One of the things I try to consistently feature here at QandO is the depth of intrusion of the federal government into our daily lives. Talk about “mission creep”. There’s little that we do any more that doesn’t seem to involve the government looking over our shoulder and I, frankly, don’t welcome that sort of monitoring or intrusion.
So if you’re planning on selling your kids old books (or anything else that a kid under 12 might use) and they haven’t been “tested” first, you’re liable to a $100,000 fine. Now I know you’re reading this and saying, “no way. Our government would be that intrusive”.
I guess the best way to counter that is with the CPSC’s own words:
This handbook will help sellers of used products identify types of potentially hazardous products that could harm children or others. CPSC’s laws and regulations apply to anyone who sells or distributes consumer products. This includes thrift stores, consignment stores, charities, and individuals holding yard sales and flea markets.
The next line of defense for those who support this level of intrusion, once that level of intrusion has been exposed in the government’s own words, is “well, how would they enforce it”?
It’s not a bad argument (the answer is selectively), but it misses the real point.
Obviously, it’s unlikely the CPSA goons are going to bust up your yard sale. But putting out a detailed booklet that reserves the right to do so is hardly encouraging about where the implementation of this legislation is heading.
It is about precedent. And, it’s about acceptance. When both are established, it doesn’t require much in the way of the imagination to realize that like any entity which seeks to increase its power, government will soon attempt to stretch the envelope just a little further (further precedent/acceptance).
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Not that I’ve ever believed Nancy Pelosi ever had any to begin with, but the “EIT Briefing” scandal puts the final nail in the coffin of her credibility.
Intelligence officials released documents this evening saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda prisoners, seemingly contradicting her repeated statements over the past 18 months that she was never told that these techniques were actually being used.
In a 10-page memo outlining an almost seven-year history of classified briefings, intelligence officials said that Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) were the first two members of Congress ever briefed on the interrogation tactics. Then the ranking member and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, respectively, Pelosi and Goss were briefed Sept. 4, 2002, one week before the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Now don’t forget this is the Leon Panetta led CIA making these claims, not a bunch of “Bushbots”. So when Pelosi recently claimed that she had “never, repeat never” been briefed on the techniques used, it just doesn’t square with the record.
The memo, issued by the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency to Capitol Hill, notes the Pelosi-Goss briefing covered “EITs including the use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah.” EIT is an acronym for enhanced interrogation technique. Zubaydah was one of the earliest valuable al-Qaeda members captured and the first to have the controversial tactic known as water boarding used against him.
Pelosi, of course, tip-toes through the controversy with statements like this:
“As this document shows, the Speaker was briefed only once, in September 2002. The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used,” said Brendan Daly, Pelosi’s spokesman.
Pelosi’s statement did not address whether she was informed that other harsh techniques were already in use during the Zubaydah interrogations.
Pelosi can issue all of the “carefully worded” statements she chooses too, but it seems pretty clear that she not only knew about EIT and their use since 2002, but said little and certainly did nothing to protest or stop their use. And because of the implied sanction that gives those techniques, she has no moral high-ground from which to condemn anyone.
I am enjoying the spin on this – a $3.4 trillion dollar budget offset by $17 billion in “savings”. And what does the administration want you concentrating on? That pittance of a savings.
Now I welcome any program eliminations and reductions, don’t get me wrong, but my goodness, $17 billion in relation to the spending that’s being done with the budget and outside the budget for “stimulus” and bailouts makes these “savings” simply laughable. They’re diversionary bait. They’re larger than the 100 million Obama ordered previously only because of the derision with which that cut was met. In the context of total spending, this ‘savings’ is comparable.
Even liberals aren’t fooled for the most part. Isabel Sawhill, who was a senior official in the Clinton budget office and now with the Brookings Institute finds little to be excited about:
“This is a good government exercise without much prospect of putting a significant dent in spending.”
Translation: “This is all for show. It demonstrates no committment to smaller government or less spending. Its purpose is to dampen criticism of the huge spending increases”.
As I understand it, half the cuts come from Defense spending and the other half from discretionary spending. Again the politics of these cuts is smart if not transparent. If you’re going to cut defense, something the right is passionate about, you have to even that out by eliminating something the left likes. Again, I’m not necessarily against cuts to defense (if they’re smart and appropriate then fine) but you have to again admire the way this is being done – defense cuts and cutting “Even Start”, a program created in the late 1980s to promote literacy for young children and their parents.
Of course Even Start was probably a boondoggle from the start, but what does it do for the administration – give them political cover and somewhat immunize them from criticism.
Smart politics, to a point, but absolutely irrelevant except as a show piece and certainly pitifully insignificant as a spending cut.
I‘ll be traveling most of the day, but I have to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with “Pogue Mahone” from our comment section.
We had a fantastic time. Great discussion and enough humor that my ribs hurt when I got back to my room.
More on it later (with a pic as soon as the photographer in question sends it to me), but in the meantime, thanks Pogue!
Dale makes an incredibly important point about investment below – investors aren’t going to commit their money to industries which are being manipulated by government for political goals and payoffs.
And, the Wall Street Journal makes a similar argument about corporate taxation and the Obama administration’s apparent plan to compound the problem he hopes to “deincentivize” by driving both investors and US companies off shore..
The energy picture is no rosier. Because there is no comprehensive and clear-cut, long-term energy plan from government, and because it is clear to many that the present administration’s plans for energy involve achieving political goals dictated by government vs. a straight market based plan which would see decentralized signals and decisions determine the energy future, investors are sitting on the sidelines. As Sen. Murkowski said, too many in national government today see the energy sector, and especially the oil and gas industry, as an “ATM to pay for other programs”.
When government is so deeply involved in picking winners and losers, investors are not going to invest. Especially given the example of the car and financial industries.
You can guess what that means in terms of economic recovery, not to mention economic growth. Investment is the engine of economic growth. Without it, nothing sustainable happens. Government can make all the make-work jobs in the world, but until investors commit to the economy, we only mark time economically speaking. If anything government should create a climate that provides incentives for private investors – low taxes, favorable investment rules, etc. to encourage investors to risk their money here in the US.
Instead, we have at least three critical areas where government intrusion and manipulation is having exactly the opposite effect.
Here at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, we were able to hear from a very distinguished panel concerning the energy “debate”. I put the word “debate” in scare quotes because it seemed that the consensus of the panel was there really isn’t a productive debate going on.
Roger Ballentine of the Progressive Policy Institute says that the two sides are talking past each other with little real effort to engage in anything which would actually address strategic energy policy.
Sen Lisa Murkowski, addressed the audience by video and spoke of a “comprehensive” plan which would include all types of energy, obviously including oil and gas. She spoke of a “scarcity of will” on the part of Congress to aggressively go after our own natural resources and cited the Gulf of Mexico as an example. There, she said, lays 45 billion barrels of oil and 320 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that we seemingly refuse to tap.
Yet as API’s President and CEO, Jack Gerard pointed out, when polled 67% of the American public want the exploitation of the oil and gas assets to be found on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and that last week the Florida House passed a bill authorizing drilling off the coast of Florida by a 70-43 margin. That is a huge margin and speaks loudly about the public’s sea change in attitude concerning offshore drilling.
But it seems like no one in power in Washington is listening. And that brings us to the second point this panel made – it is necessary to engage the public/consumer and get them involved in this debate. It is they who will live with and pay for whatever Congress cobbles together regarding energy policy. So far, however, the only thing that has accomplished that level of public engagement is the price of gasoline at the pump. When it was at $4 a gallon, the public emphatically weighed in saying “this is unacceptable” and “do what it takes to fix it (to include drilling in the OCS). Since the price of gas has retreated, to be replaced by the economic recession, the public’s attention has been diverted elsewhere.
But we’re at a critical juncture right now. Legislation is being written and moved ahead within the Congress even while panelists in Houston on both sides of the political spectrum are saying the debate needs to begin in earnest, in a bi-partisan and productive way and the public needs to be engaged.
This was a wide ranging panel and I took 16 pages of notes. This particular post covers 2 of them at best. However this gives you a sense of the frustration to be found among those there representing government, industry and think tanks. Both sides of the broad political spectrum on the panel agreed that the bi-partisan “civil discourse” that would move this sort of policy forward in a positive way doesn’t at present exist even while the legislation outlining future policy is being written.
I’ll have much more to say about this as I wade through the pages of notes I took, but this suffices to give the general impression of where we are when it comes a well thought out and comprehensive strategic energy policy. In a word, nowhere. I’ll get into the “why” of that (“climate change” is the “cultural wedge” that is being used to muddy the energy debate), and the implications in another post.
For any Q and O readers in the Houston area – meeting at the Flying Saucer at 5pm today. Come by and have a beer.
Or so it would seem. 11 students gather at a friend’s apartment for a birthday celebration. Two armed masked men burst in:
Bailey said he thought it was the end of his life and the lives of the 10 people inside his apartment for a birthday party after two masked men with guns burst in through a patio door.
“They just came in and separated the men from the women and said, ‘Give me your wallets and cell phones,’” said George Williams of the College Park Police Department.
Bailey said the gunmen started counting bullets. “The other guy asked how many (bullets) he had. He said he had enough,” said Bailey.
That’s when one student grabbed a gun out of a backpack and shot at the invader who was watching the men. The gunman ran out of the apartment.
The student then ran to the room where the second gunman, identified by police as 23-year-old Calvin Lavant, was holding the women.
“Apparently the guy was getting ready to rape his girlfriend. So he told the girls to get down and he started shooting. The guy jumped out of the window,” said Bailey.
Lavant was found dead near his appartment. Apparently he lived in a neighboring building.
The student hasn’t been identified, but when you have armed, masked men counting bullets to ensure they had enough, I think I’d have probably reached the same conclusion as he did. And, for a change, the story ends with someone successfully defending themselves because they were armed instead of being victims in some “gun free zone”.
One of the things I try to do is take a look at stories and decide whether or not there’s enough there to blog about it. And part of that has to do with corroboration. When I first saw the story about the Obama White House allegedly threatening a Chrysler stakeholder during negotiations that eventually broke down, I wondered if perhaps that particular person might have been a little over sensitive or misinterpreted the situation. But it was interesting and something worth watching.
Today comes some corroboration making this a good blog story. Although the story uses anonymous sources, it uses multiple sources, and the reason for the anonymity should be obvious.
Although the focus has so been on allegations that the White House threatened Perella Weinberg, sources familiar with the matter say that other firms felt they were threatened as well. None of the sources would agree to speak except on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of political repercussions.
The sources, who represent creditors to Chrysler, say they were taken aback by the hardball tactics that the Obama administration employed to cajole them into acquiescing to plans to restructure Chrysler. One person described the administration as the most shocking “end justifies the means” group they have ever encountered. Another characterized Obama was “the most dangerous smooth talker on the planet- and I knew Kissinger.” Both were voters for Obama in the last election.
One participant in negotiations said that the administration’s tactic was to present what one described as a “madman theory of the presidency” in which the President is someone to be feared because he was willing to do anything to get his way. The person said this threat was taken very seriously by his firm.
The White House has denied the allegation that it threatened Perella Weinberg.
Is this true? Well, at this point, it is more true than it was when Perella Weinberg was the only one reporting it.
Is this good? No. If true, this demonstrates an abuse of power that has no place in government at any level. While we all understand politics isn’t bean-bag, threats to use political power (not legal power, but the power of the bully pulpit and vilification) in this manner are simply unacceptable.
Again, the more I monitor this and the more I read, the more I believe this may have happened. I’d like to see the anonymous sources step up and identify themselves. Yeah, I know it takes a certain level of courage, but this is one of those “nip it in the bud” moments.
And I’d expect the left to be just as loud in its denunciation of this sort of abuse of power as they were the last 8 years when executive power abuse was a focus of their outrage with the Bush administration.
I assume the reason for their outrage was the alleged abuse, not the politics of the abuser.
Interesting term being thrown around to describe the emerging “new media” alignment:
I recently heard the term “Fifth Estate” used at a Poynter conference to describe an emerging landscape for news, information, community and citizenship. It has also been used to describe the work of bloggers, but that circle may be too small for such a big term.
In my head, the Fifth Estate includes the Fourth Estate, the idea and value of a professional press corps as a way of informing and engaging the populace, and holding the powerful accountable. This vision of a Fifth Estate sees the Fourth Estate as necessary but insufficient for democratic life. The Fifth Estate could express what Jay Rosen has described as a “pro-am” model for the future of news, a frame that sees that the freedoms and responsibilities of the First Amendment empower not just a professional caste of news gatherers and distributors, but potentially every citizen.
I think it needs some tweaking but essentially, what was the “fourth estate”, i.e. professional journalism with a relative monopoly on the news reporting function (they still mostly enjoy a monopoly on the news gathering side although that is changing too) has now become what Rosen describes as “pro-am” in some fairly telling ways.
This trip I’m on, for instance, has driven that point home. Yesterday, I stood beside a reporter from Forbes and Reuters in a couple of exclusive press conferences and asked questions after a panel discussion that included the folks I mentioned yesterday. I was joined by 10 other bloggers. In my estimation our questions were more pointed and dug deeper than did those of the news organizations. It was an interesting experience. The guy from Forbes thought it was cool. They guy from Reuters didn’t. That’s pretty much indicative of the “MSM’s” perception of bloggers I think – but the interesting thing was my press credentials were just as valid as theirs. Heh …
Anyway, as I told one of the MSM members yesterday as we chatted, I’m not a journalist and will never pretend to be. I write opinion pieces, and I don’t pretend to be “fair and balanced” . I also said I thought that there was room for both of us in all of this to which he agreed. And, as I pointed out, blogging seems to have become pretty mainstream since most newspapers now have journalists blogging on site.
I really haven’t had a chance to put my thoughts together on the 3 hour panel we sat in on yesterday, but the short version of it was “hey, we need to have a non-partisan dialog about energy planning and we need to find a way to engaged the consumer in the conversation” all the while also saying, “legislation is heading down the track like a freight train and it isn’t very well thought out”.
Anyway, more today if I get the chance.