Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: June 2012


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 24Jun 12

This week, Bruce and Dale talk about the President’s Fast & Furious executive Privilege claim.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Obama/Biden campaign hit bottom with wedding gift appeal

Of all my years watching politics, this has got to be one of the most pathetic, ham-fisted, self-centered and stupid attempts to raise campaign cash I’ve ever seen.  From the Obama/Biden campaign website:

Got a birthday, anniversary, or wedding coming up?

Let your friends know how important this election is to you—register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift. It’s a great way to support the President on your big day. Plus, it’s a gift that we can all appreciate—and goes a lot further than a gravy bowl.

Setting up and sharing your registry page is easy—so get started today.

Your special day? Screw your special day, make sure the president has the cash necessary for his special day.

Talk about a tin ear.

Does anyone staff these ideas?  And if they do, did they really end up thinking this would be a good idea (read the comments on this beauty)?

And finally, does anyone get just a whiff of desperation in an appeal like this?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


UAVs, extrajudicial and targeted killings

If you haven’t wondered about the morality of this or its legality, I’d be surprised.

It’s easy to overlook, after all it’s the “good guys” doing it, right?

While I usually ignore most of what the UN says, I think there’s some substance here:

The US policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings presents a major challenge to the system of international law that has endured since the second world war, a United Nations investigator has said.

Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, told a conference in Geneva that President Obama’s attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, carried out by the CIA, would encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards.

In his strongest critique so far of drone strikes, Heyns suggested some may even constitute "war crimes". His comments come amid rising international unease over the surge in killings by remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

A lot of times I apply the “what if some other country was doing this to the US” standard to things we do.  Take Fast and Furious.  What if Mexico had run that operation on us?  We’d be “furious”.  We’d condemn them roundly.  We’d be seeking redress.  We’d be initiating some sort of action.

Now given, in certain of the cases with UAV’s, governments of countries effected are cooperating and, in some cases, even giving permission.  But that isn’t always the case as we well know.  In fact, many times this country just executes an extra-judicial and/or targeted killing without the knowledge or consent of the government of the state in which it takes place.

As you might expect, there’s a lot of death of innocents that is euphemistically waved away as “collateral damage”.

Certainly the use of UAVs as a military asset that can both gather intel and be used to attack legitimate enemies makes sense.  But we’re into a very gray moral area with “extra-judicial” and targeted killings in other countries. 

The irony, of course, is the administration that arrogantly condemned its predecessor for secret jails and military tribunals and insisted that the judicial system be used in the war on terror instead now acts as judge, jury and executioner in these UAV killings. 

I just wondered what we’d think if Pakistan began flying UAVs into the US and knocking off politicians who supported UAV strikes in Pakistan, calling them “war criminals” and all?

Think we’d find that outrageous, a violation of our sovereignty and international law and be whining to the UN about what was being done by that country (not to mention beating the war drums here at home)?

Yeah, me too.

Would we have a legal or moral leg to stand on?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama’s lies and the media’s betrayal

How little interest has the media show in the actual facts of Barack Obama’s history?

The simple answer is “very little”.  For instance I expect a minute and basically negative examination of the Mormon religion when Mitt Romney is officially nominated.  That’s already being set up by numerous of those type articles already beginning to surface.

But Obama’s 20 years in a church with a reverend who basically preached anti-Americanism and black liberation theology? Meh.

A great example of what I’m talking about is covered by Jonathan Tobin in Commentary’s “Contentions” blog.  It is about the story oft repeated by Obama.  It is his version of his mother death of cancer because those nasty old insurance companies wouldn’t pay.

It’s a lie.  Again, I use the word “lie” much less frequently than do many in the press or around the blogosphere.  A lie is a knowing falsehood. I try to restrict my usage to that tight definition.  As it turns out, the story Obama has told repeatedly as the truth about his mother’s death is, in fact, a lie.  Oh, and the mainstream media knows it. 

Proof?  Well, they said so.

Never let it be said the New York Times is afraid to tackle an unflattering story about President Obama, even if it’s often a delayed reaction. The paper’s political blog The Caucus deigned to notice today that the new biography of the president by David Maraniss uncovered the fact that much of Dreams From My Father, the highly praised Barack Obama autobiography, is either fabricated or exaggerated. The Times’s Michael Shear opines that having its author now sitting in the White House has brought Dreams more scrutiny than its author could have envisioned when he wrote it in 1995. But the problem with contemporary analyses of the questionable personal history in the book is not so much the peril associated with being a famous political author but whether the book provides proof of a pattern of falsehoods and distortions about his past that has been one of the hallmarks of the president’s public career.

The answer to that question is contained near the bottom of the piece in which Shear lets drop that proof of such a pattern was already provided by his own newspaper last year. Though the Times buried the story when it broke and then never followed up or editorialized on the scandal, it was their own reporter Janny Scott whose research on the life of the president’s mother Ann Dunham revealed that the oft-told story of her dying because of the failure of her health insurance company to pay for her cancer treatment was a flat out lie. But while Shear is right that this year’s election will not turn on how Maraniss’s book is received, the unwillingness of the Times and other mainstream publications to call out Obama for writing fiction and calling it autobiography gives us a good indication of how much of an advantage having a quiescent media is for an incumbent president. [emphasis mine]

You know the standard line here: imagine them discovering something like this about someone on the right.  Do you suppose it would not be followed up or be editorialized?  Do you suppose they’d skip pointing out it seems to indicate a pattern?

As to that pattern and the specifics of his mother’s death:

The fables Obama seems to have told about his alienation, his girlfriends and the rest of his over-intellectualized voyage of self-discovery actually pale in comparison to the whopper he told when running for election in 2008 that his mother died because she had been denied coverage and treatment of her disease. Scott revealed that in fact the expenses relating to her cancer had been paid by her insurance. Though she had a separate and totally unrelated dispute relating to disability coverage, Scott’s research proved that Obama’s statement during the 2008 presidential debate was fiction:

“For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.”

It bears repeating that the president knew this account was false because he served as his mother’s attorney in all her dealings with the insurance company. [emphasis mine]

And where did the Times run this revelation?  What was the White House reaction?

When the Times ran that story (on page 14 rather than on the front page), the White House chose not to deny the truth of Scott’s reporting. But that didn’t stop the Obama campaign from  refloating the same falsehoods about Ms. Dunham having perished for lack of insurance coverage in an autobiographical campaign film narrated by Tom Hanks.

So the Times discovered what would be a bombshell revelation were it anyone else, they plop it out on page 14, the White House denies it and that ends it?

Now that’s journalism isn’t it?  Duty fulfilled, even halfheartedly, and now safe to ignore.  Meanwhile the lie lives on and no one even bothers to address the fact that’s what it is.  It is pure political propaganda designed to demonize an industry in order to gain popular consent to all but wreck it and have government take its place.

Yet, it’s only worth page 14 in the “paper of record” and zero followup. 

Not only has the president never apologized for lying to the American people about his mother’s plight, he rightly assumed that even though the truth was uncovered by the New York Times, neither that paper nor the rest of the mainstream media would follow up on it as they undoubtedly would had a Republican ever tried to sell the voters such a transparent whopper.

There’s the bottom line.

Another example of how poorly a biased media is serving the public.  Yet they wonder why the public’s confidence in them continues to drop and newspapers all over the country are dying.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


But there will be no death panels

That’s what we’ve been assured would never exist if government is in charge of your health care and paying all costs.

That, of course, in the face of a promise to lower health care costs as well as the fact that the vast majority of health care spending takes place at the end of life.  Forget those conflicting points, death panels will never happen because, well because the left says so. 

Incentive?  Well that’s sort of a foreign word to the left so forgive them if they don’t understand that those two dueling points above provide incentive to end lives whether or not they’re willing to call it the result of death panels or not.

The example?

Well the good old British NHS of course

Shocking news from England today has top NHS officials indicating doctors acting in the UK government-run health program annually kill as many as 130,000 patients prematurely because of overcrowding at hospitals, medical clinics and nursing homes.

In fact they even have a name for doing that – the Liverpool Care Pathway.

Sounds so … benign.

He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country. It is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.

It can include withdrawal of treatment – including the provision of water and nourishment by tube – and on average brings a patient to death in 33 hours. There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP.

Or, in other words, the government and doctors playing God.  And, naturally, it has devolved into something done often just for the medical caregiver’s convenience:

Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’. He cited ‘pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients’ as factors.

Nice.  LCP’d because they put what must be considered excess demands on the staff.  But look at the bright side – costs are cut, an less expensive patient can take the bed and everyone is happy.

Except the dead bloke and his family.   But, it’s not a “death panel”:

In the example he revealed a 71-year-old who was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia and epilepsy was put on the LCP by a covering doctor on a weekend shift.

Professor Pullicino said he had returned to work after a weekend to find the patient unresponsive and his family upset because they had not agreed to place him on the LCP.

‘I removed the patient from the LCP despite significant resistance,’ he said.

‘His seizures came under control and four weeks later he was discharged home to his family,’ he said.

Instead it’s just a “death pathway” protocol.  So nothing to see here, citizen, move along.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic Statistics for 21 Jun 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

Initial claims for unemployment were 387,000 last week. The 4-week moving average rose 3,500 to 386,250. The prior week’s claims were revised upwards 3,000 to 389,000.

Existing home sales fell 1.5% in May to a 4.55 million annual rate, but were up 7.9% on a year-over-year basis.

The Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook Survey for June dropped to -16.6 from -5.8 in May, as business activity declined for the second straight month in the mid-Atlantic region, and declined more steeply.

The PMI manufacturing flash index for June fell 1 point to 53.9, a level over 50 to indicate monthly growth but below May to indicate a slower rate of growth.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell to -37.9 in the latest week. All three components of the index declined.

The FHFA purchase only house price index rose 0.8% in April, following a revised 1.6% in March.  The year-on-year rate rose 3.0%.

The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators in April rose 0.3% in May, following a 0.1% rise in April. The biggest negative components were the factory workweek and stock prices, while the positives were building permits and the spread between short and long interest rates, a spread made favorable by the Fed’s near zero rate policy.

~
Dale Franks
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With the options available, why did Obama choose to invoke executive privilege?

That, at least to me, is the pregnant question.  He had a number of other options but  4 months from a critical election, chose the most controversial and potentially damaging one.

Why?

Let’s begin with a quote from  a former White House counsel from a Powerline post:

Even with his fawning press, [President Obama] will pay a price for this one. He knows this, meaning that the documents now to be withheld must be dynamite. They have to show either that Holder knew what was going on with Fast and Furious and approved it, or that he directly committed perjury in his Congressional testimony, or both. I just can’t see any other explanation for such a risky move.

Wasn’t the Washington Post just covering big time the 40th anniversary of Watergate? I wonder how much coverage this one will get.

That’s the result of the move – speculation that the documents being withheld point to perjury by Holder or the President, or both.

So let’s break this down a bit.  If it was all about Holder, why would the president risk this sort of a controversial move this close to an election.  It’s not like he’s never thrown anyone under the bus.  In fact James Carville is on record advising Obama to dump Holder.

Obama had the option, then, of letting Holder face contempt charges (not much happens as we’ve seen in the past, to those who are served with contempt of Congress charges) and drag out the document release until after the election.

With the election season gearing up, it is likely that while the controversy would have been an issue, it wouldn’t have been a major issue.   Now it certainly is.

He could have asked Holder to resign.  He could have then used the opportunity to appear as a statesman, a leader and bi-partisan all in one fell swoop.  Depending on how he handled that it could actually have been a positive for him heading into an election.  In the meantime, an acting AG could continue to delay on providing documents.

But he did neither of those things.  For some unknown reason (at least to this point) he chose to do the least likely and most politically damaging thing – invoke executive privilege.  As the lawyer quoted has said, those documents must be “dynamite” to have the president make this move.

And, unsaid by the lawyer is the speculation that the documents show the involvement of the White House to a degree that is damaging – apparently more damaging than the speculation and attention this move by the President has brought.

David Kopel at Volokh Conspiracy gives you a great history of the controversy.  As for the documents Kopel notes:

According to Attorney General Holder, the DOJ has 140,000 documents related to Fast & Furious. Fewer than 8,000 have been provided to Congress pursuant to subpoenas. The contempt vote has been narrowed to 1,300 documents. In refusing to comply with the House subpoenas, the DOJ has refused to create a privilege log–which would identify withheld documents, and the legal reason for their being withheld.

Matthew Boyle at the DC caller points out that Holder has retracted two previous statements he made to Congress where he gave them inaccurate information in an attempt to blame previous AGs or administrations.  It seems that’s a standard operating procedure with all parts of this administration.  So Holder is left holding the bag all by himself on this one, or so it seemed, at least, to the point that executive privilege was invoked.

That brings us to these 4 point by Todd Gaziano at the Heritage Foundation about the use of executive privilege:

First, the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon (1974) held that executive privilege cannot be invoked at all if the purpose is to shield wrongdoing. The courts held that Nixon’s purported invocation of executive privilege was illegitimate, in part, for that reason. There is reason to suspect that this might be the case in the Fast and Furious cover-up and stonewalling effort. Congress needs to get to the bottom of that question to prevent an illegal invocation of executive privilege and further abuses of power. That will require an index of the withheld documents and an explanation of why each of them is covered by executive privilege—and more.

Second, even the “deliberative process” species of executive privilege, which is reasonably broad, does not shield the ultimate decisions from congressional inquiry. Congress is entitled to at least some documents and other information that indicate who the ultimate decision maker was for this disastrous program and why these decisions were made. That information is among the most important documents that are being withheld.

Third, the Supreme Court in the Nixon case also held that even a proper invocation must yield to other branches’ need for information in some cases. So even a proper invocation of executive privilege regarding particular documents is not final.

And lastly, the President is required when invoking executive privilege to try to accommodate the other branches’ legitimate information needs in some other way. For example, it does not harm executive power for the President to selectively waive executive privilege in most instances, even if it hurts him politically by exposing a terrible policy failure or wrongdoing among his staff. The history of executive–congressional relations is filled with accommodations and waivers of privilege. In contrast to voluntary waivers of privilege, Watergate demonstrates that wrongful invocations of privilege can seriously damage the office of the presidency when Congress and the courts impose new constraints on the President’s discretion or power (some rightful and some not).

The key point, of course, is executive privilege cannot be used to “shield wrongdoing”.  While it is speculative, it appears highly likely – given the other options available – that executive privilege is being used for precisely that reason in this case.

Additionally, given the choices available to the President, it is not at all out of bounds to speculate that the most transparent administration in history is trying desperately to hide something even more terrible than the political fallout from this choice.

The White House cites internal discussions and ongoing investigations are the reason for its denial and claims the investigations would be jeopardized with the release of the documents.  But, as Gaziano points out, accommodations can be made in that regard.  The total number of documents requested is 1,300.  The White House is simply refusing to cooperate or accommodate.

Why?

We’re still left with that question.  

And the answer, given the  actions to date, lead to some logical speculation – what is contained in those documents is much more damaging politically than the damage done by the decision.  Additionally, Obama can’t afford to let Holder go because if he does there’s the potential that Holder will then spill the beans.

Oh, and finally, this move has suddenly brought Fast and Furious to page one and the top of the newscast like nothing else could.  The majority of the country, which was mostly ignorant of this scandal are now in the loop.

As the cited former White House counsel said, “the documents now to be withheld must be dynamite.”  In fact, they must be so explosive that the White House is desperate enough to try to weather this self-inflicted political storm in lieu of exposing them.

That says a lot.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama allows Holder to “hide behind” executive privilege

I’m sure no one is surprised that the most transparent administration in history has chosen to invoke executive privilege in the Fast and Furious investigation being conducted by Congress and deny that institution it’s ability to conduct its oversight responsibility.

Here’s President Obama as candidate Obama in 2007 talking about the use of executive privilege (btw, irony alert – note the CNN banner – the answer? No.):

 

 

That was then when it was the GOP’s fat in the fire. However, now that it is his and Eric Holder’s that’s being roasted, well that’s different.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) criticized the White House. "How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he’s supposedly never seen?" Mr. Grassley said.

Details, details. 

At issue are Justice Department documents that Messrs. Issa and Grassley have sought and that the department resisted turning over in the congressional investigation into a botched gun-trafficking probe called Fast and Furious. The department said the documents reflected internal deliberation or were related to continuing criminal investigations and therefore weren’t subject to congressional subpoena.

Of course no one knows if any of that is true (or true of all the documents requested) since no one outside the Justice Department is able to inspect them.  And this was an operation that AG Holder characterized as a “low-level operation”.  Now, suddenly it needs executive protection?  Seems like a heck of a sudden escalation in “levels” doesn’t it?

Apparently the decision to invoke executive privilege came after a meeting between AG Holder and Rep. Issa:

Messrs. Issa and Holder met Tuesday for 20 minutes. From their accounts, it has become a game of chicken, with each side insisting the other act first to resolve the standoff.

Mr. Holder said Mr. Issa rejected his offer to provide documents because the lawmaker wouldn’t agree that they would fulfill a subpoena, effectively ending the contempt threat. Mr. Issa said the attorney general didn’t come prepared to provide documents and that the contempt threat can’t be removed until the documents are produced.

Holder then proceeded to take the documents off the table via the President and executive privilege.

Mr. Grassley said Tuesday night: "The attorney general wants to trade a briefing and the promise of delivering some small, unspecified set of documents tomorrow for a free pass today. He wants to turn over only what he wants to turn over and not give us any information about what he’s not turning over. That’s unacceptable. I’m not going to buy a pig in a poke. Chairman Issa is right to move forward to seek answers about a disastrous government operation."

Contempt of Congress should now move forward.  Frankly, Holder has been contemptuous of the law since the first day he took the office of the Attorney General.

And, for most folks, human nature says that those who have something they don’t want known have a tendency to try to hide it.  Whether true or not, that’s how it appears … just as it did in the example in the video when Obama spoke out against the use of what he invoked today.

Matt Burden came up with my favorite bit of irony today as concerns this burgeoning fiasco:

Okay, I want to know what freaking idiot leaks all kinds of classified operations putting military, civilian agents, and allies at risk but pulls EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE on Fast and Furious documents (that AG Holder said was a low level op)?!

Oh, wait…

Heh …

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic Statistics for 20 Jun 12 (Updated)

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

The Mortgage Bankers Association announced that Mortgage applications fell -0.8%, with new purchases down a very sharp -9.0% and re-fis up 1.0%.

UPDATE: The Federal Open Markets Committee announced that due to ongoing economic weakness the target for the Fed Funds rate will remain at 0%-0.25%, and is likely to remain at "exceptionally low levels" through late 2014. The Discount Rate will remain unchanged at 0.75%. "Operation Twist" which extends the maturity of securities held by the Fed by buying long-term notes and selling short-term ones, will continue.

~
Dale Franks
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