Patterico's Pontifications

3/26/2010

Obama’s Commitment to Israel

Filed under: International,Obama — DRJ @ 10:44 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Prof. Jacobson at Le-gal In-sur-rec-tion writes that Hamas responded to Barack Obama’s dismissive humiliation of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu by killing two Israeli soldiers.

President Obama’s recent attitude toward Israel and Netanyahu is a far cry from his promises during the Presidential campaign, when he proclaimed strong support for Israel in speeches like this June 2008 AIPAC appearance:

“Our alliance is based on shared interests and shared values. Those who threaten Israel threaten us. Israel has always faced these threats on the front lines. And I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.
***
Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

I have no illusions that this will be easy. It will require difficult decisions on both sides. But Israel is strong enough to achieve peace, if it has partners who are committed to the goal. Most Israelis and Palestinians want peace, and we must strengthen their hand. The United States must be a strong and consistent partner in this process — not to force concessions, but to help committed partners avoid stalemate and the kind of vacuums that are filled by violence. That’s what I commit to do as president of the United States.”

Apparently that commitment had an expiration date.

— DRJ

Patterico on the Stage Right Show

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:51 pm

I am about to go on at around 9:10 p.m. Pacific time. You can listen here.

I plan to bag on Brad Friedman, who was invited to be on the show with me but who chickened out, claimed that the show is too partisan and thus not “legit.” (Yes, I appeared on the Mike Malloy show with Brad Friedman. That’s his idea of a legit, fair, and balanced show.)

Feel free to call in. The more the merrier.

Obama’s Newest Secretary of the Army

Filed under: Media Bias,Obama — DRJ @ 7:23 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

In 2006, the New York Times exposed the SWIFT program, the Bush Treasury Department’s top-secret program to monitor terror funding. The Times’ article was published over the strong objections of the Bush Administration. As detailed by Stewart Baker at The Volokh Conspiracy, that exposure ultimately resulted in a financial “terrorist safe haven” in Europe.

The New York Times had earlier leaked news of Bush’s NSA surveillance program that monitored international telephone calls and e-mail messages linked to suspected Al Qaeda members.

Last November, the Obama Administration announced it would appoint Solomon B. Watson IV, a former Times’ senior vice president and chief legal officer, to be Secretary of the Army. Watson retired from the Times at the end of 2006:

“The New York Times Company announced today that Solomon B. Watson IV, senior vice president and chief legal officer, plans to retire at the end of the year.

“Sol’s advice and counsel have been important elements in guiding the Company through a period of unprecedented legal activity and governance change,” said Janet L. Robinson, president and chief executive officer. “And in his more than three decades of service, he has provided strong leadership, helping to develop the next generation of legal executives. In addition, he has been a champion for diversity and inclusion. We are deeply grateful for Sol’s contributions to the Times Company.”

“My work at The Times has been exciting and rewarding, and has spanned many changes in the Company’s business and in the legal environment,” Mr. Watson said. “But after a long and successful career, I believe it is time to retire.”

Watson was the sole 2006 Media Law Research Center (MLRC) First Amendment Leadership Award Recipient, an award that “honors those individuals who have made stellar contributions to the development of the law of the First Amendment and the institutions that promote the First Amendment.” Perhaps this was an award for Watson’s lifetime of newspaper service but the timing is curious.

On the other hand, in Senate hearings last week, Watson said he was not involved in the decision to publish the two New York Times’ article and did not support their publication:

“Mr. Watson said the newspaper’s publisher and its top editor had made the decision to run the articles. He said that he had not personally played a role in vetting their legality because he focused more on corporate matters, but that another Times lawyer who dealt with newsroom issues had decided it was lawful for the articles to be published.

“There was not a violation of the law to publish those stories,” Mr. Watson said.

But, pressed repeatedly by Mr. McCain to say whether he thought their publication was justified, Mr. Watson eventually criticized that decision.

“Senator, my opinion is that the decision was justified,” he said. “Were it my decision to make, I would not have made that decision. So I think, that is to say that — no.”

What qualifies Watson to be Secretary of the Army? From his MLRC biography:

Mr. Watson graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English from Howard University in 1966, and served in the Army as a lieutenant in the military police corps from 1966 to 1968. While stationed in Vietnam, he was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medals. In 1971, he earned his juris doctorate degree from Harvard Law School.”

I honor Watson’s service but I don’t think this appointment is based on his Army career. My guess is the Obama Administration wants Watson to be an advocate for the First Amendment and for diversity, especially as the Army struggles with changes to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

H/T Instapundit.

— DRJ

A First Look at ObamaCare’s Impact

Filed under: Health Care,Obama — DRJ @ 5:29 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

More businesses are reporting adverse economic and tax consequences in the wake of the passage of ObamaCare:

AT&T said Friday that it is preparing for President Obama’s health care overhaul to cost the telecommunications giant an additional $1 billion in expenses in the first quarter, possibly forcing the company to cut benefits it offers to current and retired workers.

AT&T is the latest and biggest company to account for the financial impact that the health care overhaul will have on its bottom line. It said the tax ramifications related to the legislation that Obama signed Tuesday will force it to take a non-cash charge — an expense that does not require cash to be paid out but has to be charged against the company’s earnings.

Earlier this week, AK Steel Corp., Caterpillar, Deere and Valero Energy announced similar accounting charges, saying the health care law will raise their expenses. On Friday, 3M said it will also take a charge of $85 million to $90 million.”

Meanwhile, the AMA notices there will be problems accessing care:

“In plain English: Insuring a bunch of people in a few years is no guarantee they will actually get access to medical care. Why? Because Texas, along with the rest of the country, has a shortage of doctors. It’s especially acute in primary care. And it is expected to worsen as more uninsured people get coverage.

How did this shortage happen?

A lot of studies, including some cited in this space, list various reasons: Primary care doctors don’t get paid as much as other doctors, and they don’t get reimbursed for talking to their patients about how to stay healthy. The average doctor graduates from medical school with $150,000 in debts, according to Dr. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association. With that kind of debt, many of them can’t afford to get into primary care.

Still, I was stunned by a statistic Rohack shared when I heard him speak at a conference in Austin on Monday: 67 percent of U.S. doctors are specialists; just 33 percent are in primary care. If current trends continue, he said, we will be short 124,000 doctors of all stripes by 2025.

Few Texas doctors want to take care of patients on Medicaid because the payments are so low. And most of the newly insured people from the new health care law in 2014 will be on Medicaid. What will it be like for them when they become insured? And as they clamor for care, what will it be like for the rest of us?”

ObamaCare’s new slogan: Tax and Ration.

— DRJ

U.S.-Russia Announce New START Treaty

Filed under: International,Obama — DRJ @ 4:44 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama announced today a new START treaty with Russia — replacing the one that expired in early December:

“Obama said nuclear weapons “represent both the darkest days of the Cold War, and the most troubling threats of our time.” He hailed the treaty as the start of a new effort to rid the world of that threat.”

Clinton said the treaty, which must be ratified by the U.S. Senate and the Russian Dura, adheres to Reagan’s promise to “Trust, but verify.” But there isn’t much in the reports about what those verification provisions entail.

Jake Tapper says this announcement could be considered Obama’s moment of relief rather than his accomplishment, since negotiations nearly fell apart due to American miscalculations:

“Negotiations were always tough.

“What we in retrospect learned and therefore maybe underestimated was that Russians hated the old START treaty,” a senior [Obama] administration official said.

Current Russian leaders hated the verification mechanisms in particular but also, having signed the treaty in July 1991 just months before the collapse of the USSR, they ”believe they signed that treaty at a time of weakness.” Thus in negotiations they tried to reduce the number of inspections, and the quality of inspections

Any inclusion of a missile defense system within the treaty would have also severely complicated, if not ruined, plans for US Senate ratification of the treaty, which requires a 2/3rds vote.

Part of the problem, one official said, was that President Obama felt his staff “had kind of bungled” announcements about key changes to the planned missile defense system.

In January, two planeloads of US officials – including National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones (ret.) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen – had flown to Moscow to meet with General Makarov and others “to seal the deal,” the US official said, “and missile defense didn’t come up once.”

It was a day-long meeting – a “tough long slog on negotiations, a lot of in the weeds stuff” on the number and intensity of inspections to come – and the issue was never raised. “We thought we were done,” the official said.

But the President had announced plans to change plans for a Europe-based missile defense system in September, and suddenly last month Romanian President Traian Basescu announced that his country would allow ground-based missile interceptors as part of the new plans for a US missile defense system.

The Russians “heard about what we were doing in Romania and they decide to take another hard run at trying to put missile defense in this treaty. They kept pushing and pushing, in Geneva and various places.”

Obama at G20

Obama and Medvedev “during a brief pull-aside following the G-20 Summit Leaders working dinner at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Pa., Sept. 24, 2009.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Obama Administration says the Russians dropped their missile defense demands, reportedly after Obama talked directly to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and threatened to walk away from talks. An official described it as Obama facing down the Russian bear:

“At the end of the day it was a pivotal moment,” the official said, suggesting that the Russians saw President Obama as someone who wasn’t going to “cave.”

American reports maintain this shows Obama de-linked the START treaty and missile defense, but international reports cast doubt on that claim:

“Within minutes of President Obama making an announcement at the White House, Moscow claimed that for the first time the new treaty would establish a legally binding link between strategic weapons and missile defence systems, hinting that it might impose restrictions on America’s anti-missile programme, which the Russians oppose.

However, Robert Gates, the US Secretary for Defence, who attended the White House announcement ceremony, alongside Hilary Clinton, the Secretary of State, and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that there would be no limits on missile defence. He said that the treaty would not prevent the US from “improving and deploying” missile defence systems in Europe and elsewhere.”

So much for getting the Russians to back down.

— DRJ

O’Keefe to Plead to Misdemeanor?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:29 pm

Sure sounds that way.

UPDATE: Of course, I should make it clear that we don’t know he is pleading guilty. We know only that the government has reduced the charges to the misdemeanor level, so that he is no longer an “accused felon.” (That won’t stop Brad Friedman from using that phrase, of course, because Brad Friedman and the truth are strangers.)

But I think the smart money is on a plea. No jail time, misdemeanor. He gets his tape back and we eventually get to see it, and see with our own eyes what I have argued all along: that O’Keefe never intended to tamper with any phones. That he was simply engaged in another characteristic undercover investigation.

Time will tell.

The Power of the Jump™: L.A. Times Tells You About That Republican Provocation to Violence

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:28 am

(Note: “The Power of the Jump”™ is a semi-regular feature of this site, documenting examples of the Los Angeles Times’s use of its back pages to hide information that its editors don’t want you to see.)

Page One of today’s L.A. Times has an article titled Republicans walk the line over healthcare outrage. The deck headline reads: “The GOP could gain from voter anger stirred by the bill’s passage, displayed by threats and vandalism. But Democrats question whether the party has crossed into reckless provocation.”

Want to hear about that reckless provocation, coming only from the Republican side? Editors are happy to lay it all out on Page One:

In the days surrounding passage of healthcare overhaul legislation, Republican lawmakers have been left to strike a fine balance between harnessing voter outrage and fueling it.

Examples of raw anger have piled up. A call to New York Democrat Louise M. Slaughter said snipers would “kill the children of the members who voted for healthcare reform.” Later, a brick smashed her Niagara Falls district office window. Hate messages jammed the lines of Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, the anti-abortion Democrat whose last-minute support helped cinch passage. Law enforcement offered increased protection to at least 10 lawmakers, a security measure usually only afforded party leaders.

Now you can turn aaaaallllllllll the way back to page A17 if you want to read on.

It takes until paragraph 17 of an 18-paragraph story to mention that a bullet went through the window of a Virginia office belonging to Republican Minority Whip Eric Cantor — at which point it is characterized as nothing more a claim made by Cantor, as an example of finger-pointing:

As the spring recess approached, emotions at the Capitol ran high. The violence was the talk of the Senate cloakroom. House members pointed fingers at one another. At a news conference, Cantor said a bullet struck a window this week in a building where his Richmond campaign office is housed; the police said someone fired into the air.

By the way, Jason Brown, the leftist nut who issued all those death threats to Sarah Palin, seems pretty pleased about the bullet through Cantor’s window:

Congressman Cantor tries 2 blame dem 4 incitin violence only cause he had a shot fired at his office he was cheerin sunday cry baby!yea#hcr

also this:

Eric Cantor wishes his ass wont laughin when a bullet came thru his office, his pussy ass shouldnt be fuckin wit that dumb TP

Brown’s threats to Palin don’t appear in today’s front-page story at all. Guess we’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s front page? (Yes, that was tongue-in-cheek.)

White House to Announce Plan to Alter Mortgage Contracts

Filed under: Government,Law,Obama — DRJ @ 1:46 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Washington Post reports the Obama Administration will announce new rules for mortgage foreclosures that involve unemployed borrowers:

“Banks and other lenders would have to reduce the [mortgage] payments to no more than 31 percent of a borrower’s income, which would typically be the amount of unemployment insurance, for three to six months. In some cases, administration officials said, a lender could allow a borrower to skip payments altogether.

The new push, which the White House is scheduled to announce Friday, takes direct aim at the major cause of the current wave of foreclosures: the spike in unemployment. While the initial mortgage crisis that erupted three years ago resulted from millions of risky home loans that went bad, more-recent defaults reflect the country’s economic downturn and the inability of jobless borrowers to keep paying.”

So much for job creation.

I don’t know if this is a voluntary or mandatory plan, although it speaks of new requirements for lenders — suggesting it will be a mandatory plan that alters existing mortgage contracts. Unless the government plans to pay for all borrower deficiencies, this plan takes from the banks and mortgage companies and gives to the unemployed. If the government pays, it takes even more from the taxpayers to give to the unemployed.

Max Baucus should be pleased.

I’m not a mortgage or banking law expert but I can’t think of any legal basis for altering valid contracts except “we think we can do it, so we will.” Rep. Alcee Hastings told us the Democrats are making up the rules as they go along. Maybe it’s not just for Congress anymore.

— DRJ


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