Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Oil spill – reshuffling the PR deck

Since hopping out in front of the cameras, thinking the top kill had worked and claiming that the administration has been in charge of the effort from “day one,” things have gone down hill for President Obama. As it turns out the top kill effort was unsuccessful. And, as the Washington Post tells us today, now the effort is to distance the administration from the oil company is supposedly was directing to do its bidding:

Struggling to convey command of the worsening Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Obama administration is taking steps to distance itself from BP and is dispatching Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to the Gulf Coast to meet with federal and state prosecutors. The Holder trip could signal that the environmental calamity might become the subject of a criminal investigation.

Holder has said Justice Department lawyers are examining whether there was any “malfeasance” related to the leaking oil well, and investigators, who have already been on the coast for a month, have sent letters to BP instructing the company to preserve internal records related to the spill. But federal officials indicated that Holder’s trip, which will include a news conference in New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon, will focus on enforcement of environmental laws and holding BP accountable.

The opening of a criminal investigation or civil action against BP, if either were to happen, would create the unusual situation of the federal government weighing charges against a company that it is simultaneously depending on for the most critical elements of the response to the record oil spill.

Usually, if there is a possibility of a criminal investigation and charges in a situation like this, they are kept in abeyance until there’s some resolution to the problem. But in this case, desparate for something which will cast the administration in a favorable light, it appears this is the chosen method. Holder’s news conference will be a welcome distraction from the constant “but what are you doing to stop the leak” questions the administration gets.

That’s the act of symbolic separation.

Step two is to physically separate the administration from the bad guys BP.

The relationship between the federal government and the oil company has been an awkward collaboration all along — “We have them by the neck,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said of BP in congressional testimony last week — but it reached a turning point Monday when the administration said it no longer wants to share a podium with BP at the daily briefing in Louisiana. Instead, the national incident commander, Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, will give a solo briefing wherever he happens to be.

It is a “we’re still in command, but it is an arm’s length, hold-your-nose, we’re forced to work with these people, command.” The perfect setup for something this administration is actually quite good at – demonization.

As for the spill itself, the next step is in contention. Apparently Carl Browner, the head of the EPA has become an expert in fluid dynamics and underwater blowout prevention:

The administration and BP have disagreed over whether the company’s next maneuver would cause a temporary increase in the flow of oil into the gulf. In the coming days, BP plans to saw off the top of the leaking riser pipe where it emerges from the blowout preventer that sits on the well. BP will then lower a containment dome, or cap, onto the riser in an attempt to capture the leaking oil. White House official Carol M. Browner said Sunday that after the pipe is cut, about 20 percent more oil would probably escape before the new cap is in place. BP officials said that they think that is unlikely and that there might be no significant change in the flow.

I’m not sure where she gets the idea that cutting the riser will allow a 20% increase in the flow. They’re cutting it, not removing it. It will still be there with the same diameter it’s always had, it’ll just be shorter so they can deal with it better.

The salient point, of course, is like it or not, the administration is stuck with BP, both in the plugging of the leak and in the clean up effort. And frankly, they wouldn’t have it any other way – this is the company that will be blamed for every failing of the administration. Note I said failing of the administration – it has a role and a duty in this disaster. What it is going to do, or at least attempt to do with this distancing, is to lay all blame on BP from this point on.

Holder’s trip to the Gulf is only the opening salvo.

~McQ

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The Israeli/”Freedom Flotilla” thing – first read

There is a lot more information that needs to come out about this thing, and I’m disturbed that numerous reports show this so-called “Freedom Flotilla” in international waters when Israel boarded, but I’m not prepared to go all Andrew Sullivan on it.

If the flotilla was indeed in international waters, then the Israelis had no business on that ship. That said, what I’m not seeing in most of the reports are facts. I’m seeing a lot of emotional statements and conjecture and posturing by various politicians and nations.

What I’ve been able to discern at this point is Israeli Commandoes descended on a ship full of “peace activists” whose only supposed desire was to run the Israeli blockade and deliver supplies to Gaza – or so their story goes. As I read more an more about it, it seems less and less likely that those “peace activists” were from the MLK/Ghandi wing of the organization.

In fact, growing evidence is they were from a much less savory part. As the commandoes descended by fast roping on to the deck, armed with paintball guns (and sidearms, holstered), they were set upon by the peaceful folks trying to make it to Gaza.

Let’s step back a moment – Israel absorbs about 6,000 rockets a year, most from the Gaza area. They’re obviously getting their arms by some route and Israel takes a keen interest in where. I can’t imagine why. So they’ve attempted to cut the sea-borne supply line with a blockade. But the blockade doesn’t prevent the delivery of aid to the Palestinians in Gaza. It’s not like they turn it all away. In fact, this flotilla is simply another attempt among many past attempts. Yid with a Lid explains:

Every few months, a flotila of boats head toward Gaza with the purpose of convincing the world press that Israel is the evil empire. Usually what happens is Israel stops the boats, directs them to an Israeli port,and Israel delivers the aid though a land route (once it was checked for weapons). Israel has a convoy delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza on a daily basis. In fact Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.

That’s how the necessities of survival have dictated it is done – if you want to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, head for the Israeli port. Mission accomplished – unless you’re an arms smuggler or looking for a fight. And it appears, more and more, that’s precisely what this flotilla was looking for – and got. It also appears the escalation of respose was probably warranted given the “peace activists” continued attacks. Here’s why:

Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.

However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapons. One soldier who came to the aid of a comrade was captured by the rioters and sustained severe blows.

The commandoes were equipped with handguns but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. When they came down from the chopper, they kept on shouting to each other “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” even though they sustained numerous blows.

Video has emerged of the commandoes being attacked with metal pipes, clubs, bats and the like. There’s also a shot of one commando being thrown over the side of one deck and landing on another, to be set upon again. Obviously the paintball gun didn’t have the desired effect. But their ROE (Rules of Engagement) said, no use of firearms unless their lives were under threat.

OK, so now what? Well, step two was to attempt to break up the attackers with stun grenades:

The forces hurled stun grenades, yet the rioters on the top deck, whose number swelled up to 30 by that time, kept on beating up about 30 commandoes who kept gliding their way one by one from the helicopter.

You’re probably saying, “but wait, these are Israeli commandoes and they were some activist rabble. The odds were pretty even. Why didn’t the commandoes just take them?” Because when you fast rope in one-by-one into a crowd of 30, it is pretty hard to get any sort of cohesive unit action going, especially when you’re set upon individually. You’re fighting for your safety from minute one.

Anyway, stun grenades didn’t disperse them, so what was the next step? Well, it was actually dictated by the “peace activists” when they disarmed and threw the commando I mentioned above over the side. It all went downhill from there:

Only after this injury did Flotilla 13 troops ask for permission to use live fire. The commander approved it: You can go ahead and fire. The soldiers pulled out their handguns and started shooting at the rioters’ legs, a move that ultimately neutralized them. Meanwhile, the rioters started to fire back at the commandoes.

“I saw the tip of a rifle sticking out of the stairwell,” one commando said. “He fired at us and we fired back. We didn’t see if we hit him. We looked for him later but couldn’t find him.” Two soldiers sustained gunshot wounds to their knee and stomach after rioters apparently fired at them using guns wrested away from troops. During the commotion, another commando was stabbed with a knife. In a later search aboard the Marmara, soldiers found caches of bats, clubs, knives, and slingshots used by the rioters ahead of the IDF takeover. It appeared the activists were well prepared for a fight.

I don’t know how “well prepared” they were, but they certainly had crude weapons (the slingshots were using glass marbles which can, at close range, kill if they hit the right spot) and a will to attack the Israelis.

None of this, by the way, excuses the Israelis from boarding a ship in international waters (if that is indeed the case). They need to answer for that. International waters makes this an illegal raid. According to reports the flotilla was intercepted 65km of the Gaza coast. But the contiguous zone is only 24 miles or 38.6km off shore.

Within this zone, a coastal state can stop and inspect vessels and act to punish (or prevent) violations of its laws within its territory or territorial waters.

However, it also seems clear that this particular flotilla was in the business of trying to provoke violence and succeeded. As the claims and counter claims come in and the usual absurd posturing takes place about the deaths caused in this incident, remember this sequence of events and what prompted what happened on board the Marmara. Certainly one can sympathize to an extent with the peace activists who actually do want to see the people of Gaza receive humanitarian supplies. And one can also get their back up at armed men attempting to prevent them from doing so freely.

But you also have to keep in mind what happens from Gaza all too many times during each year. And you have to keep in mind that self-defense is also a right. I’m sure the “peace activists” will claim they were only defending themselves and their property, and in this case, it appears to be a valid claim. However, it seems clear from the videos that they’re intent on doing a little more than just defending themselves against paintball gun wielding commandoes. And it is just as clear from the ROE and the sequenced or phased response that the Israelis had no intention, upon landing on the ship, of killing or injuring anyone.

But this is now a full-fledged international incident with all the insanity those sorts of things normally bring to the fore (NATO is meeting about this? Really? And Turkey is threatening to escort another flotilla with its navy? Oh great, that’ll lessen tensions – maybe NATO does need to meet.).

Stay tuned for more.

~McQ

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Memorial Day 2010 – What price freedom?

I keep this photo as probably the most powerful reminder for me of what the real price of freedom looks like. Those that give their all as well as those they leave behind. We should remember both as we celebrate the freedom they’ve blessed us with and assured for us on this Memorial Day.

Dedicated to Stuart Lee Barnett, SP4, KIA, RVN, 8/26/1970. Thank you Barney – rest in peace, my friend.

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BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST) tonight

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s):

Oil spill, Top Kill and Obama – when it appeared the top kill had succeeded, out popped Obama to take credit. Now it has failed. What are the ramifications of this spill practically, politically and for this presidency?

The Sestak affair – does any thinking person really believe that a White House serious about offering Sestak a job to keep him from challenging Arlen Spector would offer a unpaid position on an executive branch advisory board? Yeah, me neither. And now we have Clinton in the mix?

Memorial day – what it means and, with two wars going on and with the bodies of those he’s ordered into combat laying in final repose there, should the President be at Arlington tomorrow instead of Chicago?

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Frank Rich v. Peggy Noonan – compare and contrast “competent”

Frank Rich has never seen an act by President Obama of which he didn’t approve or, if approval wasn’t really credibly possible, anything for which he couldn’t find an excuse. The oil spill is no exception:

Whatever Obama’s failings, he is infinitely more competent at coping with catastrophe than his predecessor. President Bush’s top disaster managers — the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, as well as the notorious “Brownie” — professed ignorance of New Orleans’s humanitarian crisis a full day after the nation had started watching it live in real time on television. When Bush finally appeared, he shunned the city entirely and instead made a jocular show of vowing to rebuild the coastal home of his party’s former Senate leader, Trent Lott. He never did take charge.

The Obama administration has been engaged with the oil spill from the start — however haltingly and inarticulately at times. It was way too trusting of BP but was never AWOL. For all the second-guessing, it’s still not clear what else the president might have done to make a definitive, as opposed to cosmetic, difference in plugging the hole: yell louder at BP, send in troops and tankers, or, as James Carville would have it, assume the role of Big Daddy? The spill is not a Tennessee Williams play, its setting notwithstanding, and it’s hard to see what more drama would add, particularly since No Drama Obama’s considerable talents do not include credible play-acting.

It’s not clear what Bush could have done (or would have had to have done) had there been a competent mayor of New Orleans or governor of LA in office. Neither did their job. So the blame fell on Bush.

Obama faces a crisis in federal waters – not state. Those are waters that are his administration’s responsibility. Blame Bush won’t work. And neither will attempts to duck the Katrina comparisons.

Rich speaks of “airbrushing” of the facts surrounding Katrina. I must have missed that. But that is precisely what has already begun in the defense of Obama with this claim that he and his administration were “engaged” from “day one”. Reactions to oil spills which are standard operating procedure regardless of who is in office are not “engagement”. In fact, most wouldn’t consider them to have become really engaged in the spill for a week or two and then, it appeared to be minimally and reluctantly. In fact, it appeared to be a distraction, an annoyance of which the administration would prefer to be relieved.

If there is any “airbrushing” going on, the left has definitely been engaged in that since “day one”.

Rich claims that it was Bush who made the masses doubt the competence of government (with his Katrina performance). He says:

Long before Obama took office, the public was plenty skeptical that government could do anything right. Eight years of epic Bush ineptitude and waste only added to Washington’s odor. Now Obama is stuck between a rock and a Tea Party. His credibility as a champion of reformed, competent government is held hostage by video from the gulf. And this in an election year when the very idea of a viable federal government is under angrier assault than at any time since the Gingrich revolution and militia mobilization of 1994-5 and arguably since the birth of the modern conservative movement in the 1960s.

But why is the “idea of a viable federal government” under assault?

As usual, Rich wants’ to blame it on Bush. It is a tried and true blame shifting device that progressives have been deploying for the 18 months Obama’s been in office. They don’t seem to realize, however, that it lost its cache after about 6 months. This is Obama’s show now, and as Peggy Noonan points out, the problem is competence:

This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn’t like about the Bush administration, everything it didn’t like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. Conservatives got this point—they know it without being told—but liberals and progressives did not. They thought Katrina was the result only of George W. Bush’s incompetence and conservatives’ failure to “believe in government.” But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent.

But, as Noonan points out, over these 18 months, more and more Americans have come to the conclusion he’s not. Those are pretty ugly thoughts when it comes to this president to some I suppose, but in fact, he’s demonstrated nothing to persuade most people otherwise.

And it is the image of the deep water oil well gushing oil into the Gulf that Noonan turns into metaphor of the Obama presidency and why his competence is questioned. Think taxpayer and the borrowed money his administration has been responsible for spending, think the proposed trillion dollar budgets as far as the eye can see, think his disconnection with the priorities of the people for favored agenda items.

While this disaster might rightfully shine a light on BP and the oil industry’s lack of planning for such a problem, it also erodes the ability of politicians to sell government as the most competent answer to our problems. Government has a specific role for which it is most suited. Defense, legal and judicial systems, stable currency, and minimal legislation to enable and oversee those systems.

Beyond that, it becomes intrusive, cumbersome, highly bureaucratic, unresponsive and expensive. The oil spill simply points this out fairly graphically. Health care reform, as it comes into play over the years, will reinforce that point even further.

Noonan, who I believe supported the Obama candidacy, is bothered by the effect the spill and Obama’s disconnectedness and inept governing to this point will have on his presidency. It is I think her way of saying, in a nuanced way, that she regrets her choice:

The disaster in the Gulf may well spell the political end of the president and his administration, and that is no cause for joy. It’s not good to have a president in this position—weakened, polarizing and lacking broad public support—less than halfway through his term. That it is his fault is no comfort. It is not good for the stability of the world, or its safety, that the leader of “the indispensable nation” be so weakened. I never until the past 10 years understood the almost moral imperative that an American president maintain a high standing in the eyes of his countrymen.

For the most part, I agree with her point that we and the world are best served by a President who is held in high esteem by his or her citizenry. But that’s something that is earned, not just given. This man sought the presidency after slamming the competence of his predecessor on every occasion possible. And when confronted by a disaster of his own, we get this:

Mr. Obama himself, when running for president, made much of Bush administration distraction and detachment during Katrina. Now the Republican Party will, understandably, go to town on Mr. Obama’s having gone before this week only once to the gulf, and the fund-raiser in San Francisco that seemed to take precedence, and the EPA chief who decided to cancel a New York fund-raiser only after the press reported that she planned to attend.

You reap what you sow. When you slam the opposition and their leader as incompetent (I recall that word used often by sitting Democratic leadership) you imply that if you’re elected, you won’t be incompetent.  It’s his standard and right now he’s hoist on his own petard.

Most impartial observers haven’t seen much competence displayed in the past 18 months. Not only has the administration seemingly not been up to the job, they’ve attempted to continue the blame-shifting that worked for the first 6 months of their existence, apparently still not realizing who is now President of the United States.

This is all yours, Mr. Obama.

Lead or go find something else to do.

~McQ

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Top Kill fails

Well it looks like I was a little premature, and I should have known better than to believe an LA Times story.

Live and learn.

The bottom line is that everyone, to include the President and a whole host of politicians (and me) thought the deep water oil leak had been plugged.

In the most serious setback yet in the effort to stem the flow of oil gushing from a well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico, BP engineers said Saturday that the “top kill” technique had failed and, after consultation with government officials, they had decided to move on to another strategy.

Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer for exploration and production, said at a news conference that the engineers would try once again to solve the problem with a containment valve and that it could take four to seven days for the device to be in place.

“After three full days of attempting top kill, we now believe it is time to move on to the next of our options,” Mr. Suttles said.

Apparently the pressure of the escaping oil and gas was just too powerful to overcome and the disaster in the Gulf continues. BP’s next option is apparently a variation on the containment dome option they tried previously.

The new strategy is to smoothly cut the riser that the oil is leaking from and then place a cap. Pipes attached to the cap would then take the oil to a storage boat waiting at the surface.An effort at a containment dome was tried earlier this month, but failed when gases escaping from the oil, froze and blocked the pipe. Mr. Suttles said, however, that BP had learned from that experience and now believed that this cap, which is custom fitted to the riser, will be more successful.

Let’s hope they’ve figured out a way to prevent the causes of the failure the last time they tried to use a dome.

Option 2 is to attach another blowout preventer to the non-functioning one already at the wellhead.

If that doesn’t work, we’re most likely looking at a relief well (which will definitely stop the leak) sometime in August.

August.

If that’s true it is fair to say that Obama and his daughter will be having a few more bathroom conversations and that “plug the hole” failed.

In all seriousness though, this presents a big problem for the administration. Thinking they were past the leak and faced only with the clean up (a daunting problem, but not as visible as the leak), most of the building criticism of the way the President and his administration had handled the leak was subsiding. And, the President made an late PR effort by visiting the LA coast to blunt further criticism before heading to Chicago for the Memorial Day weekend.

All for naught now. Per the NY Times:

The latest failure will undoubtedly put more pressure — both politically and from the public — on the Obama administration to take some sort of action, perhaps taking control of the repair effort completely from BP — and increase the public outcry.

And what do we get from the Prez?

“It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking,” Mr. Obama said in a statement, “and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole.”

Manmade disaster? Wait I thought that’s what we were calling terrorism now. It’s all so confusing. As for the statement from Mr. Cool, Calm and Collected – a little over-dramatic maybe? All a part of keeping their boot foot on the neck of BP one supposes. In the meantime, the rest of us hope and pray that the “next option” BP tries succeeds. And we also have to hope that the government won’t “push BP out of the way and take over” or we’ll be out of options.

~McQ

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Le affair Sestak – in a nutshell

Hindenblog has a nice litany of the Sestak affair to this moment in time.

Somebody offered Sestak something. This is admitted.The offer was a clear quid pro quo; IF you do this, THEN we will give you this. This is admitted.

Sestak is a Congressman with senatorial aspirations.

Sestak refused the offer, choosing to continue his senate campaign.

Sestak made the covert offer public.

At points in time, the Obama DENIED the allegation.

At points in time, Sestak reaffirmed the allegation.

For months, the Obama stonewalled the story, paying a political price in the process.

Administration lawyers have reviewed the matter; nothing to see here, move on.

Yet, in certain circumstances, the Obama admit their actions could be highly ILLEGAL.

Bill Clinton, who could have come forward months ago to dispel the controversy, NOW is a player.

Sestak is now making statements that cannot be squared with his previous recorded remarks.

Eric Holder has been asked, and refused, to appoint a special prosecutor.

Now I don’t care who your are, that’s a pretty succinct summary.

And, after 10 days and an Obama/Bill Clinton luncheon the day before, the White House has finally issued a statement. You’re welcome to read it, but it essentially says “we clear ourselves, others have done this too, and besides, it wasn’t much of a position”.

But wasn’t it? I mean it is clear that we now have a convergence of minds as far as they’re concerned and the storyline is set. And, if everyone sticks to that version, not much will come out of all of this but a lot of accusations and the like. Unless, of course, the persons involved can be put in front of a grand jury. That, of course, is unlikely with a Holder as AG and the one who must appoint a special prosecutor – something he’s refused to do.

Moving on, the reason so many are having doubts about the story concocted by the trio (Obama/Clinton/Sestack)are many.

One has to do with the fact that Sestack has repeatedly spoken about a “job”. The unpaid appointment to a presidential commission isn’t a job (unless you’re giving up your real job – Congressional representative – and it’s pay to take this unpaid part-time position.

Two – an unpaid part time position would hardly be something any person would consider to be enough to get Sestak to withdraw from the Senate race. They’re a dime a dozen in DC and while they have some prestige, they don’t have the prestige of Representative or Senator.

Then there’s this interesting conversation recorded months earlier between Larry Kane and Joe Sestak:

KANE: “Were you ever offered a federal job to get out of this race?”SESTAK: “Yes.”

KANE: “Was it secretary of the Navy?”

SESTAK: “No comment”

Later Kane asks again, “Was there a job offered to you by the White House?” to which Sestak nods and replies “yes, someone offered it.”

Kane asks “It was big right?” Sestak replies, “Let me ‘no comment’ on it.”

“Was it high-ranking?” Kane asked. Sestak said yes.

Kane immediately called the White House for confirmation and they, later, denied it completely.

So again, it was a “big” job and it was “high-ranking”. To most observers, that wouldn’t be an unpaid gig on an “executive” committee.

That brings us to the question, who is not telling the truth here?

Sestak says it was a job, the obvious intent of the offer was to get him to withdraw from the Senate race and he refused it.

The White House initially denied it and then finally said, “oh, yeah, t’weren’t nothin’ folks, and Bill Clinton made the offer anyway” like that removes them from the fray.

So, you’re left to ask – was Sestak embellishing this to make is sound like more than it was? Or was he telling the truth and is now backing off a bit to make it sound much less than it was? Don’t forget, if it is an offer for something like SecNav, that’s against the law and he gets the Obama administration in some deep legal kimchi. This is the best course, career-wise, for him – but is it the truth?

This is also the best course for the administration. And having a cut-out (Bill Clinton – what does he have to lose?) as the fall guy if there is even the slightest problem, puts them in the “plausible deniability” range. “Well we ask him to find out how serious Sestak was about the Senate run, we didn’t tell him to offer him anything”. And of course, Clinton could then yuk it up and say “well heck, I was just trying to gauge the depth of his commitment – I knew he’s say no”.  All verbal, and now, all three agreeing.

All too sweet, all too nicely wrapped up and all to long to come out with an answer if this is really the answer. It’s not – but the chances of us ever finding out what the real answer might be, at least anytime soon, isn’t very likely.

~McQ

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Michigan legislator proposes law to license journalists

The idea that the states were to be the “laboratories of freedom” has been an idea expressed for years by advocates of liberty. New concepts, supposedly rooted in liberty, were to be tried in the states to see if they worked and could be applied more broadly within the nation.

But, as we’ve learned over the years, the states can also be laboratories of tyranny as well. Or at least attempts at tyranny. Michigan offers the latest example:

A Michigan lawmaker wants to license reporters to ensure they’re credible and vet them for “good moral character.”

Nothing nebulous or arbitrary there. More importantly, since when – given the 1st Amendment to the Constitution – does any legislative body have the power to regulate speech? The 1st Amendment was incorporated to apply to the states in 1925 (See Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925)(dicta)).

Here’s the interesting part – the legislator in question is a Republican and, according to the article, “practices Constitutional law.” He may practice it, but he doesn’t appear to understand it very well.

He claims his desire to regulate the licensing of journalists is in the public interest.

“Legitimate media sources are critically important to our government,” he said.

He told FoxNews.com that some reporters covering state politics don’t know what they’re talking about and they’re working for publications he’s never heard of, so he wants to install a process that’ll help him and the general public figure out which reporters to trust.

“We have to be able to get good information,” he said. “We have to be able to rely on the source and to understand the credentials of the source.”

If you missed the nuance, he’s essentially saying that government, through it’s licensing process, will determine what media is “legitimate” and what isn’t. No state seal of approval (i.e. license) equals illegitimate media.

The obvious problem, even to those a little slow on the uptake, is not just the licensing, but the power that gives government to show it’s displeasure with a journalist or the story (or investigation, etc.) the journalist has produced by pulling his or her license.

Instantly delegitimized.

These are the provisions of the bill:

According to the bill, reporters must provide the licensing board proof of:

–“Good moral character” and demonstrate they have industry “ethics standards acceptable to the board.”

–Possession of a degree in journalism or other degree substantially equivalent.

–Not less than 3 years experience as a reporter or any other relevant background information.

–Awards or recognition related to being a reporter.

–Three or more writing samples.

Reporters will also have to pay an application and registration fee.

The bill doesn’t prevent others who are not licensed by the state from covering Michigan (certainly not initially), but the intent is clear.

Bruce Patterson, the legislator in question, says there’s little chance his bill will pass. As others point out, it is a single sponsor bill. And Patterson is now claiming that he’s only trying to provoke a discussion with his bill to point out the difficulty of knowing if an information source is legitimate:

“What’s the definition of a reporter? I haven’t been able to find out? What’s a reporter? What’s a journalist?” Patterson said. “I thought you had to have a degree in journalism but apparently not. I could retire and be a journalist.”

Patterson said he wants a central place where members of the public can go to find out about reporters’ credentials, background and experience. “I’m talking about a central depository for information so someone can go find all that out,”

Patterson said, comparing his idea to the vetting process for expert witnesses who testify in court. The senator said that he feels that there’s no way to tell who’s a legitimate journalist and who’s just rewriting other reporters’ reporting and twisting facts.

Hmmm … how about assuming the responsibility on your own? I would guess that most of us who read the offerings on the net, for instance, and various blogs know which ones we can trust and which ones aren’t at all trustworthy. We also know enough check something controversial with numerous sources. Most of us have hear of snopes.com and factcheck.org where we can vet rumors. What we certainly don’t need is some state deciding the only “legitimate” reporters out there are some “J school” grad – not with what we’ve seen over the past few years from their ilk.

Anyway, I found this to be quite interesting. I don’t necessarily buy into his contention that he introduced this just to stir discussion (I’m guessing that’s his fall-back position after receiving a lot of resistance to this) but it certainly has.

The most important thing it suggests is there are people on both sides who would regulate your life to a point where most choice – the essence of freedom – would be removed from it. And, they are in both parties – an important point. What is important to do, and one of the function of blogs, in my opinion, is to expose such ideas to the light of day. Of course, had I done this under the auspices of the proposed Michigan law, I’d have been an illegitimate source and you would be advised to ignore me.

~McQ

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Quote of the day – correlation does not imply causation edition

Hillary Clinton provides our quote of the day. It’s not because she’s claiming the rich don’t pay their fair share – no Democrat will ever think the rich are paying their fair share until they’re paying 100% – and then there will still be some who say they have too many assets. No, Ms. Clinton’s quote provides us with an even more interesting look at the mind of the left:

“The rich are not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment issues [America currently does] — whether it’s individual, corporate or whatever [form of] taxation forms,” Clinton told an audience at the Brookings Institution, where she was discussing the Administration’s new National Security Strategy.

Clinton said the comment was her personal opinion alone. “I’m not speaking for the administration, so I’ll preface that with a very clear caveat,” she said.

Clinton went on to cite Brazil as a model.

“Brazil has the highest tax-to-GDP rate in the Western Hemisphere and guess what — they’re growing like crazy,” Clinton said. “And the rich are getting richer, but they’re pulling people out of poverty.”

The premise? That Brazil is doing well exclusively because the taxes on the rich are so high. In other words, if Brazil lowered taxes on the rich, it would slow the economy. Seriously – read the quote, tell me where I’m wrong. The taxes are what are enabling this growth, per Clinton, and that means the spending by government – the “they’re” in the last sentence – is “pulling people out of poverty”, not the private economy or the rich who are “getting richer”.

If only we’d tax the rich here much more than we do, our economic woes could be over.

Who was it who called her the “smartest woman in the world?”

~McQ

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Massachusetts Senate passes amendment cracking down on illegal immigration

The Massachusetts Senate delivered another message yesterday about illegal immigration and demonstrates, again, why I think it is the Democrats who are in hot water on this issue, not the GOP:

The measure, which passed on a 28-10 vote as an amendment to the budget, would bar the state from doing business with any company found to break federal laws barring illegal immigrant hiring. It would also toughen penalties for creating or using fake identification documents, and explicitly deny in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants.

The amendment would also require the state’s public health insurance program to verify residency through the Department of Homeland Security, and would require the state to give legal residents priority for subsidized housing.

Why, you wonder, would deeply blue MA pass anything like that?  Why would Democrats there go along?  Here’s why:

Democrats had resisted such a sweeping proposal, but spent last evening negotiating today’s measure, shortly after a new polled showed 84 percent of the liberal-leaning state’s voters supported tough immigration rules barring state services to illegal immigrants.

Taxpayers are dead freakin’ tired of paying for services for people who have entered the country illegally.  They’re dead freakin’ tired of watch the laws of the land being ignored.  And they’re especially dead freakin’ tired of those doing the ignoring.

You’re going to see more and more states do this until they force the Federal government and the Obama administration into doing its job.

~McQ

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