Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

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. http://bit.ly/d5aHwP #

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: http://bit.ly/a2Cnqq 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. http://nyti.ms/9EAPKT #

Striking Chinese workers use technology to get their message out. Cell phones won’t stop Chinese gov’t tanks, though. http://nyti.ms/9v4ooA #

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

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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?

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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.

~McQ

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Our administrator President

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

Why?

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.

~McQ

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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.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-06-16

Something fundamental has changed with Mr. Sun. We should probably try to figure out what. It seems…important. http://bit.ly/bIS8RC #

You know, there's so many things wrong with my last tweet that I hardly know where to begin. #

A German student mooned a group of Hell's Angels, then hurled a puppy at them before escaping on a stolen bulldozer. http://bit.ly/aRScnd #

Sea levels aren't the only thing that's rising. #AlGorePickUpLines #

AT&T suspends iPhone 4 pre-orders. If AT&T can't handle the orders, imagine what a disaster USAGE bandwidth will be. http://bit.ly/9fv7dG #

Obama's oil speech, with all the talk about Nobel prizes and PhD's sounded like Fredo from Godfather 2: "I'm smart! I can handle things!" #

Obama's oil speech, with talk of PhDs and Nobel prizes, reminded me of Fredo in Godfather 2: "I'm smart! I can handle things!" #

EU chief warns democracy could disappear in Greece, Spain and Portugal, i.e., Europe would be like it was in the 60's. http://bit.ly/a2Yxld #

The new Honda FR1200F books way better in person than in pics. It also feels really light. Egos are a bit sporty. http://twitpic.com/1x4sxy #

Spending the afternoon in a little slice of heaven. http://twitpic.com/1x494j #

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Some worrying poll numbers for Obama

The consensus appears to be that the Oval Office speech last night fizzled. It didn’t accomplish what the administration and, I’d guess, the Democrats hoped it would. That is show a commanding president in charge of the situation who reflects confidence and leadership.

None of that desired above were evident. Interestingly, the left is savaging the speech just as much as the right. No one apparently felt good after that one.

Which brings us to a poll that’s quite interesting – the USA TODAY/Gallup poll about political viability. By that I mean futures for both the president and the Democratic Congress. And if the poll is to be believed (and I see no reason it shouldn’t), the future isn’t so bright the Dems need shades:

The criticism hasn’t driven down Obama’s overall job-approval rating, at 50% in the new poll, the highest since January. But it may be affecting his standing in other ways. By 51%-46%, the registered voters surveyed said Obama didn’t deserve re-election.

Enthusiasm about voting in the midterm elections fell, especially among Democrats. Just 35% of Democrats say they are “more enthusiastic about voting than usual,” the lowest level in more than a decade and 18 percentage points below that of Republicans.

The poll, of course, doesn’t reflect the mood of voters after the “big speech” so those “overall job-approval rating” numbers may not remain at 50%. But the future is reflected in the enthusiasm, or lack thereof and the doesn’t “deserve re-election” numbers that the poll reports.

If you’ve lost your base, which is how I interpret “enthusiasm” numbers – i.e. how enthused your base is about what you’re doing and will they get off their duffs and vote to keep you going – then you’re pretty much done. Because you can count on a whole lot of independents not being too enthused about Democrats either, as other polling has shown.

And, when you have a 5% gap in “doesn’t deserve to be re-elected”, that’s fairly significant and gives Dems and idea of the job they have in front of them selling this guy the next time.

That all supposes that events keep going the way they have for the past few months. I have little doubt they won’t. And then, for good measure, some international event, of which a number are building, will burst over the horizon and into the news, complicating this administration’s fuzzy focus even more.

Some would describe all this ineptitude and chaos we’re witnessing to be a teachable moment for the voting public – next time pay attention to qualifications. The only problem with that is you are supposed to learn something from teachable moments, and to do that, you have to survive them.

~McQ

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The latest "crisis" speech

In a word, unimpressive.

Now there are those who are going to say that this man could say nothing that would impress me. Not true. He could say I’m resigning for the good of the country and I’d be mightily impressed. Mainly because that would be the right thing to do and I’d respect that.

However, that’s not his choice. Instead he gave an uninspired speech with a few falsehoods and a few mixed messages.

Primarily it did absolutely nothing to ease my mind or calm my fears that there is any coherent plan in place. In fact, if you review the so-called “response”, it has three components.

1. Continue to try to clean up. We got a lot of statistics and a lot of claims, but essentially oil is still washing up on the shore.

2. Make BP pay. Of course that’s been the plan since the beginning.

3. Appoint lots of commissions. Ray Mabus will form one to develop a “long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan” as quickly as possible. And Obama claims to have established a “National Commission” to “offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place.”

And that’s pretty much the plan. Of course we will have a czar appointed as well, so that Obama can remove himself from these pesky leadership demands once again.

The rest of the speech was an exercise in what Obama does best – selling smoke. He begins it with a false premise:

But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20% of the world’s oil, but have less than 2% of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean – because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

Of course his claim about drilling in deeper water because we’re running out of places to drill in shallow water is false. 97% of the shallow water on the Outer Continental Shelf -97%- has been placed off limits by government. The oil companies are forced into deeper water not by the lack of oil, but by government refusing to allow them to drill there.

He also uses the figure for “proven reserves” of 21 billion barrels. However, estimates for the OCS run in the 150 billion barrels and the Bakken Formation (on land) 134 billion barrels.

But those falsehoods provide a platform to launch into another “crisis” that only government can handle – completely revamping our energy mix and insisting on changing it now. After this and health care, who would trust him and the Congress to do that?

And, he tells us the solution he prefers – the House version of cap-and-trade (what he calls “a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill”). He further states, in the midst of a horrible recession, that “there are costs associated with this transition”. Of course there are – and certainly no guarantee any of it will do anything to either “change” the climate or mitigate our energy needs. But it will certainly give government control over another aspect of our lives.

Finally, he throws out a bunch of legislative and regulatory trial balloons all based on breaking our “addiction to fossil fuels”. Like “raising efficiency standards in our buildings” – straight out of the House bill which would require a federal inspector to OK your house before you could sell it to ensure it meets all fed standards. He pitched wind and solar energy as a new “standard”. And he also wasn’t happy with the amount the energy industry was spending on research and development for new sources of energy. He’d like to see that boosted.

In effect, the bottom line is more government – much more government. The same government so magnificently handling this crisis in the gulf and may others.

If nothing else, this speech cemented in my mind what this President is – an administrator, not a leader. And in that position, that is not a good thing to be.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-06-15

How would you like to sequester some of MY carbon? #AlGorePickUpLines #

Hey, baby, I'd like to open up your lockbox. #AlGorePickUpLines #

This Perez Hilton thing is just insane. Doesn't EVERYBODY know the cops get really upset when you show pictures of a 17 year-old's kitty? #

Yet another Obama administration czar, this time to oversee the oil spill. So, what is it that Obama does, exactly? http://bit.ly/a4BVYQ #

I see via @JonHenke that Grover Norquist joined GOProud. That's faaabulous! in reply to JonHenke #

I've been watching that Etheridge video. Jeebus, if that old man had laid his hands on me, he'd have been making his apology from the ER. #

I got the vandalism damage estimate for my truck. $1,044 damage to the passenger door and window. #

Twitter's incapacity tonight is ticking me off. I can only assume it's all the heathen foreigners tweeting about kickball. #

Wow! We just had an earthquake. The whole house shook. We've been having those a lot lately. I'm pretty sure that's not a good thing. #

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Really? An "oil recovery czar"?

This is the plan?

President Barack Obama, in his televised speech to the nation Tuesday, will announce the creation of an oil recovery “czar” to oversee progress in siphoning crude from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, his chief spokesman said.

Speaking on ABC television’s “Good Morning America” program, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the position is envisioned as “somebody that will be in charge of a recovery plan, putting a recovery plan together…when we get past the cleanup and response phase of this disaster.”

Well let’s see – we’ve had a commission appointed. We’ve seen the administration explore criminal charges against BP. And now, the administration that has been on top of this thing since “day one” is going to appoint “somebody that will be in charge of a recovery plan” and “putting a recovery plan together” 55 freakin’ days in to this!?

Now he’s going to put someone in charge and put a plan together?

Too bad we don’t have a method of voting “no confidence” in this country and calling for new elections. I think this guy would be gone in a New York minute.

~McQ

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