Patterico's Pontifications

6/26/2010

Mark Steyn on Obama, the Unengaged President

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 8:52 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Mark Steyn’s most recent essay is The Unengaged President, and he isn’t talking about whether our President is available or not:

“Stanley McChrystal is a liberal who voted for Obama and banned Fox News from his HQ TV. Which may at least partly explain how he became the first U.S. general to be lost in combat while giving an interview to Rolling Stone: They’ll be studying that one in war colleges around the world for decades. The executives of BP were unable to vote for Obama, being, as we now know, the most sinister duplicitous bunch of shifty Brits to pitch up offshore since the War of 1812. But, in their “Beyond Petroleum” marketing and beyond, they signed on to every modish nostrum of the eco-Left. Their recently retired chairman, Lord Browne, was one of the most prominent promoters of cap-and-trade. BP was the Democrats’ favorite oil company. They were to Obama what Total Fina Elf was to Saddam.

But what do McChrystal’s and BP’s defenestration tell us about the president of the United States? Barack Obama is a thin-skinned man and, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, White House aides indicated that what angered the president most about the Rolling Stone piece was “a McChrystal aide saying that McChrystal had thought that Obama was not engaged when they first met last year.” If finding Obama “not engaged” is now a firing offense, who among us is safe?”

Then again, maybe it is about whether Obama is available. He doesn’t seem to be doing that much.

(And read the whole thing.)

— DRJ

Bankrupting America

Filed under: Economics,Obama — DRJ @ 8:34 pm

[Guest post by DRJ

The Financial Times reports the real reason Budget Director Peter Orzag left the Obama Administration:

“Mr Orszag, whom Mr Obama has dubbed a “propeller-head” because of his brilliant facility with projections and spreadsheets, has tried but failed to convince his colleagues to “step up the action”, according to one insider.

In particular, he has collided with the political team, led by Rahm Emanuel, Mr Obama’s chief of staff, over Mr Obama’s 2008 election pledge not to raise taxes on any households earning less than $250,000 a year – a category that covers more than 98 per cent of Americans.

Economists say that would put all the fiscal emphasis on draconian – and highly unrealistic – spending cuts, or else pushing the marginal tax rates on the very rich to confiscatory levels. “Peter feels strongly that this is a pledge that has to be broken if the President is to take a lead on America’s fiscal crisis,” says an administration official not authorised to speak on the matter.”

Tyler Durden has the bottom line:

“As we speculated previously, the sudden and unprecedented departure of Peter Orszag, the day prior to the US Budget’s formalization (which incidentally never happened as now the US will likely not have a 2010 budget at all, for fear of disclosing to most Americans just how broke the country is ahead of mid-terms) was due to Orszag’s disagreement with the administration’s, and particularly Larry Summer’s, inability to fathom that reckless spending is a recipe for bankruptcy. As the FT reports: “Peter Orszag, Barack Obama’s budget director, resigned this week partly in frustration over his lack of success in persuading the Obama administration to tackle the fiscal deficit more aggressively, according to sources inside and outside the White House.” And so, as any remaining voices of reason realize they are dealing with a group of deranged Keynesians, soon there will be nobody left in the administration who dares to oppose the destructive course upon which this country has so resolutely embarked, which ends in one of two ways: debt repudiation, or war. And with the only remaining economic “advisers” being the trio of Summers, Romer and Geithner, you know America will somehow hit both of these mutually exclusive targets.”

Obama’s Army of Keynesians is bankrupting America.

Does this mean “We are all Keynesians now“?

— DRJ

Drilling Protesters Gather in Florida

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 7:21 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Offshore drilling protesters joined Gov. Charlie Crist and the pied piper on the formerly beautiful white beaches of the Florida Panhandle:

“Hundreds of people including Florida’s governor joined hands on an oil-stained strip of beach in the Florida Panhandle as part of an international demonstration against offshore drilling on Saturday.
***
Michael DeMaria, a clinical psychologist from Pensacola, led demonstrators from a pavilion to the shore like an environmentalist pied piper, tooting softly on a native American-style flute. He said he often tells patients to go swimming in the Gulf as part of therapy.”

The article says they waded in the water and said it was safe, but I’ll take their word for it that the beach is oil-stained.

Then most of them got in their cars and went shopping, out to eat, or home to watch TV in their air-conditioned residences.

— DRJ

Mexican Killed by El Paso Border Patrol on “Most Wanted” List

Filed under: Crime,Immigration — DRJ @ 7:10 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Surprise!

“A 15-year-old Mexican boy shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent was among El Paso’s most wanted juvenile immigrant smugglers, according to federal arrest records reviewed by The Associated Press.

The records show Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca had been arrested at least four times since 2008 and twice in the same week in February 2009 on suspicion of smuggling illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. Hernandez was repeatedly arrested along the U.S. side of the border near downtown El Paso, not far from where he was killed, but was never charged with a crime by federal prosecutors.
***
The records show that in at least one case Hernandez was to be paid $50 a person for smuggling four people into the U.S.

The records also show that in one case, federal prosecutors declined to charge Hernandez because there were no “extenuating circumstances or endangerment.”

No danger? I guess he was good at his profession.

Presumably those are the same prosecutors that charged Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

H/T Dana.

— DRJ

Shocker: Biden Mum in Wisconsin (Not Really)

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 5:55 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Vice President Biden took no questions at a campaign appearance in Wisconsin, and he gave no answers either:

Via GatewayPundit:

Joe “Bite-Me” Biden traveled to Wisconsin yesterday to campaign with far left Progressive Russ Feingold (D-WI). Smokin Joe ordered a custard at a popular custard stand in Glendale during one of their stops. When Biden asked Kopp’s Frozen Custard stand owner how much he owed him, the owner responded:

“Nothing, just lower our taxes.”

Fat chance.

An embarrassed Joe Biden ignored him and walked away.

MORE: Eric Blair links Biden’s response — calling the taxpaying custard store manager a “smartass” for asking the Vice President to lower our taxes.

I’m pretty sure this is a “big f***ing deal,” isn’t it?

— DRJ

UPDATED — John Hinderaker on the significance of Kopp the Custard Man:

“UPDATE: Biden thought Kopp was being a “smartass” for suggesting that the Democrats should lower taxes.

Everyone involved laughed it off, but a serious point lingered. A simple way to think about the Democratic Party is, you’re the human being, they’re the tapeworm. Yet they claim a weird sort of parasite’s moral superiority over you: if you point out that they have their hand in your pocket, you’re a “smartass.” The Democratic Party needs to be torn, root and branch, from our public life.”

We’re all Rick Santelli now.

Chrysler’s Restructuring Plans

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 5:09 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

As you probably recall, Chrysler tried to dump 789 dealers during its Obama-sponsored bailout and bankruptcy, and many (including me) thought there was something fishy about the dealers chosen to be terminated or not terminated:

“Item 3: Democratic donor Sidney Deboer is Chairman of Lithia Motors. He donated over $14,000 to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Lithia Motors lost only two of its 29 dealerships while gaining as many as five additional ones in the resulting carnage. Deboer was also insulated from Chrysler’s closings.”

Congress eventually stepped in and mandated an arbitration process for terminated dealers. Apparently Chrysler is trying to accomplish through buyouts what Congress wouldn’t let it do in its bankruptcy or bailout:

“Lithia Dodge has changed its name after acquiring the Chrysler and Jeep franchises last week.

Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Corpus Christi is the result of a private transaction between Lithia and Marion Luna Brem, owner of Love Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Alice. Brem previously had the Chrysler franchise in Corpus Christi.

Wayne Lytle, Lithia’s general manager, wouldn’t discuss the details of the agreement. Brem said she was compensated to accommodate Chrysler Corp.’s plan to consolidate all the brands in an area under the same dealership.

Chrysler Corp. has been consolidating dealerships as part of its restructuring plan, said Ralph Kisiel, a company spokesman. Having all the brands under one roof has proved more profitable, he said.”

It probably is more profitable, especially to the remaining dealers.

Deboer’s political contributions over the years included Democrats and Republicans but in the 2008 election, he only donated to Democrats and the Dealers Election Action Committee Of The National Automotive Dealers Association. Thus, maybe it’s just a coincidence that Marion L. Brem donated to George W. Bush in 1999 and never to a Democrat.

— DRJ

Oil Skimmers and the Dutch

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 1:52 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Quoting from the Financial Post at the Instapundit:

“Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway. “Our system can handle 400 cubic metres per hour,” Weird Koops, the chairman of Spill Response Group Holland, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, giving each Dutch ship more cleanup capacity than all the ships that the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.

To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn’t capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana’s marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks. . . .

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn’t good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million — if water isn’t at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico. . . .

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer — but only partly. Because the U.S. didn’t want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.

A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out.”

Lousy decision-making and appalling incompetence, but does anyone doubt there might have been a different attitude if the spill had been in California, Hawaii or the Northeast?

— DRJ

Oil Skimmers and the Jones Act

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 12:59 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

According to the Maritime Executive Magazine, the Administration says no oil skimming vessels have been turned away and no Jones Act waivers are needed to skim more than 3 miles offshore:

HAS THE JONES ACT RESULTED IN FOREIGN VESSELS, PARTICULARLY FOREIGN SKIMMING VESSELS, BEING TURNED AWAY?

The National Incident Command (NIC) says there has been “no case” where an offer of foreign assistance has been declined because of the Jones Act. In fact, the U.S. State Department has said that “[a] number of offers of assistance have been accepted,” including Mexican skimmers, Norwegian skimming systems and other assets from Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands. The Jones Act does not even apply to skimming operations outside of 3 miles from shore. Oil skimming outside 3 miles, including near the well 50 miles from shore that is the source of the leak, is completely open to foreign oil spill response vessels. That is where the vast majority of skimming has occurred so far.

The Jones Act also can be waived on a case-by-case basis if there is a need but no American vessel is available to meet that need. That waiver process is always quick but it has been streamlined even further by Admiral Thad Allen and the NIC since the spill to deal with any waiver requests. Additionally, on June 16, 2010, the Coast Guard Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the oil spill determined that there is an insufficient number of specialized oil skimming vessels in the U.S. to respond to this spill. This determination allows foreign specialized skimming vessels to be deployed within 3 miles of the shore if the foreign country provides the same privileges to American skimming vessels in that country’s waters.

Interesting. So there aren’t enough oil skimmers available after all, and either America is playing tit-for-tat with our allies’ offers of assistance or the law provides for joint waivers of mutual assistance. If we don’t have enough of certain types, why not open the field to all appropriate oil skimmers instead of conditioning offers of assistance on letting American vessels into their waters?

As for the Jones Act, the article says no individual waivers have been granted to date. It also addresses the Dutch oil skimmer story:

THE CONSUL GENERAL OF THE NETHERLANDS WAS QUOTED AS SAYING THAT HIS COUNTRY OFFERED VESSELS BUT THE U.S. AND BP DECLINED. WHY?

We do not know why those particular Dutch vessels were declined (or even if they were) but we do know it wasn’t because of the Jones Act. As mentioned earlier, foreign vessels can skim oil or perform most other maritime services freely in the area where most of the oil can be found – out beyond 3 miles from our shoreline – plus the streamlined provisions in the law to allow foreign skimmers to operate within 3 miles have been activated. Many foreign (and U.S.-flag) vessels and assets, including from the Netherlands, are actively involved in the Gulf cleanup.

IF THE PROBLEM ISN’T THE JONES ACT, WHY ISN’T EVERY AVAILABLE SKIMMING VESSEL IN THE WORLD AT WORK IN THE GULF?

The problem isn’t the Jones Act – even state-of-the-art American vessels are standing by in the Gulf, ready and willing to participate in the cleanup. Also, oil spill response equipment offered by foreign nations, such as Norwegian skimming systems, can be deployed on U.S. vessels. In some cases, according to the NIC, offers of international assistance have been turned down because the offer did not fit the needs of the response. The Gulf oil spill is an unprecedented disaster. Finding, evaluating, procuring, and directing oil spill response vessels or skimming, booms or other response equipment does not happen overnight, and both BP and the federal government have acknowledged that the procurement of skimmers has not occurred as quickly as people would like. The most recent count is that about 500 vessels are skimming as part of BP’s so-called Vessels of Opportunity Program.

WHY NOT JUST WAIVE THE WHOLE JONES ACT LIKE PRESIDENT BUSH DID AFTER HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA?

As noted, the problem is not the Jones Act but possibly one of the overwhelming task of vetting resources necessary to meet this unprecedented disaster. As the needs and available resources are sorted out, every available and useful vessel should be used. However, American vessels and American workers should be given first priority.

A blanket waiver of the Jones Act, as opposed to a vessel-specific waiver (where no American vessel is available), would do away with that basic, common sense approach. It would effectively outsource to foreigners work that Americans legally should get and very much need, especially in this region and economy. A broad waiver eliminating any employment opportunities for American workers would be an odd and even cruel approach considering the economic devastation of the oil spill and related fishing and drilling restrictions on American fishermen, offshore supply vessel operators and others in the Gulf.

This raises more questions than it answers for me, although I’m almost convinced the Jones Act isn’t the problem — but an excuse the Administration may have used to protect American jobs. More and more, it sounds like an uncoordinated response with agencies working against each other. For example:

  • The foreign oil skimmers may be working now but “the offer was apparently turned down because EPA regulations do not allow water with oil to be pumped back into the ocean.” Was this the EPA’s decision and, if so, why was the EPA making the decision instead of the MMS? [EDIT: At that time, I suspect the government was basing its projections on its own models that said the oil would likely dissipate in the Gulf and never reach the coast. Thus, those bad projections may well have affected everyone’s preparations and response to the spill.]
  • The Coast Guard grounded Louisiana oil skimmers for 24 hours over life vests and fire extinguishers. Was this a long-standing issue the skimmers failed to address or something else?
  • Despite government claims to the contrary, someone is telling oil skimmers they need a Jones Act waiver. Yesterday’s AP report on the giant “A Whale” oil skimmer says the vessel’s operator stated he needs a Jones Act waiver, even though his only mission is to skim oil more than 3 miles off the coast — something the Maritime article reports does not require a Jones Act waiver.
  • Over 2 months and no one even knows what rules apply.

    — DRJ

    Kagan Witness List Released

    Filed under: Judiciary — DRJ @ 12:23 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    The witness lists for Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court hearing have been released. The Majority Witness List suggests we’ll hear that Kagan is a good choice because she’s a woman, cares about the poor and disadvantaged, and really likes the military despite banning them from recruiting them at Harvard Law.

    The confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin Monday at 12:30 p.m. EST.

    — DRJ

    Why the BP Shakedown Matters

    Filed under: Law,Obama — DRJ @ 12:08 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    Several days ago (before the New Orleans federal judge lifted Obama’s moratorium), J.E. Dyer at Hot Air’s Green Room looked at what would have happened without the BP shakedown:

    “Following the rule of law would produce relief for the oil spill’s victims. It just wouldn’t put Obama’s appointee in sole charge of a $20 billion fund. That has a meaning beyond the “Chicago” implication of pure extortion, fund-skimming, and payola. It means Obama couldn’t use the money to cushion the near-term consequences of his own policies. He’d be constrained by that pesky rule of law, if he weren’t holding the discretionary purse strings for the damages payouts.

    The most obvious current evidence of that relates to his moratorium on deepwater drilling. A lot of people are losing their livelihoods because of it. A lot of businesses will be going under, and a lot more jobs will be lost. The losses will be in the billions just this year alone. But Obama didn’t have to take this action. He wasn’t even advised to by professional experts.

    A judge in a federal court would take that into account as lawsuits came pouring in against BP. Even assuming BP is found to have liability through negligence when this is finally adjusted in court, there is every possibility that BP would not be found liable for the drilling shut-down itself, and all the business and jobs lost because of it.

    Making BP pay the freight for his agenda-driven, business-killing moratorium is an abuse of executive authority on Obama’s part. He’s extorting BP for his payoff fund, to be used on the thousands of “small people” who will see their way of life destroyed, not by the oil spill but by Obama’s agenda-perfect reaction to it.”

    Combine the $20B shakedown with Obama’s renewed efforts to impose some form of an offshore drilling moratorium, and effectively BP’s $20B fund will pay for more than the impact of the oil spill because some money will undoubtedly go to pay people affected by Obama’s moratorium. Did BP specifically agree to that in writing? I doubt it, and absent that only a court should be allowed to determine damages and compel payment (let alone compel payment in advance).

    Then there’s the offshore drilling moratorium itself, which the Administration indicates will continue in some form for some time. Affected businesses are suing to stop the moratorium and have been successful so far, but the Obama Administration nevertheless has the upper hand adn can delay or halt a lot of drilling. This not only has a disastrous job-killing impact on oil-producing states, it reduces domestic oil and gas production and opens the door to more government strong-arm tactics and corruption.

    Over time, our memories of the BP Oil Spill will blur as they did after the Exxon Valdez cleanup, but the oil and insurance industries won’t forget. Imagine how much more American offshore oil and gas exploration will cost in the years to come, if there is any worth mentioning.

    Finally, that all pales in comparison to the damage done to the rule of law. America’s laws govern how we live and what our government can do … but President Obama is shredding those rules when it comes to business and capitalism. Conservatives believe capitalism and the rule of law are key pillars of democracy. President Obama is doing his best to prove they aren’t.

    — DRJ

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