Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Thugs In The White House?

One of the things I try to do is take a look at stories and decide whether or not there’s enough there to blog about it. And part of that has to do with corroboration. When I first saw the story about the Obama White House allegedly threatening a Chrysler stakeholder during negotiations that eventually broke down, I wondered if perhaps that particular person might have been a little over sensitive or misinterpreted the situation. But it was interesting and something worth watching.

Today comes some corroboration making this a good blog story. Although the story uses anonymous sources, it uses multiple sources, and the reason for the anonymity should be obvious.

Although the focus has so been on allegations that the White House threatened Perella Weinberg, sources familiar with the matter say that other firms felt they were threatened as well. None of the sources would agree to speak except on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of political repercussions.

The sources, who represent creditors to Chrysler, say they were taken aback by the hardball tactics that the Obama administration employed to cajole them into acquiescing to plans to restructure Chrysler. One person described the administration as the most shocking “end justifies the means” group they have ever encountered. Another characterized Obama was “the most dangerous smooth talker on the planet- and I knew Kissinger.” Both were voters for Obama in the last election.

One participant in negotiations said that the administration’s tactic was to present what one described as a “madman theory of the presidency” in which the President is someone to be feared because he was willing to do anything to get his way. The person said this threat was taken very seriously by his firm.

The White House has denied the allegation that it threatened Perella Weinberg.

Is this true? Well, at this point, it is more true than it was when Perella Weinberg was the only one reporting it.

Is this good? No. If true, this demonstrates an abuse of power that has no place in government at any level. While we all understand politics isn’t bean-bag, threats to use political power (not legal power, but the power of the bully pulpit and vilification) in this manner are simply unacceptable.

If true.

Again, the more I monitor this and the more I read, the more I believe this may have happened. I’d like to see the anonymous sources step up and identify themselves. Yeah, I know it takes a certain level of courage, but this is one of those “nip it in the bud” moments.

And I’d expect the left to be just as loud in its denunciation of this sort of abuse of power as they were the last 8 years when executive power abuse was a focus of their outrage with the Bush administration.

I assume the reason for their outrage was the alleged abuse, not the politics of the abuser.

Right?

~McQ

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Comment Of The Day

It’s rare that I quit reading through a comment section because I happen upon what’s surely the best comment. However, this comment to Capt. Ed’s post about the Obama administration’s thuggish tactics in the Chrysler negotiations sums everything up perfectly:
obama-scold-finger1

“I did not have knowledgeable relations with it, that Constitution.”

Heh.

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The “Fifth Estate”

Interesting term being thrown around to describe the emerging “new media” alignment:

I recently heard the term “Fifth Estate” used at a Poynter conference to describe an emerging landscape for news, information, community and citizenship. It has also been used to describe the work of bloggers, but that circle may be too small for such a big term.

In my head, the Fifth Estate includes the Fourth Estate, the idea and value of a professional press corps as a way of informing and engaging the populace, and holding the powerful accountable. This vision of a Fifth Estate sees the Fourth Estate as necessary but insufficient for democratic life. The Fifth Estate could express what Jay Rosen has described as a “pro-am” model for the future of news, a frame that sees that the freedoms and responsibilities of the First Amendment empower not just a professional caste of news gatherers and distributors, but potentially every citizen.

I think it needs some tweaking but essentially, what was the “fourth estate”, i.e. professional journalism with a relative monopoly on the news reporting function (they still mostly enjoy a monopoly on the news gathering side although that is changing too) has now become what Rosen describes as “pro-am” in some fairly telling ways.

This trip I’m on, for instance, has driven that point home. Yesterday, I stood beside a reporter from Forbes and Reuters in a couple of exclusive press conferences and asked questions after a panel discussion that included the folks I mentioned yesterday. I was joined by 10 other bloggers. In my estimation our questions were more pointed and dug deeper than did those of the news organizations. It was an interesting experience. The guy from Forbes thought it was cool. They guy from Reuters didn’t. That’s pretty much indicative of the “MSM’s” perception of bloggers I think – but the interesting thing was my press credentials were just as valid as theirs. Heh …

Anyway, as I told one of the MSM members yesterday as we chatted, I’m not a journalist and will never pretend to be. I write opinion pieces, and I don’t pretend to be “fair and balanced” . I also said I thought that there was room for both of us in all of this to which he agreed. And, as I pointed out, blogging seems to have become pretty mainstream since most newspapers now have journalists blogging on site.

I really haven’t had a chance to put my thoughts together on the 3 hour panel we sat in on yesterday, but the short version of it was “hey, we need to have a non-partisan dialog about energy planning and we need to find a way to engaged the consumer in the conversation” all the while also saying, “legislation is heading down the track like a freight train and it isn’t very well thought out”.

Anyway, more today if I get the chance.

~McQ

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Houston, You Have A Problem …

That problem would be putting up with me for 4 days.

I’m in Houston at the invitation of the American Petroleum Institute (who is kindly picking up the tab) to cover the Offshore Technology Conference here. About 75,000 oil folks are converging on the place for 4 days of conferences and panels on various topics.

Today, the “Meeting The Energy Challenge” panel meets and it should be interesting. We’ll have the president of Shell Oil, a Senior Fellow of the Progressive Policy Institute, the president of the API, the presidents of the American Trucking Associations and Air Transport Association, the president of the Consumer Energy Alliance, the Executive Director of the National Council on Energy Policy and Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) here to talk about that – I’m looking forward to it.

And Pogue – if you read this and can respond, yes, I will be glad to buy you a beer – just let me know when (other than monday night) we can do it prior to Thursday before I fly out.

~McQ

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Specter – Sometimes You Get What You Pay For

Personally I find this mighty funny. Arlen Specter on Meet the Press with David Gregory:

Gregory: It was reported this week that when you met with the President, you said, “I will be a loyal Democrat; I support your agenda.” Let me test that on probably one of the most important areas of his agenda and that’s healthcare. Would you support healthcare reform that puts up a government-run public plan to compete with a private plan issued by a private insurance company.

Specter: No. And you misquote me, David. I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat. I did not say that. And last week, after I said I was changing parties, I voted against the budget because the budget has a way to pass healthcare with 51 votes,which undermines a basic Senate institution to require 60 votes to impose cloture on key issues.

You know, I’ve seen some pathetic politicians in my time, but there are few that rival Arlen Specter. My guess is he ends up in a Democratic primary and looses that. From RINO to DINO, it’s clear that the only thing Arlen Specter stands for is Arlen Specter. Personally I think the Republicans should send the Democrats a thank you card for taking him off their hands.

~McQ

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Podcast for 03 May 09

In this podcast, Michael, and Dale discuss the resignation of Justice Souter, California’s Ballot Propositions, and the events in Pakistan.

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 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Research: people can’t distinguish dog food from pâté

Perhaps because of my cross-grained hillbilly upbringing, I’ve long been a bit cynical about high cuisine. An old steakhouse commercial summed up my feelings: “Cuisine is something that’s a lot like food, only it costs a lot more.”

I’ve had pâté at a few receptions, and wondered what the fuss was about. So I got a good hard laugh out of this posting about how people can’t distinguish dog food from pâté. There’s a link to the original research paper.

I’m sure there’s some clever political metaphor in there about not trusting elites, but I’m too lazy to tease it out. Commenters are invited to do so if they are so moved.

(Originally found at geekpress.com, which you programming and math types ought to put on your daily reading list.)

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Obama’s Requirements For SCOTUS

This guy was a Constitutional Law professor?

Yesterday, Obama laid out these requirements for the replacement for Justice Souter:

I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives — whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.

I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role.

Jennifer Rubin, at Commentary, makes the following point:

The making of laws, which is a legislative function, is all about “the daily realities of people’s lives — whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.” Federal judges decide what those laws mean and whether they conflict with the Constitution.

So it would seem that, as with many on the left, Obama is seeking someone who would be more comfortable in Congress and would certainly be seen as a “activist” justice appointed to legislate from the bench.

Rubin also deftly identifies the real meaning of Obama’s use of the word “empathy” :

You see, empathy is a code word for favoring criminal defendants, plaintiffs, labor and other groups which happen to match up with the liberal policy agenda. It’s a peculiar sort of empathy, otherwise known as bias for litigants based on their identity rather than the merit of their claims.

I believe she’s exactly right – what Obama has outlined as his requirements for the position is a liberal’s wet dream come true but completely confuses the role of the court, judges and legislators to the detriment of the citizens of the United States.

Unfortunately, due to their own failings, about all Republicans can do is, as Martin McPhillips said, whoop, holler and dance around the rim of the volcano for a while. That’s a pity, because given the “requirements”, this and subsequent appointments to the SCOTUS may be critical to our survival as a relatively free people.

~McQ

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Military Commissions Back On The Table For Gitmo

Sometimes, watching this circus of the Obama administration, you just have to shake your head and laugh a bit, even if the laughter is rueful:

The Obama administration is moving toward reviving the military commission system for prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, which was a target of critics during the Bush administration, including Mr. Obama himself.

Officials said the first public moves could come as soon as next week, perhaps in filings to military judges at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, outlining an administration plan to amend the Bush administration’s system to provide more legal protections for terrorism suspects.

Continuing the military commissions in any form would probably prompt sharp criticism from human rights groups as well as some of Mr. Obama’s political allies because the troubled system became an emblem of the effort to use Guantánamo to avoid the American legal system.

The more this crew gets into the weeds concerning Gitmo, the more they seem to validate all the moves Bush made.

I’m sure it’s a bit maddening for them.

Officials who work on the Guantánamo issue say administration lawyers have become concerned that they would face significant obstacles to trying some terrorism suspects in federal courts. Judges might make it difficult to prosecute detainees who were subjected to brutal treatment or for prosecutors to use hearsay evidence gathered by intelligence agencies.

That was the Bush administration argument for some time. Congress passed legislation to enable it, the SCOTUS shot it down and told them how to fix it and Congress did, only to see SCOTUS change its mind and shoot it down again.

And, of course, that made it very easy to denounce from the campaign trail. But now the reality of governing intrudes:

Obama administration officials — and Mr. Obama himself — have said in the past that they were not ruling out prosecutions in the military commission system. But senior officials have emphasized that they prefer to prosecute terrorism suspects in existing American courts. When President Obama suspended Guantánamo cases after his inauguration on Jan. 20, many participants said the military commission system appeared dead.

But in recent days a variety of officials involved in the deliberations say that after administration lawyers examined many of the cases, the mood shifted toward using military commissions to prosecute some detainees, perhaps including those charged with coordinating the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The more they look at it,” said one official, “the more commissions don’t look as bad as they did on Jan. 20.”

Heh … what a surprise.

And this:

Administration officials said Friday that some detainees would be prosecuted in federal courts and noted that Mr. Obama had always left open the possibility of using military commissions.

… is pure and unadulterated BS.

Still, during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama criticized the commissions, saying that “by any measure our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure,” and declaring that as president he would “reject the Military Commissions Act.”

But according to both Sec. Gates and AG Holder, military commissions are still very much on the table, because, as Holder said:

“It may be difficult for some of those high-value detainees to be tried in a normal federal court.”

Gee — I wonder who else’s administration said that?

~McQ

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