of their Iranian ties on board in a unified “Islamic” effort to confront Israel:

“Unlike the Palestinians and many Arabs who support Nasrallah, large groups had yearned for a leadership unconnected to Iran or the new jihadi Shi’a… They rejected Hamas and accused the Palestinian jihad movement of being an instrument of Shi’ite Iran. Now Turkey has emerged to compensate for the incapacity of the leaders of the Arab regimes.

“Erdogan [has emerged as a figure] whose portrait can be displayed in homes, on billboards, and on cars. When all is said and done, the integration into the resistance movement of those who [had] hesitated is now being achieved through the gate of Islam.

Turkey seems to have finally rejected the west and put to rest its desire to be a part of it. Although it retains NATO membership, it appears to have no further interest in the EU. Turkey also appears to be again casting its eyes in the direction of its past glory – the Ottoman Empire. Certainly it isn’t pretending it would again rule over all of its former territories, but Turkey seems to feel it could be a major if not the major influence in the area of the Middle East. One sure way to work toward that goal is to take on Israel.

While it publicly claims it is still a secular nation ruled by secular institutions, this latest situation with Israel and Turkey’s reaction are all Islamic and designed to appeal to the Islamic world in general and the people of the Middle East specifically.

This is one of the conflicts that is brewing on the horizon. It is a new twist in a very old situation. But it promises real trouble if not addressed and defused quickly.

Of course, that will take leadership, not apology tours. I’m not sure that the US is up to the job. And I think the reason we’re hearing all this from Turkey now is they sense that is the case.



Our administrator President

If you look closely at our history, we rarely elect our legislators to be our president.


There are many theories about why that is so, but for most it boils down to a pretty common sense reason. We want someone who has executive experience. We want that for two reasons. Obviously, first and foremost the presidency is an executive job. You could argue it is the pinnacle of executive jobs – the toughest one on the planet. The reasons for desiring an experienced executive are myriad and well known, but the presidency in particular demands an experienced hand, one that has a demonstrated ability and leadership to do such work at a lower level. Secondly, lower level executive experience, such as governor, gives voters a touch-stone, a way to measure performance and to evaluate whether or not the candidate measures up to their standard of responsibility and success that will enable him or her to succeed while president.

All of that history and analysis apparently went out the window this last election season with the rise and triumph of a formerly little known junior Senator from Illinois who galvanized the populace and saw himself propelled into the White House. Barack Obama was undoubtedly an attractive and unique candidate and incredibly well spoken to the mood of the political hour. Combined with a complete destruction of the GOP brand and tired of both wars and the then occupant of the White House, voters chose to vote for the politics of “hope and change.”

What they got, instead was just another politician, who was a journeyman legislator that had only, for most of his adult life, been running for office instead of working in any of his elected offices. And never had he “run anything or done anything” on an executive level. In fact, when questioned about his lack of such experience, his answer was to point to his multi-million dollar campaign and reference it as equivalent to, say, being a governor of a state. That lack of experience is now beginning to tell.

Juan Williams, a frequent Fox News and National Public Radio contributor distilled the current problem down to its core in a comment he made on the June 4th Fox News Sunday show.

I think the problem here is this is an administration that, as Hillary Clinton famously pointed out, you may not want to have answer the 3:00 a.m. call.

These are guys who have tremendous vision about legislative achievements and specific things like health care, going forward on immigration, those difficult issues for America that America so far has failed to deal with.

But when it comes to the crisis, when it comes to the gulf oil spill, the wars, the recession, they feel as if it’s being imposed upon them, rather than taking the helm. I think that’s what Americans are sensing right here. And I think it’s the source of their problem at the moment. Are you able to handle a crisis in a convincing way that inspires confidence? And so far, the president hasn’t done that.

Legislators are not executives, they are process orientated admins. The skill sets for the two are completely different. One set requires decision making of the highest order – sometimes on an instant and unilateral basis. The other set requires slow deliberation, compromise and consensus building. One deals with pure leadership. The other deals with the duller aspects of management. Executives are result oriented. Administrators are entirely process driven. Executives use action as their means of accomplishment. Administrators set goals and work toward them as their means of achievement.

As Williams so aptly points out, this is a president with no executive experience is focused on the management of the legislative process in order to accomplish a litany of political agenda items. But the role of executive stymies him. Consequently, when he can, he avoids it. As with most human beings he stays away from situations in which he isn’t comfortable. And since he’s had little leadership experience, he has no leadership traits to display. At the moment he sounds like any marginal and very junior leader who thinks leadership consists of running around in circles yelling at people and talking tough. The difference is wondering whose butt to kick and knowing which one to kick.

The military would never give a brand new second lieutenant command of an infantry division – a two star general’s job for a reason. He’d first have to prove himself and earn his way up at various levels of command, from platoon to brigade, before he’d even be considered for such a job. What we have right now is the equivalent of a junior officer trying to run a senior command. The results, unfortunately, are as predictable as they are scary.

Leader’s lead, administrators process, and when administrators end up in a leader’s position, the process usually fails.



Bush gets higher marks in Louisiana than does Obama

I’m sure it will somehow become a matter of race, but a recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that 50% of the state voters rated President Bush’s performance in 2005 after hurricane Katrina as better than the effort by President Obama today. Only 35% picked Obama’s performance as the best. That’s not to say the state was satisfied with either response. On the contrary, 62% said they disapproved of Obama’s handling of the crisis while 58% said they disapproved of Bush’s performance.

Meanwhile, another new poll finds that Obama’s approval rating has hit a new low:

Rasmussen Reports released a new poll Wednesday showing Obama’s approval rating hitting a new low — 42 percent. The daily tracking poll puts a 20-point spread between Obama’s strong approval and disapproval, 24 and 44 percent respectively.

That last poll tracks with the poll reported previously that found a majority of Americans didn’t believe Obama deserved re-election.

The continuing bad news in the polls has got to be worrying the crew in the White House. It’s not at a point, given the election is still 2 years off, that anyone there has to panic, but they’ve got a job on their hands turning this around. The building conventional wisdom seems to be that Obama is an administrator, not a leader, and that, given his performance, is going to be a tough meme to kill. The other CW seems to be he may be in over his head. The polls reflect both of those perceptions.

The president and his staff have got to find a way to cast Obama as a decisive and competent leader. That’s a real problem right now, although unfortunately, given the simmering international situation, they may get more opportunities than they ever sought to make the attempt.

Of course many of the upcoming international opportunities, we’ll learn, will come about precisely because Obama isn’t a strong and decisive leader.

Irony, it seems, has a warped sense of humor and always seems to throw more opportunities at those that want them least.