Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Quote of the day – Bob Herbert Obama leadership edition

If the administration has lost Bob Herbert, an up to now dependable Obama sycophant, I’d say they’re in deep trouble.

Not that Herbert’s column is an outright declaration of incompetence or anything. In fact he tip toes around quite assiduously laying out the woes the nation faces and his idea of what is necessary (more spending – much more spending) to correct the situation.

He laments the depth of unemployment and the economic demise of the private sector. And he is sure, that had some things been done when necessary (more spending – much more spending) we might be on the road to recovery. But since those things weren’t done (more spending – much more spending) we’re in the quagmire and, says Herbert, “there is no plan that I can see to get us out of this fix.”

Any guess why he says that? The last to sentences in his column and our quote of the day explain:

Bold and effective leadership would have put us on this road to a sustainable future. Instead, we’re approaching a dead end.

When even Herbert figures it out you have to figure the gig is pretty much up.

~McQ

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Government health care’s inevitable fate

Canada’s health care system is in deep trouble financially. So it should come as no surprise that the British NHS is as well. It is simply in the process of proving correct Margaret Thatcher, who said, “the trouble with socialism you eventually run out of other people’s money”.

The Brits ran out of “other people’s money” quite some time ago (as is the US as debt and deficit figues show) and their social structures are existing on debt. And the NHS, the celebrated “single-payer” government run system in place since right after WW II, is failing:

Jeff Taylor of the Economic Voice clarified the problem when he wrote last week that “the U.K. is broke.”

“Our whole society and way of life is now built on the shaky foundation of debt,” he writes in response to the NHS cuts. “Our hospitals, schools, armed forces, police, prisons and social services are founded on debt. In truth we have not yet paid for the operations that have already taken place.”

The NHS is planning on extensive rationing of surgery. The service is looking at eliminating literally millions – with an “m” – of surgical procedures because it simply cannot afford them. Representative of those procedures which will no longer be available are hip replacements for obese patients, some operations for hernias and gallstones, and treatments for varicose veins, ear and nose problems, and cataract surgery.

The intent is to “save” 29 billion by telling patients in need of those procedures “no”.

Rationing, pure and simple – as promised. However, it is government deciding what you can or can’t have, regardless of your preference or need. This is indeed the ultimate outcome of handing things such as health care over to any third party. And it is especially a problem when “cost containment” takes precedence over health care.

That is precisely the mandate government here has assumed with its legislative charter to “cut costs” in the health care business. With that as a priority, and given the structure of the new law, an almost impossible priority to fulfill, the same outcome is almost guaranteed here. With cost containment driving the train, shortages are inevitable. And what those shortages mean, in concrete terms, is precisely what the NHS is planning on doing – denying patients health care.

The inevitable shape of things to come.

~McQ

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Polls show public unhappy with Obama’s leadership on oil spill

The ABC News/Washington Post poll is nothing to write home about if you’re the President of the United States – they guy in charge of the federal government’s response to disaster. Americans are beginning to understand the scope of the catastrophe, they hold the proper company responsible and culpable, but, that said, they’re not at all happy with the federal government’s response. Interestingly, the present effort gets worse reviews than Katrina.

By more than a 2-to-1 margin, Americans support the pursuit of criminal charges in the nation’s worst oil spill , with increasing numbers calling it a major environmental disaster. Eight in 10 criticize the way BP’s handled it – and more people give the federal government’s response a negative rating than did the response to Hurricane Katrina.

A month and a half after the spill began, 69 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll rate the federal response negatively. That compares with a 62 negative rating for the response to Katrina two weeks after the August 2005 hurricane.

The IBD/TIPP poll echoes the ABC poll:

The poll found that 30% rated Obama’s response as “unacceptable” and 22% rated it “poor.” Just 6% rated it “excellent” and 17% “good.” The rest gave him an average score.

Three-quarters of Republicans and one-third of Democrats disapprove of Obama on the issue. In an ominous sign for Democrats heading into midterm elections, just 18% of independents gave him favorable marks on the spill vs. 57% giving him failing grades.

The all important independent bloc gave him failing marks in an overwhelming majority (74% of independents viewed the federal effort negatively in the ABC poll).

And what do we get?

“I don’t sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar,” Obama continued. “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Given the polls, the size of the disaster and the poor federal response, most people, as the polls demonstrate, already know “whose ass to kick.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be having much of an effect.

I think Charlie Rangel may have summed it up best:

“I don’t think the administration has the slightest clue. We’re bringing in experts now, in and outside of government, to see whether or not BP will do more.”

America continues to be held hostage by a lack of leadership.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-06-07

A 22 year-old army Specialist has been arrested for leaking video and other stuff to Wikileaks. http://bit.ly/9ZkmVK #

A Maryland high school and Helen Thomas came to a "mutual agreement" that she should not give the commencement address. http://bit.ly/aer2nm #

It would be a whole lot easier to go to sleep if Kitters wasn't having a good lie on my shins. http://twitpic.com/1upbai #

Self-portrait of me while kayaking in Oceanside Harbor. http://twitpic.com/1upapa #

More fun at the dog park. http://twitpic.com/1upaic #

Erdogan appears to be taking Turkey to the brink of war with Israel, with Iran along for the ride. http://bit.ly/cd890s #

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Quote of the Day – Obama’s governing style version

Kyle Smith spends the majority of his column talking about the Obama administrations relationship, or lack thereof, with the UK. He also talks about the way the administration is attacking BP, far above and beyond the call of duty as he sees it.

BP after all is British Petroleum, and one of the mainstays of the economy whose profits fuel pension funds there, etc.

The quote? Well, again, it is one of those great one sentence summations and contrasts that grab you as true when you read it:

Obama seems to think corporations are alien invaders sent here to destroy us and should be handled accordingly — yet seething peoples who actually do want to destroy us should be confronted with diplomacy and listening.

Given the last 16 months or so, it is hard to mount an argument that would refute his point.

~McQ

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Men of steel, women of iron

That’s who are politicians are. They have courage, and are willing to face the people and take accountability for their actions and activities.

Not!

With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions. The recommendations were clear: hold events in controlled settings — a bank or credit union, for example — or tour local businesses or participate in community service projects.

And to reach thousands of constituents at a time, without the worry of being snared in an angry confrontation with voters, more lawmakers are also taking part in a fast-growing trend: the telephone town meeting, where chances are remote that a testy exchange will wind up on YouTube.

Essentially they’re avoiding in-person townhall style meetings like the plague. Not all of them – there are exceptions and I tip my hat to them, but this is an obvious growing trend which is not going to set well with voters.

Sometimes you have to suck it up, grow a pair (or spine) and face the music. Sometimes, if you’re really sure that you can answer the criticism, such forums can be your best friend.

So why wouldn’t most lawmakers avail themselves of the opportunity to accept accountability for their actions and responsibility for what they’ve done?

See the title and understand it is pure sarcasm more than tinged with disgust.

Me? I’d be demanding they hold in-person townhalls or just write my vote off because it would be going to someone who would. If these mokes can’t face the people on a regular basis, then they have no business in office.

~McQ

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Oil spill: Contrasts in leadership

We’re 48 days into the worst American oil spill in history and the administration is just now seeminly becoming engaged in the business of addressing it. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has been hopping around like a frog on a hot griddle trying to get some action to preserve the state’s wetlands. In a statement released 3 days ago, he thanks President Obama for coming to the state and says that each of the 2 times he’s been there (in 48 days) the pace seems to pick up (hint, hint). He also says this:

“Just as we said yesterday, we told the President we are moving ahead without BP. We already signed contracts to begin this work with Shaw and Bean Dredging. We put in a request to the Army Corps of Engineers this morning to release their available dredges and they have indentified four dredges – including one located close to the site that is most likely to be available – the MV CALIFORNIA. I met with the CEO of Shaw today and they said that if the US Army Corps of Engineers will allow them to borrow sand closer to the dredging sites, which we will replace, we could see sand by Monday.

“We are moving forward with or without BP. We gave them two choices – they can either send us a check, get out of the way and let us start this work, or they can sign a contract and do it themselves. We are going ahead without them. Last night, we met with Admiral Allen and he said he feels like he is making progress in getting BP to actually pay for this work. To date, BP has done a great job in sending us press releases and attorneys, but they haven’t sent us any money to dredge.”

So why is anyone waiting on BP for anything? The oil slick certainly isn’t waiting on them. Why is government?

Well state government may have a budget problem. I.e. it may not have the money for such a massive undertaking. It might need disaster relief money.

Most would think that’s something the federal government should have made available immediately. Heck, if nothing else, divert some of that useless “stimulus” money that hasn’t been spent yet.

The bottom line is that in a time critical situation like this, a state governor shouldn’t be left to beating up a private company for money to do what needs to be done to save his state’s wetlands. I’m not saying BP shouldn’t pay – bill them for heaven sake – but why hasn’t the federal government’s disaster relief funding been used to remedy this situaition? Why is Jindal still “undertaking” the sand berms?

This is what people mean about a lack of leadership or sense of urgency concerning this spill from the President. Jindal and the state of Louisiana hit upon these berms as a method of keeping the oil away from Louisiana’s marshlands weeks ago. Why is he still trying to get them built?

Read the rest of Jindal’s press release and contrast that with what Obama has had to say. In one you’ll find an engaged leader on top of the situation and making it the priority it should be. In Obama’s case, it seems he’s being dragged into the problem figuratively kicking and screaming and would much rather be at the Ford theater or welcoming the latest sports team to the White House or attending another McCartney concert. Anything but the doing the job for which he campaigned.

Speaking of campaigns, Byron York dials up the Way Back machine and gives us a little reminder of the “executive experience” President Obama claimed then and why this should be no real surprise to those who were paying attention:

COOPER: And, Senator Obama, my final question — some of your Republican critics have said you don’t have the experience to handle a situation like this. They in fact have said that Governor Palin has more executive experience, as mayor of a small town and as governor of a big state of Alaska. What’s your response?

OBAMA: Well, you know, my understanding is, is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We have got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So, I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years. And, certainly, in terms of the legislation that I passed just dealing with this issue post-Katrina of how we handle emergency management, the fact that many of my recommendations were adopted and are being put in place as we speak, I think, indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect.

Really?

Yes, it was all there for those who chose to actually look.

~McQ

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Observations: The Qando Podcast for 06 Jun 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the employment numbers, and Turkey’s seeming intent to provoke a conflict with Israel.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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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):

Unemployment numbers – They’re not at all as strong as they seem.

Oil spill – Now what? Politics/environment/energy – what effect is it likely to have?

Flotilla fallout – Turkey is keeping it stirred up and now Iran is offering to escort future blockade runners. What should the US do?

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Iran offers pro-Palestinian activists escort through Israeli blockade

And the tensions are ratcheted even higher. Turkey’s PM is talking about visiting the Gaza Strip (one would assume he’d appeal to Egypt for passage into the area rather than trying to run the blockade) and now Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is being offered as an escort to any wanna-be blockade runners.

“The naval wing of the Revolutionary Guard is ready to assist the peace flotilla to Gaza with all its effort and capabilities,” Khamenei’s Revolutionary Guard spokesman Ali Shirazi stated. “If the Supreme Leader issues an order for this then the Revolutionary Guard naval forces will do their best to secure the ships,” Shirazi said. “It is Iran’s duty to defend the innocent people of Gaza.”

A couple of points. This isn’t coming from Ahmadinejad. This is coming from Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (the offer, per Reuters, was made today in an interview). So this should be viewed with much more credibility, since Khamenei is where the real decision making rests with the Iranian regime.

Second point – it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Iran attempted such a thing. It would help their relations with the Arab world, it would divert attention to their favorite external enemy (besides the US) and, if they can provoke violence, further alienate Israel. It might also help them avoid really harmful sanctions. What are the lives of a few Revolutionary Guard naval forces with that sort of beneficial pay-off in the offing?

And make no mistake, Iran would be throwing their lives away. I’m not sure what the Revolutionary Guard thinks they could do alone against the entire IDF (air and naval forces), but my guess is if they opened fire on an Israeli vessel it would end up being a short, nasty and very one-sided battle affair. Having total air dominance of the area where the fight would take place, as the Israelis most likely would, tends to make the outcome almost pre-ordained – and perfect for Iran.

Depending on how the world (and media) views the outcome (and my guess is that in certain parts of the Arab world, the story would be written before the battle was ever waged) Israel might end up winning the kinetic battle handily and losing the broader media and opinion war.

Whether or not such an escort ever comes to pass, I think Iran sees a real win-win for them developing in this situation. Consequently, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them try to mount such an operation.

~McQ

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