Patterico's Pontifications


Obama Names “Chief Performance Officer”

Filed under: General,Obama — Patterico @ 10:18 pm

Obama is going to fight government spending by creating a new government position: “chief performance officer.”

Wow. Sounds like a big position. She’ll probably need a staff. Guess we’ll pay them, too.

According to the article, the “chief performance officer” will “kill off dubious government programs and ensure that taxpayer money was not wasted.”

I think we already have a person charged with those responsibilities.

He’s called the “President.”

Thanks to Scott B.

Reporting Palestinian Death Tolls: A Math Question

Filed under: International,Terrorism — Patterico @ 10:01 pm

Can someone explain this to me? A New York Times article from yesterday said:

The death toll in Gaza reached around 640 on Tuesday, according to Palestinian health officials. The United Nations has estimated that about one-fourth of those killed were civilians, though there have been no reliable and current figures in recent days.

An L.A. Times article from today says:

It was the first letup in an Israeli assault that has killed about 700 Palestinians, of whom the United Nations says more than 400 are civilians.

Is 400/700 anything like one-fourth?

I’m no math whiz, but I’m thinking the answer is “no.”

So what gives?

P.S. In reporting these death tolls, does the media include the dozens of Palestinians executed by Hamas as suspected collaborators? I suspect they do. Is anyone besides Power Line asking?

Because, if the death tolls include those executed by Hamas, then it’s not the “Israeli assault” that killed them. I mean, that’s sort of obvious . . . but Big Media doesn’t seem to understand it, regardless.

Did Obama Throw Harry Reid Under the Bus?

Filed under: Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 8:38 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Last Wednesday, Barack Obama said he supported the Senate Democrats’ efforts to prevent Roland Burris from serving as Senator from Illinois:

“Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat,” Obama said in a statement.

I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Gov. Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it.”

Now we learn on Monday, the night before Burris was refused entry to the Senate, Obama may have asked the Democrats to change their position and accept Burris:

Obama had spoken to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday on the need to find a quick solution to defuse the dispute, according to Democratic officials. Reid was told by Obama that if Burris had the legal standing to be seated—despite controversy surrounding his appointment by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich—it should be done “sooner rather than later,” said an Obama transition aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because the conversation was private.”

Today the Senate reversed course and signaled it may let Burris fill Obama’s vacant seat if the Illinois Secretary of State certifies him as Senator. Apparently the message Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid got from Obama’s call was that Burris should be seated.

Nothing has changed since Obama’s initial statement except rejecting Burris looks bad for the Democrats, so the message I get is Obama doesn’t like conflict that detracts from his transition.


Eroding Civil Liberties

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 4:51 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

For years, liberals argued the Bush Administration used national security as an excuse to intentionally and slowly erode American civil liberties. They were especially concerned about the Yoo Memorandum as well as innocent victims caught up in a national effort to combat terrorism, but there weren’t many willing to concede the Bush policies were based on valid concerns and good motives.

Last month, Barack Obama announced the appointment of former Clinton Deputy AG Eric Holder to serve as his Attorney General. Harvey Silverglate, a Boston-based criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer, notes that Holder authored the Holder Memorandum in 1999 while serving in the Clinton Administration, a Memorandum that arguably resulted in significant erosion of the civil liberties of many Americans. Specifically, it pitted American companies against employees to effectively limit the employees’ right to counsel:

In his controversial directive to line prosecutors, Holder strongly suggested that, when deciding whether to indict a corporation — and indictment can be a death sentence for companies in certain businesses — they consider whether the company has “cooperated” in the investigation. “Cooperation” was partially defined by whether the corporation agreed to waive the legally protected attorney-client and work-product privileges that otherwise would protect the company from having to turn over confidential information gathered in its own internal investigations, including corporate counsel’s discussions with employees. Another factor, suggested Holder, would be “whether the corporation appears to be protecting its culpable employees and agents” by advancing or paying those individuals’ attorney fees. A further sign of possible noncooperation would be whether the corporation kept the employees on the payroll or entered into a joint defense agreement with any of them. Put simply, the Holder Memo suggested that, by facilitating the ability of employees to continue working and to vigorously defend themselves, the company was demonstrating a noncooperative attitude that could get it indicted. It was a serious affront to the basic adversarial and rights-driven structure of the American legal system.”

[EDIT] Silverglate continues:

“As the dot-com bubble burst and corporate scandals made headlines, DOJ responded by ratcheting up the pressure on white-collar defendants. The 2003 “Thompson Memorandum,” successor to the Holder version, stated far more explicitly that “cooperation” would be a major factor in a prosecutor’s decision to indict a corporation. And as the language grew more threatening with each passing iteration, corporations under federal investigation became adversaries not of the government, but of their own employees.”


The policy was subsequently tested — and rejected — in court:

“This attack on the individual defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel caused Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Southern District of New York to dismiss, in June 2006, the massive federal fraud indictment brought against a group of former employees of KPMG in U.S. v. Stein, a groundbreaking ruling affirmed by the 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this past August. Kaplan denounced the government’s pressure on KPMG to show “cooperation” through both advising employees against seeking legal counsel and not paying the defendants’ legal bills. The government, Kaplan wrote, “let its zeal get in the way of its judgment. It has violated the constitution it is sworn to defend.

I ascribe good motives to Eric Holder and the Clinton Administration, as well as to John Yoo and the Bush Administration, in their efforts to fight corporate crime and terrorism. But Silvergate’s analysis suggests the Holder Memorandum jeopardized the civil liberties of many more Americans than the policies of the Bush Administration. If Holder’s appointment is any indication, that doesn’t bother Obama or liberals one bit.


Obama’s Plan for NASA (Updated)

Filed under: Obama,Space — DRJ @ 2:04 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

NASA’s hometown newspaper the Houston Chronicle followed up on recent reports that Obama’s leading candidate to head NASA is former shuttle astronaut, test pilot, and retired Marine Corps General Charles Bolden, Jr.:

“The former test pilot left NASA in 1994 after 14 years of service to return to the Marine Corps, where he rose to the rank of major general. He retired in 2003.

But Bolden has remained familiar with NASA’s workings and personnel. He serves on NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, one of nine experts who advises the administrator. He is also an adviser to the four high-ranking NASA officials who are overseeing the upcoming space shuttle reconditioning flight to the 18-year-old Hubble Space Telescope. Bolden piloted the shuttle Discovery in 1990 that flew the observatory into space.”

It could be considered a bipartisan appointment since President George W. Bush previously tried to appoint Bolden as NASA’s deputy administrator:

“In 2002, President George W. Bush nominated Bolden to serve as NASA’s deputy administrator. However, the nomination was withdrawn after the Pentagon objected to civilian agencies drafting high-ranking officers during wartime.”

Other names are rumored to still be on Obama’s short list but this appointment makes sense if, as Bloomberg reported last week, Obama carries through on a plan “to tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China.”

It’s not clear whether NASA will survive as a civilian institution during an Obama Administration but I’m sure the Pentagon would be happy to take responsibility for government’s efforts in space. Maybe it would be cheaper and more efficient to consolidate space issues in the military, or maybe it’s a bad idea. What do you think?

UPDATE: PJ Media’s Rand Simberg says Bloomberg got it wrong:

“Despite what some of the (non-transition) sources quoted say, there is little relationship between a human moon landing and space warfare in near-earth orbit. Guidance systems for the latter are easily developed in the absence of orbital rendezvous and docking, which have different requirements. And despite myths promulgated by science fiction about being bombarded from the moon, it is really not a militarily useful high ground against the earth.

Yes, it will save costs if NASA can use existing, or modified existing, vehicles, but this wouldn’t involve any “tearing down of walls,” and it should be done regardless of what the Chinese are doing, simply to make the program more affordable and sustainable.

How did this confusing and misleading story happen? In an email from someone familiar with the transition team’s activities, it seems pretty simple:

This story is very strange. We asked questions about EELVs; about how the DOD and NASA cooperate; and what has been discussed with China. They were unrelated questions. It seems as though the reporter tied them together for his odd conclusion.

Thus, Bolden’s appointment may mean Obama’s goal is efficiency through multi-agency cooperation, not tearing down walls. I’m for that.

H/T dobygillas.


How Far Will You Go to Save Newspapers?

Filed under: Media Bias — DRJ @ 11:41 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Google CEO Eric Schmidt likes newspapers and wants to see them survive. How far is he willing to go to see that happen? Not very far:

How about just buying them?

I don’t think our purchasing a newspaper would solve the business problems. It would help solidify the ownership structure, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem in the business. Until we can answer that question we’re in this uncomfortable conversation. I think the solution is tighter integration. The term I’ve been using is “merge without merging.” The web allows you to do that, where you can get the web systems of both organizations fairly well integrated, and you don’t have to do it on an exclusive basis.

How about just pumping some cash into them, the way Microsoft famously once did with Apple?

There are no current plans to do that. The necessary criteria to get us to make that decision are not currently in place.”

It sounds like Schmidt isn’t a big fan of bailing out failing businesses.


Democrats Reverse Course, Set to Accept Burris

Filed under: Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 11:18 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

The AP and CBS report Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats met today with Roland Burris and have apparently dropped their opposition to his appointment as Illinois Senator. Both reports indicate Burris will be seated if the Illinois Secretary of State certifies his appointment. The AP also reported “the majority leader said there almost certainly would be a full Senate vote on it.”

This is “an abrupt reversal from a day earlier when Democratic leaders would not allow [Burris] to speak to reporters inside the Capitol.” In other words, the Senate held out about as long as NBC’s rumored one-day ban of Ann Coulter.

Too bad Obama didn’t take my suggestion that he “take a pass, saying it’s a political issue that he will leave to the courts and the people of Illinois.” Here’s what he said instead:

“Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant,” said Obama, “but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Gov. Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Gov. Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy.

I’m sure Obama will find a way to walk back from his previous statement and the media won’t push him on it. That’s a shame, but principles don’t last long in Washington.


The Patterico Plan for the Economy

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:19 am

As Obama floats his $800 billion stimulus plan — over 2600 dollars for every man, woman, and child in the country — i would like to suggest my own plan for the economy:

Do nothing.

If that’s not feasible, do as little as possible.

Thank you.

P.S. Or we could just borrow more and completely trash our children’s future (even more than we have already) to fund goodies for Congressmen. Either way.

A Terrorist Speaks — in the L.A. Times

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 7:12 am

Want the terrorist perspective? The L.A. Times is happy to provide it, with an op-ed by a Hamas terrorist.

Israel, you see, is supposed to sit still after 300,000 of its residents have spent 8 years being subjected to this:

2008 Weblog Awards

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Patterico @ 7:04 am

I learned about the 2008 Weblog Awards from a post written by our friend Dana. Dana correctly notes that “Patterico doesn’t campaign for these things” — mainly because such awards tend to be a function of traffic, and I tend to be pitted against blogs that are better trafficked than mine. I appear to be solidly in the middle of the pack this time around and can’t imagine the end result will be much different. As a result, this will likely be, if not the only time I mention this, at least one of very few times.

Still, it’s a compliment that someone thought enough of the site to nominate it, and I appreciate the nod from Sister Toldjah, who gave me her endorsement. She is running in the “Best Large Blog” category. Michelle Malkin, Ace, and Power Line are all running in the Best Conservative Blog category; I’m partial to both Ace and Michelle but ultimately will cast my vote for Michelle. (Sorry, Ace. Looks like you’re winning without my help anyway.) In a graphic depiction of how stupid this contest can be, Hot Air is losing to Andrew Sullivan in the Best Blog category. Ridiculous; go change that.

If you’re inclined to cast a vote for this blog, you can do so here.

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