Sunday, September 08, 2013
In 2011, Obama freed NSA from restraints on domestic spying that Dubya requested in 2008
You will search this WaPo story, entitled "Obama administration had restrictions on NSA reversed in 2011," without success for any mention of the Forty-Third President of the United States of America, even though his administration did not depart the White House until January 20, 2009. And yet:
The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.
In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.
I think my post's headline above ought to have been the Washington Post's headline too — but surely somewhere in this report, they ought to have at least acknowledged the contrasting positions of the only two post-9/11 administrations.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Reactions upon reading today's court ruling against Apple in the ebook price-fixing conspiracy case
I ought to have simply done this as a blog post to begin with, but:
When I started reading U.S. District Judge Denise Cote's written opinion in United States v. Apple Inc. this evening, I originally only intended to post a link to the opinion, with a very short comment, on Facebook, mostly for a few of my legally-inclined friends. But then I started leaving comments on my FB post, and it turned into a sort of "live-blogging" as I worked through the opinion.
Eventually I decided I ought to re-post it all here for a broader audience, with apologies for the disjointed format:
Apple lost in court in New York today on the ebook antitrust case brought jointly by the Justice Department and several states (including Texas). U.S. District Judge Denise Cote's opinion is 160 pages (double-spaced), so it will take me a while to read it. But from the summary of findings (beginning on page 9 of the .pdf file), it looks like a major defeat for Apple. This paragraph (from page 11) seems key in my initial skim:
Apple and the Publisher Defendants shared one overarching interest — that there be no price competition at the retail level. Apple did not want to compete with Amazon (or any other e-book retailer) on price; and the Publisher Defendants wanted to end Amazon’s $9.99 pricing and increase significantly the prevailing price point for e-books. With a full appreciation of each other’s interests, Apple and the Publisher Defendants agreed to work together to eliminate retail price competition in the e-book market and raise the price of e-books above $9.99."
Here's a link if you're interested:
I hadn't realized that 38 different states had joined in this litigation, but I'm pleased to see that the Texas and Connecticut attorneys general were "liason counsel for the plaintiff states" (i.e., carried the ball and probably did most of the work for all the other state plaintiffs).
The financial impact on Apple is uncertain, but treble damages loom: "The Plaintiffs have shown that Apple conspired to raise the retail price of e-books and that they are entitled to injunctive relief. A trial on damages will follow." And at that trial the question won't be whether Apple has to pay — today's ruling effectively decides that against Apple — but just how much, and to whom.
No jury was involved in this, by the way. By consent of all parties, there was a bench trial in which Judge Cote served as factfinder in lieu of a jury.
CEO Les Moonves of CBS (which owns Simon & Schuster, one of the defendants who settled before trial) is pegged as a major conspirator. I remember him from Rathergate.
In footnote 38 on page 71, Judge Cote labels Apple Sr VP Eddy Cue's trial testimony as not being "credible" — which is the polite way to say she thinks Cue was lying under oath on at least some points. The factual recital is just brutal. Apple comes across as the proverbial 800 pound gorilla who bullied not only the consuming public and Amazon (which was fighting to keep ebook prices low), but Apple's fellow conspirators, five of the six big publishing companies. Appellate courts are particularly reluctant to overturn credibility determinations by the factfinder, whether that's been a judge or a jury. Apple's going to have a hard time digging its way out of the hole it's dug for itself.
From pp. 85-86 of the .pdf file:
On January 27, Jobs launched the iPad. As part of a beautifully orchestrated presentation, he also introduced the iPad’s e-reader capability and the iBookstore. He proudly displayed the names and logos of each Publisher Defendant whose books would populate the iBookstore. To show the ease with which an iTunes customer could buy a book, standing in front of a giant screen displaying his own iPad’s screen, Jobs browsed through his iBooks “bookshelf,” clicked on the “store” button in the upper corner of his e-book shelf display, watched the shelf seamlessly flip to the iBookstore, and purchased one of Hachette’s NYT Bestsellers, Edward M. Kennedy’s memoir, True Compass, for $14.99. With one tap, the e-book was downloaded, and its cover appeared on Jobs’s bookshelf, ready to be opened and read.
When asked by a reporter later that day why people would pay $14.99 in the iBookstore to purchase an e-book that was selling at Amazon for $9.99, Jobs told a reporter, “Well, that won’t be the case.” When the reporter sought to clarify, “You mean you won’t be 14.99 or they won’t be 9.99?” Jobs paused, and with a knowing nod responded, “The price will be the same,” and explained that “Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon because they are not happy.” With that statement, Jobs acknowledged his understanding that the Publisher Defendants would now wrest control of pricing from Amazon and raise e-book prices, and that Apple would not have to face any competition from Amazon on price.
The import of Jobs’s statement was obvious. On January 29, the General Counsel of [Simon & Schuster] wrote to [the CEO of S&S, Carolyn] Reidy that she “cannot believe that Jobs made the statement” and considered it “[i]ncredibly stupid.”
Yeah, I agree that it was incredibly stupid. And arrogant. Jobs was bragging in public about the price-fixing conspiracy that his company had organized and executed to fix ebook prices. The reason the publishers were threatening to withhold their books from Amazon altogether was because that was the key term in the conspiracy that Apple was proposing. Unless Amazon agreed to knuckle under to the "agency pricing" model that Apple wanted (because it would eliminate retail price competition in ebooks, to Apple's benefit, and let Apple compete with Amazon on the basis of hardware, never price) — Amazon wouldn't be able to sell ebooks at any price.
This whole fact pattern would never make a good exam question in an antitrust course in law school. It's way too easy. There's an arsenal of smoking guns. It's like no one at Apple ever heard of the Sherman Act.
Maybe you aren't an ebook buyer, and because you only buy paper books, you think this conspiracy didn't affect you. Nope (p. 95): "The Publisher Defendants raised more than the prices of just New Release e-books. The prices of some of their New Release hardcover books were also raised in order to move the e-book version into a correspondingly higher price tier."
From p. 103, Jobs is quoted as making the following brag — actually, a stunning admission to which he was blinded by his egotism — to his biographer:
Amazon screwed it up. It paid the wholesale price for some books, but started selling them below cost at $9.99. The publishers hated that — they thought it would trash their ability to sell hardcover books at $28. So before Apple even got on the scene, some booksellers were starting to withhold books from Amazon. So we told the publishers, “We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.” But we also asked for a guarantee that if anybody else is selling the books cheaper than we are, then we can sell them at the lower price too. So they went to Amazon and said, “You’re going to sign an agency contract or we’re not going to give you the books.”
Yes, the customer pays a little more, but that's what you want anyway — if you're running a conspiracy to eliminate market competition via illegal price-fixing agreements, that is indeed exactly what you want.
Key finding (from page 120, citation omitted):
In sum, the Plaintiffs have shown not just by a preponderance of the evidence, but through compelling direct and circumstantial evidence that Apple participated in and facilitated a horizontal price-fixing conspiracy. As a result, they have proven a per se violation of the Sherman Act. If it were necessary to analyze this evidence under the rule of reason, however, the Plaintiffs would also prevail.
That's a "belt and suspenders" finding: Judge Cote thinks (and I agree) that this is a "per se" case because of the type of conspiracies and restraints involved and where the players all were in the various supply chains. But she's also saying that even if she's wrong about that point, and even if Apple gets the benefit of the more flexible "rule of reason" standard instead of the "per se" standard, Apple would still lose.
That makes it much harder for Apple to win on appeal.
This is just a methodical thrashing. In every appeal, the first thing the appellate judges (and their law clerks) read is the district judge's opinion. After reading this one, I think almost any appellate judge is going to be favorably impressed with its comprehensiveness and clarity. It's the kind of opinion after which you exhale and say, "Whew! That's going to be hard to fault in any significant way."
Apple is going to have a very tough row to hoe on appeal. I think they're well and truly hosed in this case, although it's not likely to threaten their existence as a company or even delay the next iPhone-whatever.
Footnote 63 (at p. 135) is quite droll, as antitrust humor goes:
Apple uses the term 'competitive' to convey that it wanted its prices to be the lowest in the marketplace, not to convey that it wanted prices arrived at through the process of competition.
That means: "We want all the business, but at a higher, fixed price."
In footnote 66 on p. 143, Judge Cote labels individual Apple and Publisher Defendant executives as "noteworthy for their lack of credibility" — which I would paraphrase as meaning they're "liars lying under oath and they can't be believed."
Okay, finished. The last 30+ pages are devoted to anticipating every argument Apple can be expected to make on appeal and methodically rebutting or undercutting each of them. Judge Cote is a Clinton appointee who's senior status, so she has a lot of experience; and she's clearly learned how to write opinions in a way that make them particularly hard to reverse. The smartest and best federal district judges are usually the best advocates for why their own written decisions ought be upheld — they try to anticipate how the appeal is likely to proceed, and to make their decisions as nearly "bulletproof on appeal" as possible (which is to say, clear, well-reasoned, and correct). And this may be a candidate for the Second Circuit to "affirm on the basis of the district court's opinion" — basically the appellate court, instead of writing its own opinion, just saying, "Yeah, what she said." It's a very high compliment to a district judge when that happens in an important case.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Obama renews his acquaintance with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright
Was your last vote for Barack Obama based in any part upon the careful reassurances he gave the American public in April 2008 when he threw his longtime Chicago pastor and spiritual mentor — the Rev. Jeremiah "God DAMN America" Wright — under the proverbial campaign bus?
If so, this six-second snippet from a Looney Tunes classic exactly illustrates what President Obama has just done to you:
Recall that Rev. Wright and Barack Obama were joined at the hip for two decades in Chicago. In his sermons, Rev. Wright actually originated the phrase that became the title of Obama's second book, "The Audacity of Hope." But when even the mainstream media finally began to focus on what Obama himself conceded were "some inflammatory and appalling remarks [Rev. Wright had] made about our country, our politics, and [Obama's] political opponents" during the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama was obliged to assure the public in writing and on television that he "vehemently disagree[d] and strongly condemn[ed] the statements that have been the subject of this controversy." And candidate Obama didn't just denounce Rev. Wright's inflammatory statements, but also "the person" who'd made them (boldface mine):
I have been a member of [Rev. Wright's] Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992, and I've known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.
Indeed, Barack and Michelle Obama very publicly left Trinity only a few weeks later, in June 2008, and they unequivocally identified their split with Rev. Wright as the explanation:
Barack Obama announced Saturday that he and his wife had resigned as members of their Chicago church in the wake of controversial remarks from its pulpit that have become a serious distraction to his presidential campaign.
In a letter dated Friday to the pastor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, had come to the decision "with some sadness." But they said their relations with Trinity United Church of Christ "had been strained by the divisive statements" of the retiring pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., "which sharply conflict with our own views."
The Illinois senator's decision to break with the church that he has credited with shaping his faith came after months of controversy over racially charged remarks Wright made to the 8,000-member congregation on Chicago's South Side.
And Team Obama has been careful to avoid any public ties to Rev. Wright ever since.
Until now, as let slip — doubtless to the intense chagrin of the Obama-Biden campaign — deep within a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed by the venerable and pernicious Willie Brown, former Democratic mayor of San Francisco and speaker of the California State Assembly (boldface mine; hat-tip Ed Driscoll guest-blogging at Instapundit):
By my estimate, you have to build in a three- to five-point slip from the poll numbers for any black candidate on election day. To overcome the slip, you need to pump up the black vote by equal measure.
And that's not easy, because brothers and sisters aren't among the top turnout groups.
In 2008, Barack Obama was able to compensate for the slip and then some. You would have thought it was Nelson Mandela coming out of jail. This time it's not going to be that easy.
If Obama looks as if he's going black, he could turn off white people. So he's largely been lying low on the race issues — visibly pushing for the Latino vote, the gay vote, the women's vote, but not the black vote.
But last weekend, he held a conference call with a collection of black preachers that included his old pastor, Jeremiah Wright. He wanted to talk to them about getting out the vote.
Mayor Brown didn't volunteer any further details about Rev. Wright's participation in the conference call. But you know someone on the conference call made a recording.
Once upon a time, some eager Woodward-and-Bernstein wannabe would actually be beating the bushes, working Democratic fundraising sources, trying to get a copy to make public, and dreaming of Pulitzers to be earned through a thorough investigation into this sort of stealth about-face conducted by a sitting President seeking reelection.
But those days are gone, and the "cleaners" from Team Obama's rapid response team doubtless began their scrubbing, shredding, and stonewall-building just as soon as they had conducted a mild but vivid session of political reeducation with Mayor Brown. Perhaps tomorrow Mayor Brown will extend and revise his op-ed to clarify that the voice of Jeremiah Wright he heard on that GOTV conference call was somehow also not the same man Barack Obama met twenty-plus years ago.
Friday, September 14, 2012
Beldar on Patterico on Crawford (updated)
My excellent blogospheric friend Patterico has posted an articulate defense of CBS News reporter Jan Crawford, who's being accused of having been caught on tape coordinating with other mainstream media reporters their questions for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney about the current Middle East turmoil. He fairly summarizes the particulars of the accusations, so I won't repeat them here.
Like Patterico, I'm a long-time fan of Ms. Crawford's — see, for example, my 2007 review of her book on the Supreme Court and its Justices — although I don't have the personal acquaintance with her that he has. In the interest of further disclosure, I should also perhaps mention again that I briefly represented Ms. Crawford's current employer, CBS News, in a Fifth Circuit defamation appeal back in the mid-1980s, although I'm no longer at the same law firm which CBS hired then, and certainly since my participation in Rathergate I have had no expectations that they'd ever hire me again.
Patterico and I agree entirely, I think, that Ms. Crawford's body of work over time has earned her a great deal of credibility — far too much to discount it all to zero over one incident.
But his defense goes far beyond that, and you really should read the whole thing there on his blog.
In general I share our host’s good opinion of Ms. Crawford. This episode doesn’t outweigh everything else she’s done which I admire. But I emphatically do not admire this episode, at least in its murky outlines.
That those outlines are still murky is her fault. She needs to explain if she wants to salvage the good reputation she earned. That people are critical is no excuse whatsoever for her failure to do so — unless one thinks cowardice is a virtue.
And I think the vehemence of the reaction is in large part due to the fact that we expected better of her than this, and we’re concerned that this unguarded glimpse actually represents the common reality instead of an exception.
I also don’t at all share Patterico’s view that the campaign press pool’s “coordinating questions” is okay in the abstract. It’s emphatically not okay in the abstract or in the concrete, it’s collusion designed to script and therefore limit and channel the American political dialog. It’s a very, very fundamental breach of journalistic ethics, and if abstracted and universalized would make a mockery of the entire concept of the “Fourth Estate” as a watchdog of our liberties.
It’s no accident that we metaphorically speak of the “marketplace of ideas.” The members of the press corps who are allowed continual access to our major-party candidates are repositories of our collective trust, but they aren’t supposed to act collectively themselves. Instead, we rely upon them, and their questions to the candidates, to reflect, in broad terms, the interests of the electorate in all its diversity and peculiarity.
If the candidate takes ten questions of ten different reporters, presumably each of those ten reporters will have considered what’s previously been asked before asking his own, to avoid wasteful duplication. Among them, they should manage to fairly inquire about not just the “consensus” issues, but some of the outliers too.
What Crawford appears to be caught on tape doing is the journalistic equivalent of price-fixing. That’s hard to prove in the marketplace of commerce or the marketplace of ideas, but occasionally there’s the proverbial “smoking gun”: the memorandum agreeing that next quarter’s steel output will be limited and prices fixed, the revelation that there’s a JournoList, or here, an open-mike snatch of conversation which dispels all pretense of journalistic independence of thought or action.
If the question is genuine, and genuinely important, there should never be any more need to coordinate its asking than there is for manufacturers to coordinate the price of steel.
UPDATE (Sat Sep 15 @ 2:20am): Patterico has a follow-up post. He argues persuasively, with links and quotes, to establish that after the Cairo embassy's statement, the sequence was:
So: a) Crawford attacks the embassy’s statement; b) Romney issues a similar statement; and c) Crawford does a fair report that portrays Romney in a positive light.
I've no quarrel with any of that. He continues:
Now, I can understand people arguing that any discussion among colleagues about what they are going to ask a candidate is somehow illegitimate. I disagree, but that argument is not outside the realm of reasonableness.
But portraying Crawford as some nasty member of a liberal cabal, while it might feel satisfying, is, in the end, an unnecessary attack on one of the good ones.
I agree completely with the second paragraph of that, and that's by far the more important paragraph.
I'd quibble with the first. I don't think anyone contends that "any discussion among colleagues about what they are going to ask a candidate is somehow illegitimate." I think that misstates the issue rather badly. The issue is instead, I believe, whether it's ethical and appropriate for journalists to negotiate and mutually agree that they should construct or conform their questions in a particular manner. These reporters are supposedly competitors of one another; all should be trying to ask unique and brilliant questions so that they and their employers will be relatively more successful in the marketplace of ideas and, therefore, in the marketplace of commerce. Instead, they're engaged in a secret plan, quite literally a conspiracy, to ensure that Mitt Romney will look bad so that Obama will be reelected.
Patterico argues, again — and again with merit — that it sounds from the tape as if Crawford was trying to exercise a moderating influence on the rest of the press corps' reflexive hostility to Mitt Romney. Again, I agree entirely with that.
But her job isn't to be a moderating influence as a participant in a fundamentally corrupt and fraudulent exercise. After this private discussion, she went on with business as usual, when an ethical journalist would, I contend, have made the story of the day: "Press corps conspires to coordinate hostile questions to Romney."
Is it entirely possible that CBS would have promptly fired Crawford if she'd made that the story of the day? Yes, I think so. But Crawford presumably knew their history when she took the job; perhaps she's made a Faustian bargain, blinkering herself to her colleagues' unethical behavior as the necessary cost of admission to the club.
Patterico's conclusion is one I can also cheerfully endorse, and do:
Again: the so-called “coordination of questions” issue is fair game for reasonable minds to differ. I don’t see it as a huge deal, but I can respect someone who argues to the contrary. I’d like to see Jan address that issue, frankly.
But I think it’s unfair to write off this reporter as part of a liberal conspiracy to undermine Romney, when she seemingly agreed with his position, and portrayed it fairly and in a positive light. I hope this post makes people rethink such a position. Because Jan Crawford is not the enemy. She just isn’t.
Yes, I'd like to see her address this, too. But I'd rather she blew the whistle on this kind of stuff.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Press assumes nothing BUT Obamacare can possibly be caring
It is very hard for even well-informed members of the general public to stay focused during detailed discussions of health care reform, Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid. I have become very appreciative, therefore, of the consistently clear and powerful writing on these topics from Yuval Levin. He gives me detail at a level I can still absorb, and he gives us all links. And he always orients everything he says so that it can be understood as part of the biggest picture and broadest perspective: He explains and organizes so that things can be seen to fit together coherently.
His recent post on NRO's The Corner entitled "Pre-Existing Ignorance" is bracing. And its clarity dispels a lot of confusion and mental cobwebs.
Levin faults the reporters covering the political fights on these health-care reform issues for not even making an effort to inform themselves about the two nominees' respective positions on the subject matter, and he says they've completely "fallen for the Democratic line about Obamacare":
That line involves, first of all, the notion that Obamacare is simply the definition of health-care reform, and that to oppose it means to not want to solve the problems with our system. Reporters are therefore surprised anytime a Republican expresses the desire to solve those problems, and they assume that means he must want to keep Obamacare....
They're not journalists. They're acolytes.
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Persuasive evidence of Republican incompetence at something
It is so because I say it is so, and it doesn't exist unless I acknowledge it.
This is the entire logic undergirding a WaPo op-ed from Matt Miller, an MSNBC contributor and a "senior fellow at the Center for American Progress" (i.e., a professional talking head who's financially supported by a Democratic think-tank)(bold-face mine):
The striking thing about the Republican National Convention was how all of the most powerful speeches invoked tales of ascent from humble circumstance....
Anyone listening to Rubio’s moving tale surely thought, “Yes! This is exactly what America is about!” But the stories were all we got. No Republican speakers offered any policies to renew upward mobility in the United States....
I've omitted a hyperlink from that quotation since it wasn't to an actual authority on anything, just a link to another WaPo op-ed from another paradigm of liberal intellectual honesty, this one a self-admitted plagiarist. That's how the WaPo does its fact-checking: "Do our liberals all agree? Then it's a fact."
Note the spectacular arrogance, the insufferable closed-mindedness. Here's what Miller's entire pitch amounts to: "I don't agree with your ideas regarding what the government can and should do (or can and should refrain from doing) in order to encourage people to dream and to work and to succeed. Therefore, your ideas simply don't exist. Your ideas aren't even policies, they aren't even ideas, and everything you propose — even something as specific and concrete as 'repeal Obamacare' — was never actually mentioned. Therefore I don't have to bother even making an argument about why your policies are wrong."
Here's the problem with Miller's approach, though: If the American tradition being lauded by all those minority speakers at the GOP convention — including the personal experience of America that was had by the families of Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, Mia Love, Condi Rice, Ted Cruz, Artur Davis, Nikki Haley, Brian Sandoval, and others (Miller's list is awfully short and selective, wonder why that was?) — is so closed, so hostile to people on account of their race or their national origin, then how did all those non-white people become senators and governors and cabinet officers?
The only answer available, once you've bought into Miller's logic, is that the GOP are awfully incompetent racists. After all, if you permit a "token" to share and exercise real power, then by definition he or she is no longer a token.
Or: Perhaps we shouldn't buy into Miller's logic because he's a dishonest partisan hack who makes his living off of telling clever lies.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
You see, what the Vice President really meant to say was ...
The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper passes along along news "that aides to Vice President Joe Biden have taken the unusual step of wrangling the press for edits to pool reports." Quoting a source I don't choose to link, this post explains that "attempting to intervene in the drafting of accounts that reporters share with one another is all but unheard of," not just regular spin. The quoted source goes on to say that this "reflects the deep concern Biden’s team has about offering any fodder to the opposition."
In other words, the political pros are trading favors and using all their influence to get friendly reporters (i.e., virtually all of them) to take it easy on Slow Joe. They are literally telling the reporters how to do their jobs in a way that will benefit the Obama-Biden[?] campaign.
("Obama-Biden[?] campaign," with that question mark in brackets, is exactly how I'm going to refer to the prospective Democratic ticket for the next three weeks or so. Feel free to do likewise, or not. I'm not in the business of telling my readers how to do their jobs.)
It's hard to imagine a more dispiriting job than being one of Joe Biden's handlers. I'm sure they tell themselves that they're star performers at the circus. In their dreams, they're high-wire performers, or perhaps trapeze artists, always skillfully recovering from desperate peril at the very last moment. But everyone else can see that they're the guys with push-brooms and wheeled trash cans who follow the circus parade to deal with the poop it's left in the streets.
The notion that Obama might replace Biden is spreading, and in addition to Hillary, New York governor Andrew Cuomo is also being floated as a possible replacement. Cuomo is indeed a rising star of the Democratic Party, but he's still a very young man. He is not yet widely known outside New York, and has never run in any sort of national campaign before; we might predict that he'd do well when rolled out, as Paul Ryan has, but Cuomo has only a tiny fraction of Hillary's current name recognition and approval nationally. Cuomo also has many future presidential election cycles in which he might plausibly compete; he's surely ambitious, but the calendar isn't his enemy like it is Hillary's. If (and I don't assume that at all) Cuomo thinks Obama is going to lose this year regardless of whether Biden's replaced, Cuomo might well think it in his best long-term interests to pass on a chance to be the Veep nominee this year. But that's a luxury I don't think Hillary has, as I've previously explained — no more than LBJ could resist JFK's offer in 1960.
UPDATE (Thu Aug 16 @ 10:08am): Meanwhile, it turns out that my whimsical title on yesterday's post has been proved prophetic: Even as I write this update, Obama, Biden, and Clinton are huddled together in the Oval Office. Doubtless the POTUS and SecState are merely drawing upon the VPOTUS' vast foreign policy experience — in which case we should expect an announcement this afternoon that Iraq is being partitioned into three parts.
Or maybe they're having a conversation that includes the phrases "take one for the team" and "good sport."
Is anyone monitoring the lockdown status of Wikipedia's entries on Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton?
Whatever other consequences might flow from Obama picking a different Veep nominee to run with him in 2012, and whatever someone like Hillary might bring to the ticket that Biden cannot, the one thing that Obama can be reasonably certain of is this: Dropping Joe Biden won't cost Obama a single electoral vote. Biden has no constituency; so long as Biden exits with reasonable grace, even the voters of Delaware — probably including Biden's close friends and family — will still vote for Obama-Whoever in at least the same numbers as they would if Biden remained on the ticket.
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Obama's magic death ray
Covert operations involving drones, including targeted counter-terrorism assassinations, are something on which I'm inclined to give the POTUS, as Commander in Chief — whoever is in that office, even Obama — a lot of deference and discretion. But as suggested by this Wall Street Journal story entitled "Tensions Rising Over Drone Secrecy," this is turning into a situation from Marvel Comics: The only difference is that in the funny papers, it was always an orbiting death ray instead of an unmanned drone made out of composites, cameras, computer chips, and Hellfire missiles. As we use this power, it's increasingly going to motivate other countries and, yes, non-state actors like al-Qaeda, to want their own equivalent toys. But even before they can match our capabilities to use (and defend against?) such drones, there is going to be international attention and concern.
I hope and (must, for now) trust that the White House and the Pentagon and Langley have a cohesive, comprehensive, and wise plan for what America's going to do to moderate, channel, and otherwise affect the resulting change in international security affairs. This is already a bigger deal than most folks realize, and it's going to become a very, very big deal indeed.
But that hope and trust require me to assume, however, a degree of wisdom and simple competency that the Obama Administration has never displayed in anything else. Certainly its handling of the just-lost drone in Iran suggests that they're making up American diplomatic and military/operational policy as they go along, and that they're making it up not just on a day-by-day basis, but an hour-by-hour basis. And as the WSJ story points out:
John Bellinger, a top legal adviser for the State Department during the Bush administration, said the White House needs to start thinking about a legal framework that would define acceptable practices. He pointed to the risk that other countries will start using drones in ways that the U.S. may find objectionable.
"If Russia starts using drones to go after terrorists, will the U.S. look like we have a double standard if we criticize them?" Mr. Bellinger asked.
In short, the whole world, including his own legislators and constituents, is going to be listening more carefully to what Obama says (and doesn't say) about drones during the coming year, and comparing those words to what's actually being done (and not done) with the drones in actual practice, much of which will be covert.
The growing Congressional challenges to Obama's authority here — implemented so far only by demanding broader reporting to Congress, but likely to be subjected to more intrusive involvement, with associated security risks — suggest that I'm not the only one to have noticed this, or to have become concerned by it. Certainly the mainstream media is doing very little to put it on the voting public's respective radar screens. But even carefully targeted Hellfire missile strikes eventually demand attention; and any one of these strikes might trigger something quite unexpected, and potentially much bigger, as a counter-response by someone.
I'm perplexed at the silence of my liberal friends who, in theory, at least the last time we discussed such things in other contexts, don't share my views on the breadth of the Executive's authority to prosecute the war on terror and to defend the country from both foreign and domestic threats. How many layers of duct tape have they had to wrap around their heads to prevent them from exploding at the notion that, by executive order, the POTUS can now selectively vaporize almost any given roomful or carload of people, including U.S. citizens (at least while abroad)? The enormity of their double-standard has never been more obvious: If any Republican, and certainly if George W. Bush, had taken the same positions and engaged in the same volume of drone activities that Obama has, we'd be in the midst of full-blown impeachment proceedings by now.
Thursday, June 09, 2011
Apocalyptic financial numbers
Here's a comparison for James Taranto's Best of the Web Today column:
Barack Obama's worst week was about more than bad data. The two great legislative monuments to the first Obama term, the remaking of the health-care industry and the Dodd-Frank financial reform, look like they've got serious structural cracks. A McKinsey report estimates that a third of employers will abandon their health-insurance plans come 2014. On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the failure (or inability) of Dodd-Frank's regulatory arm to write new rules for the $583 trillion derivatives market has the financial sector in a panic over its legal exposure.
— Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2011.
The International Swaps and Derivatives Association said Tuesday that the true size of the global over-the-counter derivatives market is closer to $401 trillion, not the $583 trillion estimate given by the Bank for International Settlements late last year.
— Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2011.
I don't know about you, but I feel much better after reading that second blurb. $182 trillion difference here, $182 trillion difference there, and pretty soon you're talking about some real money!
(This discrepancy aside, the Henninger article is well worth your read, and scary as hell.)
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Watch the media spin hard to stick to their "GOP senators bail out on Ryan" narrative
Democrats and the main pundits of the mainstream media — but I repeat myself — have been saying for weeks that there would be huge GOP defections when, as a symbolic gesture, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) put the House's budget (principally authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan) up for a vote in the Senate.
Idiots and the main pundits of the mainstream media — but I repeat myself — might think this vote is somehow meaningful, and they indeed will insist that it is meaningful, whether it is or not, because that is their agreed-upon narrative. To them, facts and events don't matter; only their interpretation.
But here's the undeniable fact about today's events: That the GOP would lose this vote was conclusively determined in November 2010 when the GOP failed to retake the Senate.
When the outcome of a vote is 100% preordained, as the outcome of this one has always been, party leaders will often decide not to "whip the vote," meaning they decide not to twist any arms of their party's legislators, and not to waste political capital. If voting with the party would put a particular legislator at risk of losing reelection, then keeping the seat becomes more important than a symbolic show of unity.
Democrats and the main pundits of the mainstream media all understood this as recently as the House vote on Obamacare, in which then-Speaker Pelosi discreetly "released" several House Democrats to vote against it: No one has ever doubted San Fran Nan's ability to count noses and votes, and she and her crew knew exactly how many of their majority they could cut slack for without it becoming a close result. No one in the press or the punditocracy declared that the Dems had suffered some enormous schism. But now when Senate Minority Leader McConnell does the exact same thing, they manage to forget that rationale entirely. Thus, for example, a WaPo political blog post that treats a one-vote difference between the number of House and Senate GOP defectors as a sudden and ominous development for the GOP:
The budget plan, which was drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and which passed the House in April with the support of all but four Republicans, was rejected by the Senate Wednesday on a 40-to-57 vote.
As was the case in the House vote, all Democrats present in the Senate voted against the measure; they were joined by five Republicans, a sign of the wariness with which some Republicans have come to view the budget plan, particularly members who may face tough reelection bids in 2012.
The Republicans voting against the plan Wednesday were moderate Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), as well as conservative freshman Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who argued that the plan did not go far enough in cutting spending.
Back in November 2010, even when they were flush with the glow from the GOP's landmark victory in re-taking the House, if you had asked most Republican strategists the likelihood that by late May 2011, all but nine of the 288-or-so Republicans in Congress (i.e., more than 96%) would go on record voting for a serious, grown-up, transformative, but therefore politically risky budget — one that actually addresses the explosive growth in entitlements — they'd have laughed at you. "Maybe the young guns and the freshmen Tea Party products might go out on that limb," they'd have said, "but not practically the whole House and Senate GOP." But if you had somehow persuaded them to take you seriously, then they probably also would have been able to predict at least four of the GOP senators who wouldn't go along.
Sens. Snowe and and Collins from Maine and Sen. Brown from Massachusetts have purple constituencies. Their voting with the Senate Dems today surprised absolutely no one in the Senate, and shouldn't surprise you either. Sen. Murkowski, of course, famously couldn't win her home-state GOP primary; her defection is no surprise either.
And the Paul family, father and son, together represent a quarter of the GOP's House defections and a fifth of the Senate's — both of them because they think the Ryan budget doesn't go far enough. They obviously share a bull-headedness gene, and I wish they would figure out that voting with the Democrats is almost never, ever a useful way to demonstrate one's adherence to conservative principles. Obviously, however, if you want an accurate head-count of who wants real budget cuts and spending reforms, you subtract both Paul votes from the anti-Ryan headcount and add each to the enormous majority of GOP senators and representatives (with those two, over 97%) who've gone on record voting for Chairman Ryan's Path to Prosperity.
I'm altogether pleased with this vote. And of course, there was this other event in the Senate today that you will tend not to see emphasized in headlines, that you will instead tend to see downplayed or left entirely unexplained, and that you will probably tend to see mentioned "below the fold" — if at all — by the mainstream media (boldface mine):
Immediately after the vote on the Ryan budget, the Senate unanimously rejected President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal. The Obama budget did not secure the support of a single lawmaker, with all 97 senators present voting “no.”
I humbly submit that any news report which contains that fact ought to be headlined something like, "Lightworker drops to zero-wattage output."
Again, as a matter of substance, this is no surprise: The Obama budget was dead on arrival. But you're lookin' for symbolism? The Senate, under exclusively Democratic leadership and almost exclusively with a Democratic POTUS, has now gone 755 days without approving a budget for a full fiscal year — and before we're done, it will probably have gone longer without approving a budget than the entire Kennedy administration lasted. And now not a single U.S. Senator of either party will cast even a symbolic vote in favor of Obama's budget, and yet there is no Democratic alternative at all.
So indeed, one party, in frantic fear of further electoral backlash in November 2012, is backpedaling furiously from its conduct between 2009-2010 and now. (I expect that any day now, it will be revealed that it was false intelligence from the CIA that lured all those Democrats into voting for the 2009 "stimulus" — undoubtedly false intelligence whose seeds were planted by Dick Cheney, perhaps in collaboration with Osama bin Laden, who's conveniently unable to deny anything anymore.)
The other party is actually hanging pretty tough for the most part, and pretty much on track. Oh, there's a whole lot more to be done: The Dems' fiscal recklessness, and what it's doing to our economy and our future, will be the key issue on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. We need to wrap that issue around Obama's and the Dems' necks on every one of the 531 days until then.
Monday, April 25, 2011
WaPo chronicles Obama's serial blundering over Gitmo
"The executive order promising to close Gitmo's detention facilities within a calendar year was never anything more than BHO-monogrammed bovine excrement so naïve and silly that it exploded violently on every contact with reality."
That's my 35-word précis of this 4300-word WaPo article entitled "Guantanamo Bay: Why Obama hasn’t fulfilled his promise to close the facility."
However, whoever crafted this intended spin-imparting summary paragraph near the top may not have actually read the rest of the article, or else comprehended its cumulative import not at all:
For more than two years, the White House’s plans had been undermined by political miscalculations, confusion and timidity in the face of mounting congressional opposition, according to some inside the administration as well as on Capitol Hill. Indeed, the failed effort to close Guantanamo was reflective of the aspects of Obama’s leadership style that continue to distress his liberal base — a willingness to allow room for compromise and a passivity that at times permits opponents to set the agenda.
Instead of this mushy half-hearted defense of their hero, how about some plain English that's much more consistent the rest of the facts reported? Why pretend anything needed "undermining" when it never stood on its own to begin with? Why use the words like "miscalculations, confusion and timidity" as a substitute for "consistent bold stupidity"?
I'd re-write that summary paragraph thusly:
"Despite Obama's unconditional and unequivocal promises as a candidate, it became increasingly obvious, more blindingly obvious with every day of his new presidency, that closing Gitmo anytime soon would be a Very Bad Idea for a Whole Buncha Reasons. It became obvious to most serious grown-ups in America — and even to the large majorities of senators and congressmen from Obama's own party who want to be re-elected, regardless of their seriousness and maturity — that Obama's executive order couldn't actually be implemented without monumental, unacceptable risks and a momentous public backlash that would rival, and perhaps exceed, the Tea Party backlash against Obama's fiscal profligacy. Indeed, even the administration official who was designated to fall on his sword — ex-White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig, about whose resignation Beldar wrote at his usual tedious length here back in 2009 — appears to have painfully hoisted himself off that blade and climbed back down to reality."
Overall, this is probably the most damning reporting on Obama's fundamental incompetence that the WaPo has yet published. Nothing in it makes Obama look even marginally competent or principled. Yet despite their claim to have based this report on "interviews with more than 30 current and former administration officials, as well as members of Congress and their staff, members of the George W. Bush administration, and activists," WaPo staffers Peter Finn and Anne E. Kornblut don't produce anything amounting to a scoop. The only thing about their report which surpised me is that apparently everyone in Washington who doesn't list 1600 Pennsylvania as his or her current primary work address now seems to agree that Obama spectacularly mismanaged this entire issue.
I'll continue to stick with my description of the Obama Administration back in that post from April 2009:
"Amateurs. Incompetents. Ideologues. Full-time politicians turned half-wit government officials. Brilliant leftists who, confronted with the real world, are exposed as clueless idiots and children.
If anything, that assessment may have turned out to have beeen overly generous.
Saturday, April 02, 2011
Ryan and Rubio on Fox News Sunday tomorrow
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — otherwise known as Bill Kristol's proposed 2012 GOP presidential and vice-presidential ticket — are going to be on Fox News Sunday. I usually record it, but I'm sufficiently intrigued that I may just get up in time to watch it live.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Kudos to Frey and Stranahan on their collaboration at Patterico.com
Kudos to my blogospheric good friend and fellow Texas Law School alum Patrick Frey, the proprietor of Patterico's Pontifications, who has been far more industrious and creative a blogger than I've ever managed to be. He's experimented, with generally good results, with inviting others to post on his bandwidth and under his masthead — and now, in particular, he's invited someone whom he respects, but who has opposite views to Frey's own on a great many issues.
His latest experiment is a collaboration with leftie Lee Stranahan, who will, I'm sure, take a lot of flak from fellow travelers who will think he's bedding the devil; at best, they're likely to view Stranahan the way I view, say, David Brooks or David Frum and their engagement with reflexively left-wing media. (But at worst: How long before someone at dKos slaps him with an "Uncle Tom" label?)
I frankly expect, however, to read — at Patterico.com — some punditry from Stranahan with which I strongly disagree, rather than just critiques of the left from the left. I certainly don't ever expect watered-down mush calculated to avoid offending anyone: That sort of bland and apologetic centrism is certainly not Frey's own style, and I can't imagine that he'd hit it off with anyone, even someone from the left, who embraced it either.
Stranahan's first post is up, and it effectively skewers Arianna Huffington and the HuffPo for their treatment of Andrew Breitbart. Stranahan's first-hand knowledge and liberal credentials add substantially to the post's throw-weight. But I hope, and fully expect, that in some number of his future pieces Stranahan will also provide an intelligent critique of the right on some of the issues that we disagree upon, and I look forward to debating him from time to time. This is a good thing.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Beldar on Simon on Kelly
Why would my friend Roger L. Simon — who's one of the most savvy "new media" practitioners around — wish such misfortune on Megyn Kelly?
Alternately phrased: Why would he wish such undeserved good fortune upon CBS?
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
BBC: What's the harm, when all of NPR's listeners already believe all Tea Partiers are hard-core racists anyway?
I was much amused this afternoon while listening to a reporter from the BBC News World Service — during its daily news broadcast for National Public Radio via NPR's local affiliate, KUHT-FM — interviewing an NPR exec (whose name I didn't catch) over the ouster of NPR CEO and president Vivian Schiller. Ms. Schiller was asked today to leave by NPR's board in the wake of Tuesday's release of, as NPR so mildly puts it, a sting videotape "of then-NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation) slamming conservatives and questioning whether NPR needs federal funding."
Before she joined NPR in January 2009, Ms. Schiller was "senior vice president and general manager of" — drum roll, please, to heighten the suspense and enhance your surprise — "NYTimes.com."
What wasn't so funny was the NPR spokesperson's continued insistence in the BBC interview that NPR really isn't liberal, that it's "moderate" and "right down the middle," and that Ron Schiller's bigotry, odious opinions, and radical leftism isn't really representative of NPR as a whole. A joke told as often as that one has been just isn't funny any more.
In fact, the true reason why both Schillers had to be thrown under the bus is obvious, and it's obviously not because either of them was in any way out of step with the rest of NPR's leaders or its rank and file. Rather, it was because (a) he'd accidentally told truths that exposed his and NPR's biases, and (worse) been caught on videotape doing so, and (b) she hadn't been smart enough to prevent that, even in the wake of the disastrous publicity from Juan Williams' firing and James O'Keefe's previous video stings of (other) liberal monoliths like ACORN and Planned Parenthood. In this case, the Schillers are not being punished for the (still-continuing) crime, but for the failure of the (would-be perpetual) cover-up.
But I did laugh aloud at one incredulous question from the BBC interviewer, to the effect of (my close paraphrase, but not a direct quote): "Why should an NPR executive be fired, and another forced to quit prematurely, just because one of them said the Tea Partiers are all hard-core racists? Don't NPR's listeners all already share that opinion?"
Of course, my hearing it explodes the proposition.
And of course, even if all of NPR's listeners were already thoroughly indoctrinated in the Democratic Party's politics and world-view (including its love of class warfare, identity politics, and government spending/regulation) — even if it weren't NPR's goal to continue to indoctrinate, and to make new converts to their political cause — that still wouldn't make it okay for NPR to promote one side's politics with everyone's tax dollars. There's a word for that practice, a word every reporter for the BBC or NPR ought to already have in their active vocabularies: "corruption."
There's never been a time when I was so drunk that I no longer realized I was drunk, but these tools, these preening asshats, are so thoroughly self-besotted and self-deluded that they really can't tell when they're hallucinating anymore. And that, while sad, and even dangerous, can't help but be funny too.
UPDATE (Wed Mar 9 @ 6:40pm): I wanted to make sure I wasn't mischaracterizing the BBC interviewer's question, so I tracked down what's at least a temporary link to an .mp3 podcast of today's program. The segment on NPR begins at 23:20, and was hosted by BBC World News anchor James Menendez.
Listening to it again, I was struck by some earlier banter between Mr. Menendez and BBC Washington correspondent Paul Adams, who — when asked why Ms. Schiller had to be fired for Mr. Schiller's having been "unwise enough to give his candid opinion on some of these [incindiary] issues [like the Tea Partiers being racists]" — had this to say (beginning at 25:06; the transcription, and all bracketed portions [including the purely snarky Beldarisms, in green], are my own):
Well, because she [Ms. Schiller] has had a pretty difficult time. NPR, it has to be said [unsourced opinion disguised-as-news alert! because no, it doesn't have to be said, unless you have a point of view you're selling or a constituency to whom you're pandering], has been — and public broadcasting as a whole — a target of conservatives for a long, long time. Last autumn, she fired, somewhat summarily, an analyst and commentator, Juan Williams, over some comments that he made on the right-wing cable news channel, Fox News, in which he said he felt uncomfortable when he saw people dressed in Muslim garb on airplanes. And I think you'll detect here something of a common thread to this story — that it all — a lot of it seems to revolve around attitudes toward Muslims in American society today. [Oh, yeah, right. The "real story" is all about American Juan Williams' Republican racism! Squirrel!] She was much criticized over her handling of that affair, and it was clumsy to say the least. And so it's felt [another calculated passive-voice wimp-out] that this was really the last straw as far as she was concerned.
[BBC anchor Menendez]: So could this affair make it much harder for NPR to justify its funding?
[BBC correspondent Adams:] It could, and it comes at a time when Republicans are trying to do precisely that. In fact, a bill has already passed the House of Representatives which would remove federal funding from public broadcasting, including NPR. The Senate has yet to rule [sic] on that, it's not quite clear which way it's going to go. [We fought a revolution over that whole "ruler" thing, as you might think a British correspondent, stationed in the city named for the winning American general, would remember.]
And unfortunately one of the things that Ron Schiller said in that sting video was that he thought NPR could survive pretty well without federal money — words that may come back to haunt the organization because even though it's a relatively small part of their revenue, it is still something which they regard as extremely important. [Actually, Mr. Schiller said "it is very clear that [NPR] would be better off in the long run without federal funding," which undercuts the rest of Mr. Adams' spin.] And it is thought that [passive voice alert! often a signal that what follows is going to be someone's opinion, with the someone disguised] in the case of some of the rural NPR member stations, federal money can account for anywhere up to 50% of their operating costs, even though nationally, as an average, it's more like 10%. [This is simply repeating something Mr. Schiller also said at the lunch, when describing their "challenge right now" if they immediately lost federal funding and needed to turn, presumably, to other righteous sources ... like the Muslim Brotherhood.]
So there are serious issues involved for NPR, and it could well be that this will add fuel to the argument that it should be — that NPR should lose this money. [At last! Some of that famous British understatement!]
[BBC anchor Menendez]: And so what have the Republicans been saying about this?
[BBC correspondent Adams:] Well, so far, I think they regard this as confirmation of their view, which is that NPR is an inherently liberal organization, and that an organization like that, which displays its liberal bias, has no business receiving public money. [Literally rushes to add:] It has to be said [another unsourced opinion disguised-as-news alert!] — and I think anyone who's listened to NPR, I think, will echo this [again demonstrating a profound ignorance of the fact that even conservatives like me sometimes listen to NPR, because we are in fact interested in what liberals have to say] — you'd be hard pressed to find in America's overheated media environment a rather more straight-laced and moderate voice than National Public Radio.
It's folks like these who can say, and insist, with perfectly straight faces that Barack Obama is really quite moderate. [And to his credit, "rather straight-laced," at least for a former cocaine-snorter turned community organizer who still plays a lot of basketball and golf.]
But here's the exact question that prompted my post, and I've identified the person of whom BBC anchor Menendez asked it as being NPR ombudsman Alicia C. Shepherd (at 28:57; obvious vocal emphasis in original was his, but these italics and bold-facing are mine):
Is it just, though, a perception about where NPR's coming from? I mean: Is it not fair to say that lots of people — lots of listeners — would share some of Ron Schiller's views, particularly about the Tea Party, for example? [Menendez delivered the previous sentence's ending with what can only be described as a verbal smirk. These radio guys are so talented that way! Bloggers can't be so subtle.]
I thought, at first, that it was to Ms. Shepherd's credit that she didn't rush to embrace the implied accusation of racism implicit in the question, and that she didn't seem to be trying to deny the ugliness of what Mr. Schiller had been caught saying on video. And in fairness and for context, here's her answer to BBC anchor Menendez' question:
Well [obvious pause] may be. But that's really not the point.
NPR is a news organization just like the BBC. [That's true! but not in the way she meant it.] I'm sure there are reporters at the BBC who have personal biases or opinions, agendas, whatever. [This would be an example of that famous American understatement.]
But they're professionals, and that's the same thing with the journalists at NPR: You put aside those biases and you go out and you report the news. And you try to be accurate, thorough, fair, independent, transparent — all the values of journalism.
But then it struck me: What better way could Ms. Shepherd and the other executives still at NPR put on an appearance of being duly chastised — as part of their efforts to restore the fig leaf of a pretense that they're unbiased and objective — than by giving an interview to the BBC, in which they could rely on their British cousins like Adams and Menendez to testify on NPR's behalf, and to spin, for NPR's benefit, the very same odious talking points that Mr. Schiller had just been caught making?
And then you simply use your own network to re-broadcast, all across America — and yes, still using, in part, U.S. tax-payer dollars — Menendez' and Adams' dripping insinuations, barely concealed from being an outright accusation, that "All Tea Partiers really are racists"! Brilliant! Pathetic, and evil; but brilliant.
(The Beeb itself, and its World Service in particular, are under considerable funding pressure in the U.K., by the way, and their reliance on government funding is nearly total. An ethical journalist ought to have disclosed his own and his employer's own related interests as part of this report. An ethical journalistic ombudsman would have pointed the conflict out to her interviewer. Heh — maybe at journalism school, otherwise only in our dreams.)
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Obama: L'État c'est Moi! And my job is to tell you, my subjects, what your values should be
One would expect even a junior state senator from Illinois to have a better grasp of politics than Barack Obama has shown in his comments about the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. One would certainly expect even a junior lecturer, much less a senior one, from Chicago Law School to have an instant grasp of the difference between whether something's legal and something's wise. Basically, I'd expect anyone running for high school senior class president to be able to draw this kind of distinction with great ease and indisputable clarity if he wished to opine on one question but not the other.
"Amateurish" is insufficient. "Embarrassing" would be presumed, except that Obama has still shown himself to be, quite literally, incapable of being ashamed.
Do you remember all the classic cartoons — Tom & Jerry, for example — in which very large, fierce watch-dogs get very excited, and they run from their doghouses across their yards as fast as they can? And they're practically flying, and they're really about to finally catch the cat when — boing! — they hit the end of their leashes and they're are yanked violently, hilariously, to a complete stop? That's what I was reminded of in reading, first, Greg Sargent's WaPo post from Saturday morning about Obama's Friday night speech being "one of the finest moments of Obama's presidency" precisely because Obama didn't just address the legal issue, but instead expressed his full support for building the center near Ground Zero because it would be flat-out un-American not to welcome and respect the group proposing to build this center; and, second, Mr. Sargent's wounded and genuinely pathetic one-line update after Obama's Saturday "clarifications." (H/t Patterico.) Repeat after me, Mr. Sargent, with more feeling this time: "We've always been at war with Eastasia ...." If you can't pivot on a dime, you're useless as a shill, Mr. Sargent!
But as our mirth finally subsides, let us consider the premise of this entire Obama pratfall, as very deliberately emphasized and then re-emphasized by the president's top handlers and spin-meisters, as reported in their camp newsletter newspaper of choice (emphasis mine):
Faced with withering Republican criticism of his defense of the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near ground zero, President Obama quickly recalibrated his remarks on Saturday, a sign that he has waded into even more treacherous political waters than the White House had at first realized....
... Mr. Obama’s attempt to clarify his remarks, less than 24 hours after his initial comments at a White House iftar, a Ramadan sunset dinner, pushed the president even deeper into the thorny debate about Islam, national identity and what it means to be an American — a move that is riskier for him than for his predecessors....
....“I think it’s very important, as difficult as some of these issues are, that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about,” the president said here on Saturday.
White House aides say Mr. Obama was well aware of the risks. “He understands the politics of it,” David Axelrod, his senior adviser, said in an interview....
Mr. Obama has typically weighed in on such delicate matters only when circumstances have forced his hand, as he did during his campaign for president, when he gave a lengthy speech on race in America in response to controversy swirling around his relationship with his fiery former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
Debate about the Islamic center had been brewing for weeks, yet Mr. Obama had studiously sidestepped it.
But the Ramadan dinner seemed to leave the president little choice. Aides said there was never any question about what he would say.
“He felt that he had a responsibility to speak,” Mr. Axelrod said.
So let's put aside, for the nonce, whether this issue is remotely comparable in any way to candidate Obama's warm embrace and then bus-throwing-under of Rev. Wright (a political embarrassment unique to Obama and of own making). Let's not necessarily attribute to Obama or his staff, but instead let us assume for now the responsibility of the NYT's writers and editors, for the positively insane assertion that the Islamic religious calendar ever could or should leave the President of the United States "with little choice" or "force his hand." (After all, Obama can not only draw on all of his power as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive, he can fire up his special personal magic to lower the oceans and heal the planet; and you're telling me he's helpless, hopeless, and without alternatives that would let him even choose his own topics of discussion at a short speech at a dinner held to show respect to a religion he insists he doesn't belong to?)
And contrary to Obama's characterization, this controversy is in no way "difficult": Regardless of his or her political preferences, only a moron could fail to understand that (1) it's probably legal but (2) a spectacularly bad idea, as a matter of taste and policy (not law), for an Islamic center of the sort these particular folks are proposing to be built by these particular folks where they're proposing to build it. The only reason this controversy is still getting so much traction is that the 80% of Americans who instinctively understand and accept this simple distinction are quite properly annoyed that Barack Obama and the remaining 20% of Americans continue to insist on arguing about First Amendment rights.
But read again the part I've highlighted with green print — the part about "stay[ing] focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about." And then re-read the reasoning for why Obama and his staff thought they were compelled to take a position, any position, in this local land use controversy. This administration has once again told you, America, in just so many words, that it sees the President's job as telling you what your values are and, indeed, what they should be.
In fact, Obama and his administration see his role as national nanny and instructor in matters moral to be so paramount that he was forced, despite knowing the risks, to "wade deep" in controversy, to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous political fortune, just to set us straight on Friday. (And then to set us, uh, straighter, on Saturday.) Oh, poor, poor under-appreciated, misunderstood Barry! Because that's the spin, folks: Obama, according to Axelrod, hasn't been at all politically inept on this, but rather, he's been brave and selfless.
Now aren't you ashamed of yourself? You definitely should be!
The arrogance, the condescension, and the megalomania of Barack Obama and his minions continues to amaze me. Is there no political strategist with access to the Obama White House who can point out the obvious to them — that Obama's credibility has long since been exhausted, that even his relevance is fading, and that the single very best thing he could do for himself and his party right now would be to stop his own endless hemorrhage of talk, talk, talk?
Friday, August 13, 2010
The text of Beldar's email today to Michael Gerson
You wrote, "No child born in America can be judged unworthy by John Boehner, because each is his equal."
But no child born anywhere in the world has any better or worse basis to be "judged unworthy," either. Shall we just have done with it, then, and extend American citizenship to everyone born anywhere? Because that is where your logic inescapably runs.
A child didn't choose, or deserve, or not deserve, his parents either. His or her "inherent value" doesn't count for the selection of parents, either, but parents generally end up having an even bigger effect on us all than our citizenship. Sometimes life is unfair.
(Slightly edited for clarity.) If Mr. Gerson responds via email, then I'll bestir myself again to post about it.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Headlines that seem to explain a lot
From the dead-trees version of today's Houston Chronicle, from page B5 on the continuation of an article from page B1:
It turns out that the lawyer in question wasn't speaking about himself, and that "Bustamante" is actually the client. I suppose I should have known that no lawyer would have been that honest about himself/herself. No word yet, though, on the mental acuity of the Chronicle editor who wrote this headline.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Share your ideas for breaking the LA Times' stonewall on the Obama/Khalidi Tape
My blogospheric friend Roger L. Simon at Pajamas Media is soliciting reader ideas on how to get the Los Angeles Times to release a 2003 videotape of Rashid Khalidi and Barack Obama that may — there are sound reasons to believe — be very illuminating on Obama's basic attitudes and prejudices when it comes to Israel and its position in the Middle East. The LAT successfully stone-walled all requests for access to the tape before the 2008 election — I wrote about the issue here on November 8, 2008 — but I agree with Roger that this effort is worth reviving in light of The One's weird and hostile behavior toward Israel.
I've left my own ideas starting at comment 77 and continuing intermittently through comment 82. But I encourage you to contribute your own ideas, and at a minimum, to read Roger's post so you'll be aware of this issue for future reference.
Friday, February 12, 2010
In proposal to raise Ronald McDonald's taxes, Katrina vanden Heuvel beclowns herself
At the ridiculously named "Post-Partisan" blog on the WaPo, we find the following passage attributed to Katrina vanden Heuvel, who's the editor, part-owner, and publisher of the left-wing magazine The Nation as well as being the most predictably and unintentionally hilarious talking head on ABC News' "This Week" (emphasis mine):
At the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, it takes just under thirty minutes of work for an average burger-flipper to earn enough to buy a Big Mac (average American price, $3.58) on his lunch break.
Startlingly, it would still take that burger-flipper 29 minutes to earn enough to buy a head of organic romaine lettuce ($3.49/head). Add tomato ($4.99/pound), sweet onion ($1.49/pound), and carrots ($2.49/bunch); skim milk ($2.99/half gallon), hardboiled egg ($3.69/dozen), and whole wheat bread ($3.49/loaf), and to purchase his shopping basket, he’d need to clock over three hours of work, not to mention the unpaid labor he’d have to devote to preparing those groceries into a food-pyramid-friendly meal....
As the prices above indicate, [the American obesity] epidemic is not to be blamed on eating habits themselves — or even on their families. It is simply far less expensive to feed a family from the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s than it is to prepare fresh, healthy choices.
Ms. vanden Heuvel goes on to explain that tax breaks are the reason that McDonald's can feed your family more cheaply than your family can feed itself with store-bought groceries: "In 2006, McDonald’s spent $1 million every day on advertising aimed at American children, legally a tax-deductible business expenditure and, in effect, a subsidy given to the golden arches by the American people."
Her solution: We need to raise taxes! For the good of the children!
(The WaPo webpage from which I've taken those quotes, by the way, rather conspicuously displayed "tax breaks" (i.e., advertisements, the costs of which are considered to be legitimate business expenses of the advertisers) for IBM and the U.S. representative of a trade group promoting French champagnes. I hit the refresh button a few times and saw, in rotation, similar tax breaks for Bank of America, Xerox, Boeing, Sprint, and New York University. Damn, I'll bet Dick Cheney personally designed those web pages! Obviously we need to tax all advertisers more heavily. But why stop there? Let's raise taxes on the WaPo, ABC (or its parent, Disney), and The Nation too, since they're the ones enabling these advertising write-offs!)
(And by the way: I'm very impressed with just how far McDonald's has been able to stretch that million-dollar-a-day tax write-off, especially given that its corporate revenues last year were $22.74 billion, or $62.3 million/day, with an annual profit of $4.55 billion, or $12.47 million/day. If the tax savings from that million-a-day advertising deduction have indeed permitted McDonald's to both sell their food at below grocery-store raw ingredient prices and still generate that magnitude of revenues and profits, then we need to let Ronald McDonald take over Obama's efforts at dealing with the federal budget. If we're going to have a clown in charge, let's pick one who's demonstrated some success!)
Of course, it's only in vanden-Heuvel-World® that McDonald's is cheaper than buying groceries and cooking them yourself. Indeed, Ms. vanden Heuvel's post effectively proves to those of us in the, ahem, Reality Based Community that she's neither fed a family at McDonald's nor fed a family a homemade meal from groceries she's purchased.
Here's a pair of clues, Katrina no charge:
First, homemade meals from fresh ingredients cost less on a per-person and per-serving basis if, after you've had your healthy lunch, you refrain from throwing away the unused ingredients. Your computations come out quite differently if you'd merely recognize that your specified shopping basket can make more than one meal. Perhaps en route to your summa cum laude degree from Princeton, Katrina, you should have taken a detour to study basic home economics. (Or you could have asked one of your servants. Or even the intern you sent out to an overpriced Upper West Side Manhattan grocery to gather that list of prices, but only if he/she is actually living off the minimum wage you're probably paying, which the more I think about it seems pretty unlikely.)
Second, when you take your whole family to McDonald's, it costs more than one dollar even if you all order from the "Dollar Menu," and almost no one (much less an entire family) only orders a single Big Mac. (The "Dollar Menu," in my own considerable experience and observation at Mickey D's, is mostly used for adding an additional side item by those who would've felt too guilty following their initial instinct to super-size their Value Meal.) Suffice it to say that I've never gotten my four kids and myself out of McDonald's without breaking a second twenty-dollar bill.
When you're completely out of touch with reality, then raising taxes makes marvelous sense as the solution to every problem, real or imagined, doesn't it? Personal responsibility? Individual liberty? How can we possibly afford those things, when groceries are so damned much more expensive than McDonald's food?
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
NY appellate court throws Gunga Dan vs. CBS lawsuit out of court in its entirety
Just before last Christmas, in my most recent post about Dan Rather's much-publicized lawsuit against CBS, I explained that CBS' lead lawyer — my former law partner Jim Quinn — was operating under an unfortunate set of circumstances, as a result of which it was virtually certain that the case wouldn't shed any further or more definitive light on the Rathergate saga:
The problem ... — as I noted at length when Rather first filed his case, here ["The complaint that Sonnenschein's New York office has filed on Dan Rather's behalf ... is a nicely buffed and polished piece of garbage"] and here ["individual decision-makers within CBS may have overwhelming vested interests in ensuring that the facts are not thoroughly probed in court"] — is that Quinn's hands are effectively tied by the fact that his client was spectacularly gutless in its dealings with the psychotic prima donna who for so long occupied its anchor chair. Quinn's defense for CBS News won't be that Rather and Mapes and their entire team were incompetent, biased frauds who committed the worst kind of journalistic malpractice to change the outcome of a presidential election and then, when caught, tried to cover it up. CBS had ample, compelling, even glorious "good cause" to fire Rather no matter what time term remained on his contract or what other terms it contained to guarantee his preeminence at the network.
But CBS didn't do that. Instead, it convened the Thornburgh-Boccardi Panel, whose ultimate report was far from a bare-knuckled or clear-eyed assessment of the culpability of Rather and CBS News' top brass. CBS News eased Rather out, rather than immediately throwing his sorry butt on the street.
And now, instead of defending itself against Rather by using the awesome mechanisms of the law to prove, once and for all, the essential truths of Rathergate — including the indisputable fact that the Killian memos were pathetically obvious forgeries — CBS News' defense is not that Rather is a crazed scoundrel and a national disgrace, but that CBS fully performed its contractual obligations to Rather.
When I wrote that, Quinn had already persuaded the trial judge in New York state court to throw out major portions of Rather's claims without letting them go to a jury trial. New York procedural law permitted Rather to appeal that partial victory by CBS, and for CBS to cross-appeal the trial judge's refusal to throw out the rest of the case. Today, the intermediate New York appellate court, known as the Appellate Division (First Department), turned the trial judge's knockdown into an outright knockout — agreeing with Quinn (and Weil Gotshal & Manges partner Mindy J. Spector and associate Yehudah L. Buchweitz) that all of Rather's claims must be thrown out without a trial.
The 19-page opinion is dry and dull, which I'm sure is exactly what CBS and its lawyers preferred. After its introductory paragraphs, it contains essentially nothing about Bush, the Killian Memos, or the Rathergate controversy. Instead, the appellate court systematically demolished each of Rather's contract and tort claims, one after another, on what appear to be solid if unexciting grounds compelled by prior New York state-law precedents. At bottom, the appellate court concluded that it is indisputable that CBS lived up to its contractual obligations, and likewise indisputable that Rather couldn't show any damages of a sort recognized by New York law.
Rather's lawyers will doubtless seek rehearing in the Appellate Division, and when that is refused, they'll seek further review by the top appellate court in the New York state-court system, the New York Court of Appeals. I haven't read all of the briefing that led up to today's decision, and the briefs attacking and defending it haven't been drafted yet, but my educated guess at this point is that today's ruling will almost certainly hold up.
Thus (probably) ends the only lawsuit that could, under different circumstances (i.e., if CBS hadn't been so gutless), have given Dan Rather the thorough-going and definitive public crucifixion that he so richly deserved. I'm certainly not displeased to see my former colleagues so decisively win this case even before it went to trial, and I'm happier still that Rather undoubtedly spent a decent-sized fortune on paying his own lawyers. But as with the near-contemporaneous SwiftVets controversy from 2004, I'll always wish there had been an opportunity for the underlying facts to have been thoroughly and methodically probed through the civil justice system — by well-resourced and highly motivated parties, well-represented by superb counsel, each armed with the power to compel the production of documents and testimony, all under oath and in the harsh disinfecting glare of open court proceedings. John Kerry never made good on his or his surrogates' threats of litigation, and the target of Rather's malice, President Bush, would never have sued Rather, Mapes, or CBS even if their conspiracy had succeeded in tipping the election.
Sound arguments can be made that — my appetite for courtroom combat notwithstanding, and my belief that the civil justice system could have produced numerous significant "Perry Mason moments" in both — it's for the best that these two national controversies largely remained political, rather than spilling over into the courts. In any event, as the current publicity over Roman Polanski's re-arrest and possible extradition proves to all who have any moral compass whatsoever, there's a portion of the American public, mainly on the American left, who will essentially ignore even a sworn in-court confession by a monster who drugged and then raped (vaginally and anally) a child. Similarly, not even Rather or Kerry 'fessing up under oath could have persuaded some, or perhaps most, of the Bush-haters, because they long since had stopped being amenable to any evidence or any rational argument.
Monday, August 31, 2009
You know you're an SOB when ...
Funniest quote I've read in the Houston Chronicle in some time:
“It doesn't matter if you have a snowsuit on if you're touching customers, they're touching you they're a sexually oriented business,” Geffin told the judge. “You can call yourself a restaurant, you can call yourself an ice cream truck, but if your drawing card is topless dancers, you're an SOB, and you have to comply with the rules.”
Ice cream trucks actually do good business in Houston in August even without snowsuits or topless dancers. The tips may not quite match up, though.
Of course, this injunction hearing is all just another boring day at the office for State District Judge Randy Wilson. I'm reasonably sure he hasn't asked for the litigants to arrange a "premises view" on-site during business hours: The Harris County Civil District Courts' budget contains no money for dry-cleaning judicial robes to get the glitter and make-up off.
Assistant Harris County Attorney Geffin is probably right, of course. But trying to enforce these particular laws is like trying to bail the oceans using a tea-cup. (Or, perhaps, a DD-cup.) Although I've never been there, I'm told that this particular
strip joint entertainment venue is outside the City of Houston, well away from churches, schools, or family neighborhoods, and indeed that it's quite literally out in the middle of the woods. One has to wonder whether the Sheriff and Harris County Attorneys don't have other, more (ahem) pressing matters to investigate and prosecute with their limited resources.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
OMG! Like, before he was 30, Obama was a law review editor! ZOMG-OMG!!1!
From the New York Times:
Many American presidents have been lawyers, but almost none have come to office with Barack Obama’s knowledge of the Supreme Court. Before he was 30, he was editing articles by eminent legal scholars on the court’s decisions.
I'm sure the ghost of William Howard Taft, who'd been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit before he became POTUS, and who later (between 1921-1930) became the Chief Justice of the United States, is duly impressed that for one year in the early 1990s, Barack Obama edited law review articles about Supreme Court decisions. I'm sure the ghosts of Richard M. Nixon (No. 3 in his class at Duke Law and a name partner in a major New York law firm) and Gerald Ford (top quarter of his class as a scholarship student at Yale Law) or for that matter, Bill Clinton (Yale Law grad, former regular faculty member at the University of Arkansas Law School) are all just overwhelmed by the thought that a part-time non-tenure track lecturer who taught seminar classes in the basement at Chicago Law School, and who allowed his own law license to become inactive in 2002 (but who nevertheless continued to permit his part-time law firm to hold him out to the public as "of counsel" until 2004), is now going to pick the next member of the SCOTUS.
Almost every law review editor edits "articles by eminent legal scholars on the [Supreme C]ourt's decisions." Law reviews publish more stuff about SCOTUS decisions than about everything else put together. Obama, having interrupted his education for several years between college and law school, was unusually old to be a law student and, thus, unusually old to be a law review editor. By comparison, I was editing manuscripts by eminent legal scholars on the Supreme Court's decisions when I was 21, which made me a bit younger than the average law review editor. Big deal.
Besotted nitwits. In next Sunday's edition of the NYT: "Obama learned to tie his own shoes (with hardly any knots!) before he was eleven!" Surely he is The One!
Another well-crafted but foolish paragraph of Peggy Noonan's with which I disagree
Peggy Noonan can surely do better than allusions to '70s soft-rock hits like this one, even when she's right on the substance:
... [Obama's] presentation [during the past week] was low-key, authoritative, and had the look and feel of moderation. When you can give this impression while some of your decisions—for instance, on the legitimate cost and reach of government—are not, actually, moderate, you are demonstrating a singular political talent.
He is subtle and likes to kill softly. As such, he is something new on the political scene, which means he will require something new from his opponents, including, first, patience.
Well, yes, patience is needed, because even the next congressional elections aren't until November 2010, and Obama's not up for re-election until November 2012. But preparation is needed too, along with patience. Where Ms. Noonan goes badly astray this time is this:
[Republicans] have had a hard week. Someday years hence, when books are written about the Republican comeback, they may well begin with this low moment, and the bolting of Arlen Specter to the Democrats. It is fine to dismiss Mr. Specter as an opportunist, but opportunists tell you something: which side is winning. That's the side they want to be on.
Oh, Ms. Noonan, you're far more out of touch than even Arlen Specter is! We don't know yet we must have patience to learn, but aggressively prepare to seize the opportunities to affect whether Pennsylvania voters will send a Republican or a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 2010. But dear Ms. Noonan, bless your heart and your woefully myopic east-coastal blue-state-infected viewpoints, the "side [which] is winning" for sure, the side which for sure caused Arlen Specter to betray his vows and defect to the Democratic Party, is the side of the true conservatives whom Arlen Specter recognized were certain to oust him in the GOP primary. He doesn't know, and no one yet knows, whether he can win the Democratic Primary, or the general election if he gets the Dems' nomination. But he knew we all know, Ms. Noonan! why don't you? that he was going to lose the next race in which he was scheduled to run, that being the GOP primary.
Can you not tell the difference, Ms. Noonan, between fleeing from a battle one is certain to lose, and instead fleeing to a side that is certain to win? No one yet knows which side will win, which is to say, no side is certain to win. But Arlen Specter was certain to lose if he accepted the verdict of his own party on his performance. How could you miss that? How can you expect us to take seriously any of your other advice for the GOP when you're that blind?
There is a certain breed of Republican which is convinced that to become more competitive, GOP candidates must become even "more moderate" than John McCain or Arlen Specter. We could call them Noonarians; we could call them Frumarians; we could call them Parkersonians. Or we could call them RINOs. I will continue to voice my objections to their blather and oppose their ideas, but I will not call them apostates, and if they return to the Reaganite Big Tent, I will welcome them upon their return. Some day, perhaps we will all laugh together when we re-read the ridiculous things they wrote while they were in the thrall of Obamamania, things like "The task for conservatives is not so much to oppose the president, but to help him see." They'll blush, I hope, but feel no greater pain. (Surely by then their therapists will have cured them of their mania to finger-comb their hair for chunks of vomit.)
But they must get a grip first. They must forswear despair and the compromise of desperation. They must adhere to at least a few first principles, among them a faith in fiscal conservatism, free trade, federalism, and a robust foreign policy unapologetic for American exceptionalism and devoted to the maintenance and support of the world's preeminent military (not for its own sake, but for what it ensures and protects).
Ms. Noonan, you once were wise enough to sniff out an impostor, a poseur, a fraud like Arlen Specter, and to recognize when a piece of political trash like him was moving in the wrong direction. The Specter defection is indeed likely to be remembered by posterity as a turning point, but it will be one in which conservatives will be seen in hindsight to have taken a deep breath, then exhaled to clear a foul and traitorous stench before patiently buckling down to battle, and ultimately defeat, Barack Obama and his Hard Left minions. Buckle down, Ms. Noonan. As Lady Thatcher famously said, now's no time to go wobbly in the knees.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
Why I celebrate Chrysler's petition for Chapter 11 reorganization
Count me as one person entirely unsurprised to read that representatives of the Obama Administration were making outrageous and improper threats to the Chrysler bondholders whose refusal to capitulate ended up in Chrysler's Chapter 11 filing. White & Case bankruptcy lawyer Tom Lauria gave a radio interview to Detroit talk radio host Frank Beckman, portions of which are transcribed here, in which he said:
One of my clients was directly threatened by the White House and in essence compelled to withdraw its opposition to the deal under the threat that the full force of the White House Press Corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight. That’s how hard it is to stand on this side of the fence.
Beckman: Was that Perella Weinberg?
Lauria: That was Perella Weinberg.
And Obama himself actively participated in the shakedown:
Peter A. Weinberg and Joseph R. Perella are part of a band of Wall Street renegades — “a small group of speculators,” President Obama called them Thursday — who helped bankrupt Chrysler.
That, anyway, is the Washington line.
In fact, Mr. Weinberg and Mr. Perella, with sparkling Wall Street pedigrees, are the epitome of white-shoe investment bankers. And their boutique investment bank, a latecomer to Chrysler, played only a small role in the slow-motion wreck of the Detroit carmaker.
But now the two men, along with a handful of other financiers, are being blamed for precipitating the bankruptcy of an American icon. As Chrysler’s fate hung in the balance Wednesday night, this group refused to bend to the Obama administration and accept steep losses on their investments while more junior investors, including the United Automobile Workers union, were offered favorable terms.
In a rare flash of anger, the president scolded the group Thursday as Chrysler, its options exhausted, filed for bankruptcy protection. “I don’t stand with those who held out when everyone else is making sacrifices,” Mr. Obama said.
Chastened, and under intense pressure from the White House, the investment firm run by Mr. Weinberg and Mr. Perella, Perella Weinberg Partners, abruptly reversed course. In a terse statement issued shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday, Perella Weinberg Partners announced it would accept the government’s terms.
It was too late.
What made Perella Weinberg ultimately give in, when others like Oppenheimer Funds refused? One word: Vulnerability (emphasis mine):
Representatives for Perella Weinberg, which is advising the government on a wide range of banking issues, initially defended the firm’s decision to rebuff the government’s offer.
(Recall that I blogged on March 26 of this year about the odd fact that Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, had earned somewhere between $16-$20 million in something between two and three years as an investment banker at Wasserstein Perella & Co. when the Clinton Administration went into exile in 2001, even though Emanuel had zero education, training, or experience as an investment banker or any sort of businessman. And yes — that's the same Perella; he'd moved on to Morgan Stanley by the time Emanuel was at Wasserstein Perella & Co., but it's such a small world, isn't it?)
Glenn Reynolds and Ed Morrissey note the White House press corps' silence — which might be read to imply acquiescence — about being used as part of this threat. And I agree that that's an interesting facet of the story.
The bigger story, however, is that the Obama administration is engaged in a colossal abuse of power whose magnitude far exceeds a mere subversion of the White House press corps. Barack Obama has become Guido, the thug who everyone knows has not only a nasty habit of, but a nasty taste for, breaking kneecaps. And the beneficiary of his current shakedowns are the United Auto Workers.
Obama is counting on the fact that many, probably most, Americans don't know or care about basic principles of corporate finance. But the fact is that all investments — stocks, bonds, notes, commercial paper, CDs, demand deposits, mutual fund shares, whatever — are legal contracts whose very nature is defined by the way they structure and allocate risk of default and prospect for profit.
On the simplest level, for example, in general, people who buy equity in a business, typically by purchasing shares of its common stock, have the greatest potential upside if the business is profitable because they're buying a percentage interest in it, and if the pie keeps getting larger, so too will their slice of the pie. Someone who instead merely loans money to that business — by buying, for example, notes or bonds or debentures that are, at bottom, fancy IOUs — generally forgoes that upside potential, and instead takes only a promise for repayment plus some specified and limited amount of interest. But in general, those who invest by loaning money to businesses also have less risk, because in bankruptcy proceedings — again, speaking on the broadest of terms, and as a general rule — creditors who are owed money by the bankrupt company's estate are ranked, and then paid or otherwise accommodated, before any equity owners (shareholders) get anything. And as a consequence, it's very typical for creditors to get pennies on the dollar, perhaps plus some shares of equity in a reorganized "new" post-bankruptcy company, while the shareholders have been wiped out completely.
And among creditors, there are also rankings. Those who've insisted upon and gotten collateral for their loans — making them "secured creditors" — generally forewent higher interest rates in exchange for the pledge of that collateral. Those who have no collateral, but merely a general, unsecured claim for repayment, are "unsecured creditors." They relied only on the company's general credit-worthiness and, to a lesser extent, the better treatment that even general unsecured creditors get in bankruptcy as compared to equity holders.
I repeat, this is all basic to the entire system of business investments. If these core principles are disturbed, there will be no more capital markets — no ability to buy shares of stock or corporate bonds, no way for growing companies to expand by selling equity or taking on debt.
What the Obama Administration has been trying to do, however, has been to cajole or — it's now becoming more clear — threaten people who carefully bargained for less risk, and who thereby had to settle for lower rewards all along, into voluntarily forfeiting the protections they bought and paid for in the event of the underlying business' insolvency. Primarily through Chrysler's pension and retiree health-care obligations, the UAW is a creditor of Chrysler, but one whose position is less favored by the bankruptcy laws than the investors (debt holders) represented by companies like Oppenheimer Funds or Perella Weinburg. Unlike the UAW, their clients negotiated, bought, and paid for the rights not to have to have to make the same "sacrifices" that equity holders or general unsecured creditors would be compelled to make under the bankruptcy laws. But Obama insists — on pain of presidential demonization and worse — that these so-called "renegades" and "speculators" (who've actually been guilty of nothing other than greater prudence) make those sacrifices anyway, and that they do so specifically in order to benefit the UAW!
This goes beyond populism or pro-unionism. Barack Obama is engaged in an assault on not just the entire system of business in the free world, but on the American rule of law upon which it is founded. And that, gentle readers, is why I celebrated Chrysler's Chapter 11 filing. Instead of backroom deals made through strong-arm tactics, whatever happens now will take place under the disinfecting sunlight of the United States Courts. And that will, in turn, help frustrate Barack Obama's scheme.
Oh, I fully expect that even in bankruptcy court, the Obama Administration will continue to work hard to tilt the playing field to favor the UAW and to disfavor everyone else. It will continue to at least try to call most of the shots as Chrysler struggles toward a reorganization plan. And it's not inconceivable to me that Obama will try to enlist Congress' cooperation — custom "tweaks" of the Bankruptcy Code — in an effort to do so.
But it's going to be harder for the Obama Administration to continue making these unconscionable threats now that there is at least some due process structure that must be followed. And while the federal government is frequently involved in one way or another in bankruptcy proceedings, I can confirm to you from personal experience that it doesn't always get its way there. (But that's a long story I'll save for another day.)
UPDATE (Sat May 2 @ 8:00pm): As has often been disclosed elsewhere on this blog and on my professional website, although bankruptcy court litigation has been only an occasional part of my practice, I was a litigation partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges from 1989-1991. WG&M has long represented General Motors; I did trivial amounts of work for GM when I was at WG&M; and WG&M will likely be its bankruptcy counsel when and if GM also files for Chapter 11 protection. Oppenhemier & Co. was also a WG&M client when I was there, and I represented it from time to time on non-bankruptcy related matters. But I don't currently represent anyone with an actual or potential interest in either the Chrysler or (potential) GM bankruptcies, and my current practice mainly focuses on representing small businesses — some of whom are debtors and some of whom are creditors, but all of whom respect and abide by the rule of law that Barack Obama is trying to undermine.
UPDATE (Sat May 2 @ 8:45pm): Count the usually sane Steven Pearlstein of the WaPo as one of those blood-thirsty fans who are cheering Guido the Kneecapper from the galleries (emphasis mine):
The creditors are right when they say that Obama offered a sweetheart deal to Chrysler's employees and retirees, who as unsecured creditors would have stood in line behind banks and hedge funds in a liquidation and would probably have received nothing. It's also true, as the unhappy creditors point out, that it was the above-market wages and benefits negotiated by the United Auto Workers that helped to bring Chrysler to the brink of bankruptcy in the first place.
But those arguments are really beside the point. If the U.S. government wants to lend billions of dollars to help save the jobs, pensions and health benefits of hundreds of thousands of workers, that is certainly its prerogative. And it doesn't have to extend the benefits of that bailout in equal measure to the banks and hedge funds that stupidly lent $6.9 billion to finance a highly leveraged buyout of a long-troubled automaker.
Shorter version: Screw the law, screw your contracts, screw what's fair and who's to blame we won. Now Pappy Obama is gonna give and give to the UAW, using a combination of tax dollars (just a bit), deficit spending (quite a bit), and money that, by law and all the rules upon which our business system was built, should go to people who loaned money to Chrysler when no one else would, but on terms that were supposed to protect them from this kind of thuggery.
Disgusting. And tragic.
[W]hen did it become the government's job to intervene in the bankruptcy process to move junior creditors who belong to favored political constituencies to the front of the line? Leave aside the moral point that these people lent money under a given set of rules, and now the government wants to intervene in our extremely well-functioning (and generous) bankruptcy regime solely in order to save a favored Democratic interest group. [That's exactly the moral point Pearlstein, quoted above, honestly but eagerly discarded and then defecated upon. Beldar]
No, leave that aside for the nonce, and let's pretend that the most important thing in the world, far more interesting than stupid concepts like the rule of law, is saving unions. What do you think this is going to do to the supply of credit for industries with powerful unions? My liberal readers who ardently desire a return to the days of potent private unions should ask themselves what might happen to the labor movement in this country if any shop that unionizes suddenly has to pay through the nose for credit. Ask yourself, indeed, what this might do to Chrysler, since this is unlikely to be the last time in the life of the firm that they need credit. Though it may well be the last time they get it, on anything other than usurious terms.
The reason I think they might be simply naïve is that unless the Obama Administration's desires and efforts are indeed checked by the disinfecting sunlight of the bankruptcy court and the rule of law, not even someone permitted (contrary to law) to lend money to Chrysler on usurious terms will do so. If the federal government can get away with stripping your creditors of all of their contractual protections collateral-smatteral! hah! to effect a massive transfer of wealth from them to the government's current favorites, then it doesn't matter if you're paying 50% or 150% interest per annum: No one will lend any money on any terms.
I'm wondering if Ms. McArdle (who I adore as a fine writer and a fine thinker, a libertarian economist of the first rank) is still laboring under the delusion that the Obama Administration gives a rat's patoot over the "long term" or the "integrity of the marketplace" or the "rule of law." Her point is entirely valid, just as it would have been entirely valid to lecture John Dillinger on how he and his loved ones would ultimately be better off living in a society whose would-be bank robbers restrained their inclinations and instead worked hard and invested for the long term. But valid doesn't mean effective, and that argument wouldn't have worked on Dillinger. It won't work on
Guido the Kneecapper Obama either, because there are still massive amounts of loot yet to be redistributed from those who've earned it to those who merely want it (and can be relied upon to vote a straight Democratic ticket).
Doesn't Ms. McArdle understand? Obama won. If he and his friends at the UAW had any care for the long term and the national good, they wouldn't have methodically killed the golden goose that was supposed to fund all those pension and health care obligations in the first place.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Lines that cannot have come from a conservative's pen
Quoth Kathleen Parker (italics hers, boldface mine):
As a recovering obsessive-compulsive, the past 100 days have been a torture of quantification. How’s he doing SO far? Is he the change we’ve been waiting for? Is Barack Obama really a centrist, as so many (including I) had hoped? Or is he one of them dadgum fascist-Marxist-commie-Moozlems?!
Obama is who he said he is—a pragmatist. It just so happens that pragmatism under present circumstances demands/justifies/warrants what are rather socialist solutions. The president is in the unique position of being able to say with face straight and heart true: I’m not a lefty ideologue. It’s just that Republican leadership has left us in the sort of economic free fall that only Big Government can rescue.
Sister Parker, you're hopelessly lost. Put the pen down. If you ever want to be taken seriously again by anyone who genuinely is conservative — or who even understands conservatism as an abstract proposition — then you need to go back to first principles. (Hint: They may be found in many places, but they are emphatically not found in Das Kapital.) And then you need to study history, including recent history.
But right now, you're so far gone that you're incapable of embarrassing us, or further embarrassing yourself. You're just a disgrace, with all the grace and credibility of a loud fart in church.
But no. This isn't an isolated toot that just slipped out, this is a full-fledged attack that would have made John Belushi blush:
... But my truest sense of Obama is that he thinks hard about each issue and that his mind is open. He is still finding out how to be president, listening instead of talking; watching and measuring, as children from disrupted childhoods learn to do.
The task for conservatives is not so much to oppose the president, but to help him see. Show him a better idea and he will consider it....
Ms. Parker, your harmless savant, your open-minded savior, has just proposed and passed a budget that quadruples an already unconscionable federal deficit just for this year. And with his co-conspirators of the Democratic Party, he has committed us to a spending spree that, in constant dollars, exceeds what this country spent on World Wars 1 and 2, the New Deal, the Marshall Plan, and the Iraq War combined. This is what you call "listening instead of talking"?
If this is what he does when he's still "finding out how to be president," then God save the universe from what he'll do when he "grows up"!
Please, Ms. Parker, please stop. You're becoming like the drunk girl at the frat party with such a crush on the frat president that she's unaware there's still vomit in her hair.
Is there no genuine conservative in Ms. Parker's life who can mount a compassionate intervention?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
When will Obama succumb to the pressure and begin to Wag the Dog?
Conrad 'Connie' Brean: And it's most certainly NOT about the B-3 bomber.
John Levy: There IS no B-3 bomber.
Conrad 'Connie' Brean: I just said that! There is no B-3 bomber. I don't know how these rumors get started!
— Dialog from Wag the Dog (1997)
Through adroit triangulation, fierce stonewalling, the constant spin of the perpetual campaign, and other, related tactics, William Jefferson Clinton managed to bounce off of scandals and crises. He did so throughout his presidential campaign. He continued to do so throughout his first and much of his second term in office.
Barely two months into his first term, by contrast, Barack Obama has yet to even finish making subcabinet nominations to the single executive department (Treasury) most acutely critical to surviving his first major crisis ever. And Obama shows early signs of being coated not in presidential Teflon but in Velcro. If not for the fact that most of Obama's foreign policy blunders so far must be laid at the feet of the State Department, which is in turn presided over by Slick Willie's wife, then the Clintonista wing of the Democratic Party — the folks who don't take it for granted that Obama will be renominated in 2012 — would surely be crowing more overtly about how badly Barack Obama's first few weeks in office have compared to Bill Clinton's.
Obama has dispelled his mystical (and entirely unproven) aura of competence with breathtaking rapidity. I began my mental planning for this post by asking myself: "Self, of all the functions which the Constitution and our modern systems of government entrust to the POTUS, which ones do you still have even a modicum of confidence that Barack Obama is capable of performing? (As compared, say, to the modest but hopeful list which you, as a pretty skeptical conservative, would have constructed for him on his Inauguration Day?)"
Yes, Obama has proved this week that he's capable of reading aloud from a teleprompter, without faltering, not only his own speech but even the speech intended for the Irish Prime Minister.\*/ And he's proved that his adoring media are still so much in the bag for him that they'll cover that up for him. But of the medium- and up-sized potatoes on every POTUS' plate, which ones do I confidently still expect Barack Obama to be competent to handle?
I'm genuinely open to more suggestions in the comments. But I could only come up with one: I'm pretty sure he won't arbitrarily and suddenly launch a nuclear strike on Russia. And that's it. That exhausts my list of things I'm confident that Barack Obama won't screw up as POTUS, and I reserve the right to revise my opinion on that.
That abysmally short list led me to the further recollection and reflection, again comparing the current clown crew to the Clinton Administration:
Just like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton had utterly no experience for, and seemingly little interest in, his role as Commander in Chief at the start of his administration. Other than stepping on seemingly everyone's toes with the ham-handed policy that became "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and then systematically gutting military budgets, Bubba didn't actually exercise much authority in that capacity for a long time.
But after enough domestic Teflon had chipped away — and especially after Slick Willie's own magnificently tragic, tragically magnificent self-destructive instincts had left his DNA on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress — Clinton's previous scandal and crisis diversion strategies had lost most of their magic. And that's when Bill Clinton tried repeatedly to transform himself into a combination of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Captain America:
August 17, 1998:
After testifying to a grand jury, Slick Willie admits to national TV audience that he had engaged in an "inappropriate relationship" with Monica Lewinsky and that he had lied to the entire country about it.
August 20, 1998:
Commander-in-Chief Clinton announces Operation Infinite Reach, a series of cruise missile strikes on supposed al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Sudan to retaliate for the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998
December 19, 1998:
After a nine-week Congressional inquiry, Slick Willie becomes the second POTUS in American history to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.
December 16–19, 1998:
Commander-in-Chief Clinton launches Operation Desert Fox, a "major four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets ... officially undertaken in response to Iraq's alleged failure to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions" and its "interference with United Nations Special Commission inspectors."
February 12, 1999:
The Comeback Kid is acquitted in the Senate.
April 12, 1999:
Slick Willie held in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright.
March 24, 1999,
to June 11, 1999:
Commander-in-Chief Clinton commences Operation Allied Force, the NATO bombing of Serbian forces to stop the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
The entirely non-fictional technique documented in tabular form above had been postulated in a 1993 book by Larry Beinhart, American Hero, about fictionalized politicians' capitalization on the 1990-1991 Gulf War. But the book had then been updated by David Mamet and Hillary ("no, not that Hillary") Henkin into a brilliant Oscar-nominated screenplay — the outrageous but all-too-plausible story of a Clinton-inspired (albeit pre-Lewinsky) fictionalized POTUS with an out-of-control libido, and more specifically, the incredible efforts required of his staff to divert national attention from his resulting Oval Office sex scandal. Re-named Wag the Dog, the movie was directed by Barry Levinson. It was shot in 1997 and released on January 9, 1998 — only days before Matt Drudge first brought public attention to the Lewinsky scandal on January 17, 1998. The movie is accurately summarized (albeit with spoilers and no surplus of polish) in this imdb.com synopsis:
The movie starts with a scandal at the White House where The President is accused of fondling a young girl scout visiting the Oval Office just a few weeks before an election. Being the third party observers, we know the truth, he's guilty. Robert DeNiro plays "Conrad Brean" the spin doctor who's job it is to engineer a way and a means to divert the news of the scandal. He brings in Hollywood producer Stanley Motts played by Dustin Hoffman to create an artificial for television only war to distract the American public and let the President get on with the job at hand, protecting the free world.
We, like the American public, get caught up in the events of a fictional war produced in the basement of the White House with computers and blue screens, actors and scenarios. Soon they even release a mental patient who once served in the military because he has the right last name, "Shoe" to portray a war hero of the conflict. They release him because they have a show song from a nostalgic old tune that contains his name, a war tune now to drum up sympathy and national support for the war effort. It doesn't take ten minutes of the movie before we, like the cast of characters and the public in the movie have forgotten about the young girl in the oval office.
And in case you're wondering, UsingEnglish.com tells us this about the origin of the idiomatic movie title:
To "wag the dog" means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the [less]-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue. The expression comes from the saying that "a dog is smarter than its tail," but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would "wag the dog."
So how long will it be before Obama can no longer resist the urge to put on a leather flight jacket and get some deck time aboard one of our magnificent aircraft carriers? Can they hurry up the sea trials on CVN 77 — the USS George H.W. Bush — so they can claim some more bipartisanship and be sure to have plenty of fiber optic bandwidth for the visuals and computer processing power for the CGI?
With Clintonista eloquence, both the SecState and the White House Chief of Staff have been quoted recently as vowing never to let a good crisis go to waste. But it's only a half-step from there — and a damned familiar half-step, a slick sideways shuffle that Hillary Clinton could do in her sleep even on a bad hair day, without having to hit either the "reset" or "overcharge" button at Foggy Bottom — to manufacturing a crisis.
I would place a sizable bet that even now, Rahm Emmanuel has his minions out searching for a suitably-2009 version of Sergeant William "Good Old Shoe" Schumann (played by Woody Harrelson in 1997) and aspiring young actress Tracy Lime (played by Kirsten Dunst in 1997) to build his video footage around. Perhaps this time the guy will be a hard-boiled cop-turned-soldier — fighting overwhelming odds behind enemy lines after being shot down over the Netherland Antilles — just so he can capture and bring to justice those who stole his 401k and pension funds to use as as bonuses for AIG executives. This time, she'll be a ravished, ravishing mortgage foreclosee wandering the ruined, abandoned neighborhoods of her native Georgia — with suitable and studied ambiguity about whether it's the Eastern European or American-South one — whose desperately clutched bag of Tostitos can be CGI-enhanced into ... not a kitten this time, but a slightly cracked ol' piggy bank. And the HuffPo and Newsweek can run a joint online/print exposé revealing that all those nasty securitized mortgage derivatives were actually bundled and released on an unsuspecting world by — who else? — Dick Cheney's paramilitary brokerage agents, operating jointly out of Wall Street and super-secret Halliburton black ops bases in South Ossetia.
If they play this just right, this conflict will generate major "awards ceremonies buzz" from day one. I'm thinking the first ever joint presentation — probably to the POTUS himself — of a simultaneous Best Leading Man Oscar and a Congressional Medal of Honor, with tuxedoed and tap-dancing Barney Frank and Hugh Jackman presiding jointly over the ceremonies. Rahm — don't delay, baby, go ahead and get the Temple of Obama props back out of storage and book the L.A. Colosseum!
\*/UPDATE (Thu Mar 26 @ 9:05pm): Apparently the AP misreported the details of the teleprompter foul-up during the press conference with the Irish Prime Minister; in context, it appears that Obama was making a joke about the teleprompter operator's earlier substitution of his (Obama's) speech when Premier Brian Cohen had begun his remarks, rather than actually reading Cohen's speech. (H/t Instapundit.)
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Stupidest tool with internet access and some semblance of an audience who's commented upon the Obama inauguration
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things....
— Barack Obama, Inaugural Address upon becoming the 44th President of the United States.
There is simply no excuse for United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts bungling the presidential oath of office to such an extent that Barack Obama might need to do it again, at least in private, to ensure the legality of his inauguration.
Roberts should be impeached and removed from office for this unforgivable error....
— Craig Crawford, supposed pundit, incompetent member of the Florida Bar, all-around tool, and someone I'd describe as a "child" except for the fact that that would be an unfair insult to the world's children.
The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour ....
— Article III, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which conspicuously fails to mention isolated, innocent slips of the tongue, no matter how embarrassing, as constituting a lack of "good behaviour" sufficient to remove members of the federal judiciary from office.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Rather seeks trial to promote his revisionist history, but the world still can't look to CBS News for the actual truth
I played a small but enthusiastic part as one of bloggers who were scrutinizing Dan Rather, "60 Minutes," and CBS News during the 2004 Rathergate controversy. As I reminisced earlier this fall:
CBS executive vice president Jonathan Klein had derided the bloggers who were writing daily about the forgeries and CBS News' then-still-ongoing efforts to defend the indefensible — famously saying that "you couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances [at CBS News and "60 Minutes"], and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks."
I was another one of those pajamas-wearing bloggers, and Hugh [Hewitt and others] appreciated the irony that CBS News had nevertheless thought enough of me some years earlier [when I was an associate at Houston-based Baker Botts] to employ me (without pajamas) as its own lead counsel before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, when I successfully defended a summary judgment in CBS News' favor in a defamation lawsuit based on another of its national broadcasts.
But there's still more in my "small world of Rathergate" department: CBS News is now being defended in Dan Rather's lawsuit against it by Jim Quinn of New York-based Weil, Gotshal & Manges. I also practiced in the Houston office of that firm for four years, the last three of those (1988-1991) as Quinn's partner.
Although we were in the same practice area, represented some common clients, and consulted on a few matters, Quinn and I didn't ever work together closely or get to know one another well, and I left that firm in 1992 to return to a Texas-based firm with whose partners I had far more in common. So I have nothing even remotely resembling "inside information," nor continuing connections by which I might even accidentally blunder into any. And the coincidence that more than a decade later, one of Quinn's former partners in a national mega-firm later became a conservative blogger critical of both Rather and CBS News creates no conflict of interest for Quinn or WG&M.
Quinn's had some early success against Rather and his lawyers, and in a November 2008 NYT article, Quinn was quoted confidently talking a good game about his client's odds:
Jim Quinn, a lawyer at Weil, Gotshal & Manges who is representing CBS, said in an interview that whatever Mr. Rather had learned in the discovery process would not help his case. He said it was the network that had gained the most ground, especially in persuading the judge to dismiss five of the seven original claims by Mr. Rather, as well any claims against individual CBS executives. CBS is believed to be spending about as much on its defense as Mr. Rather is spending.
Mr. Quinn also said CBS would consider asking for a summary dismissal of the case, once the process of discovery had concluded. “Either on summary judgment or at trial, we feel very comfortable we’ll succeed,” he said. “We feel the case is meritless.”
And if I may lapse for a moment into the kind of crude language Texas courtroom veterans often use when referring to "New York litigators," Jim Quinn is no only-motion-practice silk-pants candy-ass. He's got his share of scars and the legal street-smarts that can only be acquired by actually trying a fair number of significant cases to a verdict.
The problem, though — as I noted at length when Rather first filed his case, here and here — is that Quinn's hands are effectively tied by the fact that his client was spectacularly gutless in its dealings with the psychotic prima donna who for so long occupied its anchor chair. Quinn's defense for CBS News won't be that Rather and Mapes and their entire team were incompetent, biased frauds who committed the worst kind of journalistic malpractice to change the outcome of a presidential election and then, when caught, tried to cover it up. CBS had ample, compelling, even glorious "good cause" to fire Rather no matter what time term remained on his contract or what other terms it contained to guarantee his preeminence at the network.
But CBS didn't do that. Instead, it convened the Thornburgh-Boccardi Panel, whose ultimate report was far from a bare-knuckled or clear-eyed assessment of the culpability of Rather and CBS News' top brass. CBS News eased Rather out, rather than immediately throwing his sorry butt on the street.
And now, instead of defending itself against Rather by using the awesome mechanisms of the law to prove, once and for all, the essential truths of Rathergate — including the indisputable fact that the Killian memos were pathetically obvious forgeries — CBS News' defense is not that Rather is a crazed scoundrel and a national disgrace, but that CBS fully performed its contractual obligations to Rather. Thus, Quinn was quoted saying in April 2008 that
the contract issue left [after the pretrial rulings dismissing most of Rather's claims] relates to "whether or not we 'benched' him and whether he had sufficient time on 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II after he stepped down as the anchorperson."
"We obviously say we gave him all the time in the world," says Quinn.
So: No one can expect Quinn or his client to win this case via the righteous, straightforward path. CBS long since forfeited the absolute high ground, and it's left instead trying to stick to a comparative high ground, in which it must rely on establishing that Rather is merely being unreasonable and greedy (instead of crazed, corrupt, and paranoid).
This case may provide some fine moments of legal theater. But no one should labor under any misconceptions that it's even remotely about justice.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Blog noir at Patterico's
Wikipedia tells us that "film noir," literally "black film," is
a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize moral ambiguity and sexual motivation. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as stretching from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography, while many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Depression.
But my friend and fellow lawyer-blogger Patrick Frey is exploring two frontiers simultaneously: One is the citizen-journalist-blogger paradigm, where a knowledgeable blogger (day job: California state-court prosecutor) digs through the debris that the mainstream media have discarded or, perhaps, buried, to bring you not just punditry but fresh and genuine reporting.
The second frontier is what we might call "blog noir" because it involves crime, moral ambiguity galore, and so many of the sorts of characters that give these fictional films their glamor — the prize-winning star reporter who may make, or cover up, as much news as he reports; the rich entertainer who's been brutally murdered; the snitch; the fall guy; and an assortment of other cops, lawyers, press types, and Hollywood stars and wannabe-stars. I'm still waiting for Patterico to find a cool blonde dame with legs down to there and an attitude up to here as part of the mix — but Patterico's writing about real life, and maybe there's not a Kim Bassinger role in this drama.
Or maybe she doesn't show up until Act II, which is promised for later.
Mickey Kaus' teaser post could be the blurb for the book jacket:
Poor "Pulitzer" Chuck Philips! Patterico is on Philips' case, he doesn't seem about to give up, and he has a hot doc. ... P.S.: This isn't the embarrassing Philips screw-up that led to a spectacular LAT retraction in April. This is another, potentially more-than-embarrassing, incident — but also related to the Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls murder stories.
Peel this one like an onion, folks, starting with Patterico's executive summary and then working down as deep as you care to drill.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Twisted dollop of evil scum Bill Ayers claims his and Weather Underground's bombs were mere "protests" and never terrorism, but that U.S. gov't "murdered" thousands every month
I know that when John McCain called Bill Ayers just "some washed up old terrorist," he was trying to minimize Ayers' significance and deprive him of any current relevancy.
But that was just another of McCain's well-intentioned misjudgments.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends and neighbors, there is evil in the world, and Bill Ayers was, and remains to this very day, a twisted dollop of evil scum. Perhaps he hasn't set off a bomb in the previous few years — although I wouldn't bet the ranch on that, and he still refuses to rule out future violence — but he's as totally inappropriate a candidate for the phrase "washed up" as Adolf Eichmann was just because he hadn't gassed any Jews in the previous few years before his trial and execution in 1962.
Proof: In a post-election interview yesterday with ABC News, this piece of excrement had the nerve — one might say, "the audacity" — to simultaneously contend that the bombings he and his comrades in the Weather Underground did were "not terrorism because [they didn't] target people, to kill or injure," but that "thousands of people were being murdered every month" by the lawful, elected, democratic government of the United States of America. That's a despicable, intentional, unforgivable, scurrilous lie, immediately followed by another.
It is a terrible mistake to try to minimize great evil. Ayers already lacks legitimacy; he cannot be further delegitimized or marginalized by wishful, inaccurate thinking like that represented by McCain's dismissive language.
I can excuse, barely, Chris Cuomo of ABC's "Good Morning America" for speaking to this vile bastard without overtly judgmental statements: Sometimes journalists arguably have to sheer away their own humanity to expose evil to public view.
But anyone else who could sit in the same room with Bill Ayers without complaint, without speaking out about his continued depravity, has deliberately chosen to ignore evil — and by ignoring it, to perpetuate and implicitly defend it. That this worm has taken Barack Obama's election as his cue to crawl from his hole and spew his nasty lies is one of the sickest and saddest things I've ever seen happen in America.
And to the extent John McCain's characterization of Ayers was a suggestion that nobody ought to care anymore, then even McCain had lost his own moral compass.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
A plea to John McCain: Find and expose the anonymous sources telling lies about Sarah Palin and use the McCain temper to "make them famous"
In the many hours I spent online doing background research on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin before I wrote my first post about her on June 8, 2008, I read many dozens of newspaper stories about her, dating back to her time as mayor of Wasilla in the late 1990s, in the state's largest newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, as well as in some of the smaller Alaska newspapers. I was specifically looking for negatives: I knew that the Democrats would be too, in the (then unlikely) event that Gov. Palin became a serious possibility as the GOP Veep nominee.
The single most frequently recurring theme was that Sarah Palin's political opponents underestimated her. In every campaign, her opponent attacked her as inexperienced. None of them argued, however, that she was stupid. The closest any opponent ever came to that was one of her two opponents in the 2006 gubernatorial race, Andrew Halcro, who claimed that she didn't immerse herself in the minutia of policy detail in which he himself reveled. Halcro is a wonk, and an annoying, patronizing twerp, and a sore loser, and the people of Alaska recognized that by leaving him an embarrassing distant third in that race, with less than 10% of their votes. But even Halcro didn't claim that Sarah Palin was stupid.
Nor did anyone else of consequence make that claim during Gov. Palin's first year-and-a-half as governor. She was criticized for having "sharp elbows," for holding political grudges, and for disfavoring those who'd crossed her — complaints leveled by losers left behind in the wake of every successful politician, because that's the loser-side view of being held accountable for ones actions and positions. But dim? Provincial? Uneducated? Nobody in Alaska had ever seriously charged Sarah Palin with being an airhead — not even the political enemies she'd left bleeding in the dust.
Because she was relatively unknown outside Alaska, however — and, very frankly, because she is an attractive woman who could therefore be easily tagged with the most cruel and sexist of stereotypes, the airhead — from the day John McCain announced her as his vice presidential nominee, her political opponents simply began manufacturing lies about her, many of which were designed to reinforce that airhead stereotype.
It did not surprise me that partisans opposed to the GOP ticket would believe these lies. But it very much surprised me that some smart centrists and even nominal conservatives did too.
I'll give you an example — one that makes me sick at heart. I've read Dr. James Joyner's blog, Outside the Beltway, regularly since before I started blogging myself in 2003. I regarded him as one of the most articulate, knowledgeable, and reasonable right-of-center bloggers around. I was tickled to be invited to participate by telephone in his podcast immediately after the Palin announcement in late August, and I agreed with him and the other participants that Gov. Palin was an exciting choice. Some time shortly after that, however, something changed Dr. Joyner's mind about Gov. Palin. And he now seriously purports to believe, for example, that Gov. Palin "couldn't even name a newspaper she read." That's not an isolated or snarky comment; that's consistent with everything he's written about Gov. Palin for weeks in perfect seriousness. And it's no different than if he were to insist that really, seriously, Joe Biden can't count to four because he claims "J-O-B-S" is a three-letter word. People joked about "Bush Derangement Syndrome," and about "Palin Derangement Syndrome" as its successor. But at some point this kind of thing stops being a joke and becomes a genuine cognative disability — an inability to process and deal in a rational fashion with objective data because of a bias that is so intense that it blocks out reality.
I can't explain it. I just hope it's a temporary, acute problem rather than something long-term or possibly organic, like the sort of brain tumors or lesions of which Dr. Oliver Sachs writes in his book, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." I'm not being at all snarky here. Rather, I'm entirely serious, because I have considered Dr. Joyner a friend, and I am genuinely concerned for his mental health. He, Andrew Sullivan, and others in their camp are completely persuaded that they can see a degree of ignorance in Gov. Palin which is utterly inconsistent with anyone's ability to function as the governor of any state, but to which hundreds of thousands of Alaskans were absolutely blind for many years despite a much better opportunity to assess Gov. Palin first-hand. That kind of thinking represents a break with reality, one that's not funny at all, but genuinely sad.
The latest of the deliberate liars — the people who are inventing stuff out of whole cloth, maliciously and without any pretense of a factual basis, without any regard for their utter implausibility — are the cowardly, sniveling pieces of garbage who've been masquerading as "campaign aides" for the McCain-Palin campaign. They are the worst kind of traitors in politics. Like the scumballs who invented the list of books that Sarah Palin had supposedly wanted burned when she was mayor of Wasilla — and who included in the list Harry Potter books that hadn't even been written when Gov. Palin was mayor — these anonymous assassins don't even bother to come up with plausible lies: Why bother, when mainstream publications like Newsweek will uncritically regurgitate them to millions without doing the most basic fact-checking?
It's time for this to end. It's time for the liars to be identified to the public and held accountable.
To Carl Cameron and others at Fox News: Shame on you for granting these people anonymity. There is no basis in journalistic ethics for you to do that. Shame on you for reporting this garbage at all.* With the exception of a few there like Greta Van Susterin who've refused to buy into this nonsense, you are rapidly eroding such credibility and respectability as your network had earned among Americans disgusted with the mainstream media in general. Stop what you're doing immediately.
To Sen. John McCain: Although you were far from my first choice as the GOP nominee, I've spent hundreds of hours working on your campaign's behalf, as have many others who were thrilled by your selection of Gov. Palin as your running mate.
I never thought I would have cause to label you, of all people, as a coward or dishonorable. You're acting in a cowardly and dishonorable fashion, however, by permitting people identified with your campaign to make these anonymous attacks on Gov. Palin. Identify them. Make them famous. If what they say is true, then make them back it up. If it is not — and I believe it is not — then expose them as liars so that no GOP politician will ever again dare hire these sniveling worms. They have no honor, but they are besmirching yours. And your silence is compounding this problem with every hour that passes. It's time, and past time, finally, for your long-suppressed temper to be unleashed, because you finally have targets who deserve the worst public tongue-lashing you can deliver.
To any and every potential GOP leader, including Mitt Romney: If I ever learn that you are knowingly employing any of these traitors, I will oppose your candidacy for any office, and do everything within my power to persuade others to oppose you too. Gov. Romney, you need to be heard on this matter too, immediately and forcefully, regardless of whether those responsible are in fact, as is being widely reported, former or prospective aides of yours.
UPDATE (Sat Nov 8 @ 2:05pm CST): It's helpful for other campaign aides to go on record, by name, denying these things (see, e.g., here, here, and here). But that's not remotely adequate. McCain needs to be personally involved — on the record, on video that will be carried by the national media. The exposure and discrediting of these traitors needs to replicate as closely as possible the opening scenes with Chuck Conners in "Branded" — except these people are not innocent, and none of them is a real man:
UPDATE (Sat Nov 12 @ 4:30pm CST): I embrace and adopt the sentiments of Allahpundit and Michelle Malkin: John McCain has failed this test of his own character.
The would-be commander-in-chief surely still had the clout to summon the top twenty-five or so campaign aides into a room for a "Come to Jesus" meeting, a "we aren't any of us leaving this room until I know who leaked those comments" meeting, a "you aren't any of you ever going to work in politics again until we find out who's to blame for this" meeting.
Instead, he goes on Lenno and shrugs his shoulders, minimizing the whole episode. That didn't make anyone famous. That affirmatively encouraged this crap to continue, not just in this campaign but in future ones.
I practice a profession in which secrets are important. I understand the concept of fiduciary duty. I've employed people, professionals and staff alike, who — simply by virtue of working for me — have been made subject to the same bright-line, absolute standards that I'm subject to. Very, very rarely, someone in my employment has breached that trust — and my reaction has been ruthless and thorough and instantaneous. Yes, there have been a few times when I've enjoyed firing someone, and have gone out of my way to make sure that anyone who cared to make future inquiries about hiring that person would find out exactly why they were fired.
McCain's background as a military officer ought to have acquainted him with high ethical standards and the need for their consistent and vigorous enforcement. He almost flunked out of the Naval Academy at the end of every year he spent there, based on conduct demerits, but he never once had an Honor Code violation.
Senator, this was an Honor Code violation by someone on your staff. And you just blew it off. There was no shame in losing the election. But there is definitely shame in this.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Marinucci claims SF Chron didn't report Obama's promise to "bankrupt" coal industry and cause "skyrocketing" electric rates because readers weren't interested
My team lost the election, but in this follow-up guest-post about Obama's promise to bankrupt the coal industry and make electric rates skyrocket over at HughHewitt.com, I believe I thrashed the San Francisco Chronicle soundly.
I suspect they've gotten over it already, huh?
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
On Sunday, November 2nd, like many other bloggers, I wrote a long post that included a lengthy quotation from an interview that Sen. Barack Obama gave to the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board in January 2008, in which Sen. Obama promised that under his cap and trade policy, "if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted." And in that same interview, Obama also promised that "[u]nder my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."
In the wee small hours of Monday morning, I followed up on that post with another which noted that — in response to a question being raised by Gov. Palin on the campaign trail as to why the tape of this interview was just now surfacing — Chronicle Political Writer Carla Marinucci was righteously asserting that her newspaper had never "hidden" the interview. I pointed out, however, that in neither the front-page news story that Ms. Marinucci had written about the interview on January 18, 2008, nor in a follow-up op-ed about the interview from Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz, had the Chronicle seen fit to give anyone the slightest hint that buried within the 52 minutes and 336MB of the interview one might find a promise to bankrupt the nation's coal industry or cause national electric rates to skyrocket.
This, I argued, reflected abysmal judgment as to what portions of the interview were newsworthy. I asserted that "anyone working for a junior high school newspaper would have instantly realized the newsworthiness of these quotes if he or she were not completely 'in the tank' for Obama."
After posting my critique, I emailed Ms. Marinucci with a copy of it. I wrote to her that "I’d be pleased to republish any response you might have, or reconsider with any additional facts you believe I’ve missed."
Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Marinucci sent me this reply, which (in a later email) she specifically authorized me to reprint here in its entirety for your thoughtful consideration:
Simple answer. This was an editorial board meeting to decide the endorsement for the Democratic primary in California, at the time a heated contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
There were lots of issues that California voters wanted to hear from these candidates as they made their decision, but coal was not one of them. The industry doesn't exist here. We wrote about what our readers wanted to hear about regarding the choice between Obama and Clinton at that time: their positions on the war, jobs, tech, the environment, etc.
This response, while gracious, is utterly unpersuasive. In fact, it's so preposterous as to be even more damning than her earlier "we didn't hide it" defense.
The last I heard, California still uses electricity — and some 56 percent of America's electricity is generated from coal. Indeed, it was a series of rolling electrical brownouts and blackouts in California from 2001-2003 which led directly to the mid-term removal of Gov. Gray Davis in the special election won by present Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. For Ms. Marinucci to suggest that the Chronicle's readers aren't interested in supplies, sources, and prices of electricity is far beyond ludicrous. It's like suggesting that Boston wasn't interested in taxes on tea in the 1770s.
Moreover, while I can appreciate that there is presently no coal mining industry to speak of in the fabled hills of and around San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle — founded in 1865, presently owned by the Hearst Corporation, and still "the largest newspaper in Northern California and the second largest on the West Coast" — aspires to be a national publication. I've listened to the full interview now, and I can assure you that almost none of the questions asked in it were specific and particular to the concerns of San Franciscans or even northern Californians.
In fact, the long response from Sen. Obama which contained the promise to bankrupt the coal industry was prompted by a question (at 25:10 in the videotape) that was indeed on one of the specific topics — "the environment" — which Ms. Marinucci acknowledges her paper's readers wanted to hear about:
Q: Senator, you introduced a bill promoting coal-to-liquid fuels, and then you said you'd only support them if they emitted fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline. Now: All the scientific evidence points to coal being dirtier than pretty much anything else. So how are you going to square your support for coal with the need to fight global warming?
Indeed, in the long block-quoted segment in my Sunday post that I obtained from ABC News' Jake Tapper and his Political Punch blog, there was an ellipsis in the transcript. Viewing the video, I've confirmed that what that transcription omitted was a repetition of this question:
OBAMA: ... So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives. But —
Q: Alternatives including coal?
OBAMA: — let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there....
If there is a place on the globe more fixated on the notion of man-made global warming than San Francisco, I haven't seen or heard of it. These questions about relying on coal to generate electricity certainly reflect that, regardless of whether coal is mined in northern California. And Sen. Obama's answers almost certainly would have been not only of keen interest, but entirely acceptable, to the liberal majority who subscribe to the Chronicle. Could the Chronicle's table-full of writers and editors all have collectively missed that?
No, gentle readers, it is entirely implausible that Ms. Marinucci and the Chronicle failed to recognize the newsworthiness of these promises by Obama — not just to their own readers, but to all Americans (and arguably to the entire world). And that brings us back to the question of why they didn't report something that was so incredibly newsworthy, and why — after it was found and then made much of by others, including the GOP candidates for POTUS and VPOTUS — they've offered such lame excuses.
And there's only one plausible answer left to that question: Carla Marinucci and her fellow writers and editors at the San Francisco Chronicle deliberately buried these quotes because they knew that in other parts of the United States, they would hurt the electoral prospects of Barack Obama — the candidate they wanted to see win not only the Democratic primary, but also the general election. These are "journalists" who've violated their sacred trust. And you simply can't trust them any more, if you ever did.
No surprise, but the NYT says CBS News and others may "call" the election before even Central time zone polls close
This turned out not to be a problem. An election that turns out not to be close hides a great many risky early calls.
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
According to the NYT, CBS News is already threatening to "call the election" as soon as 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.
The story quotes CBS News senior vice president Paul Friedman as saying, "We can’t be in this position of hiding our heads in the sand when the story is obvious."
Friends and neighbors, that is a man who has completely trashed any notion that the press should be objective or that it should avoid trying to influence the events it purports to be reporting.
Wait for the real returns. Treat your vote as if the entire election depended on it. Don't believe anyone's projections. What seems "obvious" to Paul Friedman, CBS News, or the New York Times may turn out to be completely wrong — as was true with the projections regarding Florida in 2000 and with the early exit-poll leaks in numerous states in 2004.
SF Chron insists that buried and unremarked Obama promises to bankrupt coal industry and bring skyrocketing electric rates weren't "hidden," but offers no explanation why they weren't newsworthy
Personally, I felt like this post made the San Francisco Chronicle look like they were totally in the tank for Obama.
It occurs to me now that that's never really been in dispute, though, has it?
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
On the subject of the bombshell quotes from Barack Obama about "bankrupting" the coal industry and making electric rates "skyrocket" — about which I wrote at my usual tedious length on Sunday evening, and an audio excerpt of which Hugh has since posted separately — the San Francisco Chronicle is now furiously trying to cover its collective fanny in a spectacularly unconvincing fashion.
"Political Writer" Carla Marinucci of the S.F. Chronicle righteously asserts that the audio which contained these quotes has been posted at its website since January 2008, and I have no reason to doubt that. She then offers up the Chronicle's come-back to a question from Gov. Palin on the campaign trail:
''Why is the audiotape just now surfacing?'' Palin asked the crowd, according to a report from CBS News. Someone in the crowd shouted, ''Liberal media!'
Let's be very clear: the Chronicle did not, and has never, hidden any interview, audio or video, of Obama from its readers.
But Ms. Marinucci's firey and "very clear" response is to an accusation that Gov. Palin didn't make, and Ms. Marinucci utterly failed to answer the very clear question which Gov. Palin did ask.
The very clear fact is that Ms. Marinucci, along with staff writer Joe Garofoli, wrote a lengthy news article about the interview on January 18, 2008, in which they and their editors necessarily had to have made the editorial decision not to even mention either Sen. Obama's statement that his plan would "bankrupt" those building new coal-fired plants or that it would cause electric rates to "skyrocket." Ms. Marinucci claims that the Chronicle "promoted" the story of its interview with Obama, and that's true enough — the story she wrote did appear on page A1, where it would make the most favorable impression possible for Barack Obama in his then-fierce battle against Hillary Clinton — but a Google News search of that newspaper for that day reveals six total returns mentioning Obama, exactly none of which also include the words "coal" or "bankrupt" or "skyrocket."
Ms. Marinucci didn't just "bury her lede." Rather, in metaphoric terms, she took it out onto the Golden Gate Bridge, shot it in the back of the head, and pushed it off into an unmarked watery grave in hopes that the corpse would never float to the surface.
Then two days later, editorial page editor John Diaz wrote a puff piece about the interview entitled Obama's Straight-Ahead Style. Its online version did contain a link to the tape (h/t InstaPundit), and it includes this sentence: "He demonstrated depth on an assortment of issues: mortgage securities, coal, California air-pollution laws." What a lovely and informative journalistic choice of words! As Mr. Diaz sees things, a deliberate policy decision to bankrupt an industry and cause electric rates to skyrocket merely demonstrates a candidate's "depth," but is not worthy of further comment. (I would have chosen, I think, a two-word formulation instead, as in: "He demonstrated deep insanity on an assortment of issues ....") Technorati indicates that the Chronicle never again linked to that video, nor to the .mp3 audio version linked today by Ms. Marinucci.
Cumulatively, that constitutes awful, indefensible journalistic judgment — the current national interest in these quotes proves that conclusively, but anyone working for a junior high school newspaper would have instantly realized the newsworthiness of these quotes if he or she were not completely "in the tank" for Obama.
Leaving these quotes buried in a fifty-three minute, 336MB video is not, in my own judgment, quite as bad as the Los Angeles Times' making (and then hiding behind) an unethical promise to a source not to release a videotape of another newsworthy event (the Khalidi dinner). But certainly when we see how the Chronicle's top writers and editors used such pathetic and compromised judgment in picking and choosing what to report as newsworthy from the Obama interview, the public has even more reason to doubt that the LA Times has been forthcoming, fair, and complete in its reporting on the videotape it's still concealing entirely.
Once upon a time (in 1930s, to be a bit more specific), when a pair of comic book authors named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster needed an identity and a "day job" for the alter ego of their crime-fighting super hero, they dreamed up "Clark Kent," a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. If they were making such choices today, such idealists would do better to cast Superman's alter ego as a used car salesman, a carnival barker, or even an investment banker than as a reporter for any mainstream media source. "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" has been sacrificed for "Spin, Bias, and Obama's The One." With all too rare exceptions, there's nothing "professional" left in the profession of journalism, folks. Lois Lane would probably be in the tank for Obama — foreshadowing lots of future rescues that are going to be needed if he's elected — but I think Clark Kent might weep for his disgraced profession.
Mainstream media, drunk with Obamamania, refuses to expose Obama as a lapdog for Pelosi and Reid
Okay, one of the Obama lines that most threatened to make my head explode was the one about McCain voting with Bush more than 90% of the time. The fact of the matter is that that's an exaggerated number if we talk about voting with party leadership including during the Clinton and Bush-41 years; and most of the times McCain voted against Bush-43, I disagreed with McCain. But regardless of all that, Obama practically let Harry Reid keep the keys to his secret Senate voting buzzer, because Obama never, ever stood up to his own party leadership on anything important, and he voted with Reid far more slavishly than McCain voted with either the GOP leadership or any GOP president.
In a fair world, when a candidate repeats a misleading factoid as often as Obama repeated this one, a giant hand would come down from the sky and slap him, really hard. That's kind of Monty Pythonesque, I know. But it would be an improvement.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
One thing that frustrates me as we approach Election Day is the degree to which the mainstream media ignores even the thin legislative record that first-term Senator Barack Obama has managed to compile.
In Sunday's Washington Post, for example, we read:
Obama seized on a rare campaign appearance by Vice President Cheney to drive home his theme that electing McCain would represent a continuation of the failed policies of the Bush administration. Speaking in Laramie, Wyo., Cheney declared that McCain is "the right leader for this moment in history," and Obama responded to the endorsement at a rally here in Pueblo.
"I'd like to congratulate Senator McCain on this endorsement because he really earned it," Obama said. "He served as Washington's biggest cheerleader for going to war in Iraq and supports economic policies that are no different from the last eight years."
What you will not find in this story is any mention of the fact that it is Obama, not McCain, whose career voting record conclusively proves that he's been a virtual slave to his party leadership.
That's the kind of information that — when reported by mainstream media outlets at all — appears mostly on their lower-traffic blogs, as with this entry from CNN on October 2, 2008, in the process of confirming the accuracy of a claim made by Gov. Palin during the vice presidential debate (boldface mine):
Congressional Quarterly examined Obama's votes in the Senate. According to the analysis, Obama has indeed voted with the Democratic Party 96 percent of the time.
CQ — a non-partisan and highly respected journal of Congressional affairs — says Senator John McCain has voted in line with the Republican Party 86 percent of the time. McCain's total number of votes is much larger, since he has been in the Senate since 1986, while Obama is in his first term.
Congressional Quarterly also looked at what it deemed to be "key" votes. That analysis found Obama voted with his party on 29 out of 30 votes, which came out to 97 percent of the time. For McCain, CQ said there have been 335 "key" votes over the years, and that he voted with his party on 266 of them — 79 percent of the time.
Every single time Obama harps on McCain's voting record as paralleling the GOP leadership's or Bush's preferences, an honest reporter would point out that Obama's voting record even more closely parallels his own party leaders'. But that doesn't fit the hopey-changitude meme, and so Obama's hypocrisy goes on largely unexposed.
WaPo editorial finally admits that Ayers is vile, but defends Obama, Khalidi, and LAT on pure faith
Halloween was, in hindsight, a good day, and in particular a good day to fisk the Washington Post, as I did in a guest-post at HH.com. (The real target, though, was the LA Times. Whatever, peas in a pod.)
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I'm a fan of the art of the backhanded complement. Giving someone praise subtly and indirectly can be more effective.
I am not a fan, however, of the backhanded condemnation, of which the Washington Post's editorialists today provide us with a superb and absurd example in the course of a spirited defense of Rashid Khalidi (boldface mine):
In the past couple of days, Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, have likened Mr. Khalidi, the director of a Middle East institute at Columbia University, to neo-Nazis; called him "a PLO spokesman"; and suggested that the Los Angeles Times is hiding something sinister by refusing to release a videotape of a 2003 dinner in honor of Mr. Khalidi at which Mr. Obama spoke. Mr. McCain even threw former Weatherman Bill Ayers into the mix, suggesting that the tape might reveal that Mr. Ayers — a terrorist-turned-professor who also has been an Obama acquaintance — was at the dinner.
For the record, Mr. Khalidi is an American born in New York who graduated from Yale a couple of years after George W. Bush. For much of his long academic career, he taught at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife became friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. In the early 1990s, he worked as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation at peace talks in Madrid and Washington sponsored by the first Bush administration. We don't agree with a lot of what Mr. Khalidi has had to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the years, and Mr. Obama has made clear that he doesn't, either. But to compare the professor to neo-Nazis — or even to Mr. Ayers — is a vile smear.
At last! At last the Washington Post recognizes — backhandedly — that today's Bill Ayers, and not just the Bill Ayers of the 1960s and 1970s, is such a twisted dollop of evil scum that comparing a mere terrorist sympathizer to him is a "vile smear" of the sympathizer!
But "terrorist sympathizer" Khalidi has indeed been, by anyone's most charitable definition. And one may make a reasonable case that he's been a terrorist enabler as well, in the sense of providing encouragement, advice, intellectual support, and a fig-leaf of social legitimacy to murderous thugs like Yassir Arafat.
The Washington Post's editors are entitled to their own opinion of Khalidi. What they are not entitled to, however, is to chide John McCain or Sarah Palin — or you or me — for wanting the American public to be given access to the best actual evidence of what was said at this dinner attended by Ayers, Khalidi, and would-be POTUS Barack Obama.
The WaPo concedes that "[i]t's fair to question why Mr. Obama felt as comfortable as he apparently did during his Chicago days in the company of men whose views diverge sharply from what the presidential candidate espouses." Yet the WaPo's editors are eager to reach a conclusive judgment on the unimportance of this tape without ever having watched it.
The WaPo insists — with no basis more solid than hope — that Sen. Obama "is a man of considerable intellectual curiosity who can hear out a smart, if militant, advocate for the Palestinians without compromising his own position." But others of us, including many supporters of Israel and some substantial number of as-yet-undecided American voters, distrust what Sen. Obama says is his position, and we may well interpret his placid silence when confronted with those outrages as tacit approval. Some of us who are less phlegmatic by nature than Sen. Obama may find ourselves offended and, indeed, outraged by what was said at that dinner.
Given what the WaPo editors admit — which is that "Listening to Mr. Khalidi can be challenging" even when he's speaking on the record for international distribution — it's not at all hard to imagine that he or his good friends may have said very vile things indeed at this dinner. And some of them may well be so vile that they actually might deter someone previously inclined to vote for Obama from doing so.
What's on this tape may move tens of thousands of votes in a battleground state like Florida. A national election might hang in the balance. Can we imagine Ben Bradlee, Carl Bernstein, and Bob Woodward being equally complacent, willing to place their full reliance on someone else, when it came to reviewing the Nixon White House tapes?
As for the WaPo defending the Los Angeles' Times' journalistic ethics: No promise should ever have been made to the LAT's source that the tape wouldn't be shown. Indeed, it was the making of that promise by the LAT's reporter which was the unethical act: Journalists aren't ethically free to bargain with their sources about what news they will and won't report. Doubling down on an unethical act by blind enforcement of that promise isn't ethical behavior, it's compounding the original sin. And in any event, given that the LAT has already reported that a tape was made, and that they have it, and some of what's on it, no promise of confidentiality to the LAT's source can possibly be impaired by the LAT releasing at least (a) an audio version of the entire tape and (b) a transcript.
Whatever else it may become known for in history, this election will surely top any predecessor in cosmic irony: The Washington Post has morphed from a righteous instrument through which truth is exposed into a besotted apologist for another paper's transparent and unethical cover-up, so that they may jointly save the bacon of their mutually preferred candidate (who once again can't quite seem to "close the deal" on his own). Instead of telling truths, the Post's editors savage and ridicule those like Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin for merely asking that the truth be exposed — so that the American public can decide for itself the significance of that truth. Their editorial finishes with this snide comment:
We did ask Mr. Khalidi whether he wanted to respond to the campaign charges against him. He answered, via e-mail, that "I will stick to my policy of letting this idiot wind blow over." That's good advice for anyone still listening to the McCain campaign's increasingly reckless ad hominem attacks. Sadly, that wind is likely to keep blowing for four more days.
Alas, the only "wind" here is the flatulence escaping from the corpse of American journalism, a once-great institution, now eagerly turned great prostitute, that has bled out all its credibility while scrambling after a basket of Obama hopey-changiness.
Obama's 30-minute ads bought not only with broken promises, but also with broken laws
October 29th having been a busy blogging day, which included a guest-post at HughHewitt.com decrying the fact that Obama was spending millions of dirty money on TV advertisements, I now feel free to confess that I slept through the Obama 30-minute infomercial. And although I'd recorded it on my digital video recorder, I ended up zapping it even before the election.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
The McCain-Palin campaign correctly points out that Sen. Barack Obama's "30-minute prime-time address [tonight will be] a 'gauzy, feel-good commercial' that was 'paid for with broken promises.'" But for Obama's undisputed and indisputable violation of his solemn oath to accept public campaign financing, there's no way he could have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, including this hugely expensive cross-network TV buy.
But "paid for with broken promises" is the most charitable characterization. The Obama-Biden campaign deliberately has solicited and received hundreds of thousands of credit card transactions of $250 or less, whose details the campaign won't make available for outside review even though in the aggregate they amount to hundreds of millions of dollars — via a fraud-friendly credit card system (a) which accepts transfers from untraceable pre-paid credit cards, and (b) whose basic anti-fraud measures have been deliberately crippled. The Obama-Biden campaign might just as well have set up dumpsters all over the world into which illegal donors could dump shopping bags full of cash donations made in unmarked small bills.
I suddenly had an epiphany. I know now exactly what happened after that bell over the door tinkled again while the jukebox was playing "Don't Stop Believin'" in the diner, just before the picture cut to black and the sound abruptly stopped: That was Barack Obama walking in the door — coming to hire Tony Soprano and his crew to run his internet finance operations.
If you watch the infomercial, ask yourself: How many minutes of it were bought with illegal money? A third of it? Half?
Best blog comment of the week
WTG Karl, for a comment at Patterico's that made me LOL. That's what I said in an October 29th guest-post at HH.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
The Politico today:
It is not our impression that many reporters are rooting for Obama personally. To the contrary, most colleagues on the trail we’ve spoken with seem to find him a distant and undefined figure.
The Politico, April 21, 2008:
The difference seems clear: Many journalists are not merely observers but participants in the Obama phenomenon.
(Harris only here: As one who has assigned journalists to cover Obama at both Politico and The Washington Post, I have witnessed the phenomenon several times. Some reporters come back and need to go through detox, to cure their swooning over Obama’s political skill. Even VandeHei seemed to have been bitten by the bug after the Iowa caucus.)
(VandeHei only here: There is no doubt reporters are smitten with Obama’s speeches and promises to change politics. I find his speeches, when he’s on, pretty electric myself. It certainly helps his cause that reporters also seem very tired of the Clintons and their paint-by-polls approach to governing.)
All this is hardly the end of the world. Clinton is not behind principally because of media bias; Obama is not ahead principally because of media favoritism. McCain won the GOP nomination mainly through good luck and the infirmities of his opposition. But the fact that lots of reporters personally like the guy — and a few seem to have an open crush — did not hurt.
For a mostly online publication, these guys have not really caught onto that whole “the Internet will fact-check your ass” thing.
From Karl, commenting at Patterico.com (yes, it's .com again).
Obama campaign's deliberate invitation to pre-paid credit-card fraud is the sort of flesh-eating political bacteria that may doom any Obama presidency
On October 29, I had a guest-post at HH.com of which I was, and remain, very proud. Unfortunately, it raises questions that have not been answered since then.
Someone inside the Barack Obama campaign, high up enough to make important fund-raising decisions, made the deliberate call to turn off the standard anti-fraud protections for the credit card processing software on the campaign website.
That guy, or those guys, need to be in prison.
What did Barack Obama know, and when did he know it?
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Fully $100 million of the record-breaking $150 million that the Obama campaign collected in September alone came over the internet via credit card donations. The Obama campaign has deliberately turned off the anti-fraud mechanisms available for internet credit card transactions. They have no clue how many millions or tens of millions of dollars have been donated to them in violation of federal election law. And now it turns out that the Obama campaign cheerfully takes even contributions from untraceable pre-paid credit cards, a/k/a "the pseudo-credit cards you use when you want to conceal illegal activity."
This newest disclosure about the pre-paid credit cards, along with belated mainstream media confirmation of what the right hemisphere of the blogosphere has been screaming about for a week now (that someone in the Obama campaign deliberated turned off the normal default-value anti-fraud mechanisms that are standard for processing credit card charges among honest people), comes in Tuesday's Washington Post.
But it didn't even make the front page. (It's buried on page A02; emphasis in quotes below mine.)
Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.
Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.
The Obama organization said its extensive review has ensured that the campaign has refunded any improper contributions, and noted that Federal Election Commission rules do not require front-end screening of donations.
In recent weeks, questionable contributions have created headaches for Obama's accounting team as it has tried to explain why campaign finance filings have included itemized donations from individuals using fake names, such as Es Esh or Doodad Pro. Those revelations prompted conservative bloggers to further test Obama's finance vetting by giving money using the kind of prepaid cards that can be bought at a drugstore and cannot be traced to a donor.
The problem with such cards, campaign finance lawyers said, is that they make it impossible to tell whether foreign nationals, donors who have exceeded the limits, government contractors or others who are barred from giving to a federal campaign are making contributions.
"They have opened the floodgates to all this money coming in," said Sean Cairncross, chief counsel to the Republican National Committee. "I think they've made the determination that whatever money they have to refund on the back end doesn't outweigh the benefit of taking all this money upfront."
The Obama campaign has shattered presidential fundraising records, in part by capitalizing on the ease of online giving. Of the $150 million the senator from Illinois raised in September, nearly $100 million came in over the Internet .
Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discovery) are the only way you can donate to Barack Obama's campaign via his internet website.
The whole "back-end screening" farce is insulting to anyone with a second-grade education. The Obama campaign cannot possibly have any objective measurement to even roughly estimate how many mistakes and how many episodes of deliberate fraud they're catching versus how many they're simply missing, even if one is naive enough to presume their good-faith best efforts.
Moreover, everything the Obama campaign has yet said about this entire issue utterly ignores the key questions: (1) Who ordered the anti-fraud protections turned off? And (2) why hasn't Barack Obama already fired every such person, and exposed them for criminal prosecution as aiders and abettors of national and international campaign contribution fraud?
Juan Proano, whose technology firm handled online contributions for John Edwards's presidential primary campaign, and for John F. Kerry's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee in 2004, said it is possible to require donors' names and addresses to match those on their credit card accounts. But, he said, some campaigns are reluctant to impose that extra layer of security.
"Honestly, you want to have the least amount of hurdles in processing contributions quickly," Proano said.
Sen. John McCain's campaign has also had questionable donations slip through.
Dan Pfeiffer, Obama's communication's director, said that "no organization can fully insulate itself from these problems. The McCain campaign has accepted contributions from fraudulent contributors like 'A for You,' 'Adorable Manabat,' 'The Gun Shop,' and 'Jesus II' and hundreds of anonymous donors."
But R. Rebecca Donatelli, who handles online contributions for the McCain operation and the RNC, said security measures have been standard in the GOP nominee's fundraising efforts throughout the campaign. She said she was "flabbergasted" to learn that the Obama campaign accepts prepaid cards.
Those submitting phony names along with contributions to the McCain campaign have managed to trick the system despite the anti-fraud measures used by merchants, meaning, for example, that they've matched up legitimate addresses for the card-numbers being used. That necessarily limits the scale of the fraud.
But when you take the approach endorsed by Juan "Let the Crooks Donate Too!" Proano, with the "least amount of hurdles in processing contributions quickly," then you invite crime. You put up a neon sign saying "We Can't Catch You When You Cheat!"
Where is the principled, honest Democrat of national prominence who will step up to a public microphone and say — "Not me! I will no longer stand silent while my party's presidential nominee continues to shelter the person or people who made the decision to encourage this fraud!" (See my previous post on this subject, For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? Still no takers.)
This is beyond disgraceful. This is beyond being a mere matter for partisan criticism.
This isn't even a "cancer" on the Obama campaign, because even the worst cancers don't move this fast and aren't this virulent.
This is an infectious disease, an antibiotic-resistant acute contagion of corruption, a type of flesh-eating political bacteria that will — best case for Democrats, unless immediately disinfected starting today by their candidate himself — rob their would-be president elect of any political legitimacy even before Election Day, much less before the inauguration. In both scope and consequence, this bodes to make Watergate look like a playground fist-fight among kindergartners.
To paraphrase a young Tennessee lawyer named Fred Thompson who was then assisting Senator Howard Baker (R-TN) and the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities: What did the wanna-be president know, and when did he know it?
Sunday, October 26, 2008
SNL opening skit on Biden & Murtha gaffes
Early this morning I guest-posted an embedded video clip of SNL's opening spoof last night on Rep. Jack Murtha's and Sen. Joe Biden's amazing accidental truth-tellings of the past week.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
As a comedy skit, I'd rate this about a four on a one to ten scale. As a long, painful reminder of the significance of Joe Biden's and Jack Murtha's recent, unguarded comments, I'd give it a nine, though.
AP, mainstream media, use misleading headlines to falsely impute to Lieberman doubt about Palin's readiness
AP this year isn't "Associated Press," it's "Anti-Palin." One of the latest examples is detailed in a guest-post I made yesterday at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Here's Joe Lieberman — the Democratic Party's own vice presidential candidate in 2000 — as paraphrased and then directly quoted in an Associated Press story early Saturday:
Lieberman said he was confident that Palin, whose foreign policy background has been questioned by Democrats, could step in and handle the chief executive's job.
"If, God forbid, an accident occurs or something of that kind, she'll be ready," Lieberman said. "She's had executive experience. She's smart and she will have had on-the-job training."
Does Joe Lieberman want his good friend, John McCain, to drop dead on or before inauguration day? No, of course not:
Lieberman, I-Conn., who has helped prep the Alaska governor on foreign policy issues, said his pal and GOP presidential nominee, John McCain, is in good health.
"Thank God, she's not gonna have to be president from day one, because McCain's going to be alive and well," Lieberman said in a conference call with reporters.
So what is the logical headline for this story? The accurate one? The non-lying one? I would say something like, "Lieberman confident of both Palin's readiness and McCain's health."
What's the actual headline in the online version, as it appears not only in the AP's own online version via Google but also in the Washington Post, USA Today, ABC News, CNBC, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many other old-media outlets that picked up the AP story?
"Lieberman skirts issue of Palin's readiness."
Bullcrap! Lieberman addressed Palin's readiness directly, without "skirting" anything! He said he was "confident" that she could "step in and handle the chief executive's job," or words to that direct effect, because that's exactly what the text of the story says. And unless the AP simply fabricated the quote, we know for sure that Sen. Lieberman said that if she needs to step into the job, quote, "she'll be ready," unquote.
This sort of headline, ladies and gentlemen, is another bald-faced lie brought to you by the Associated Press and by mainstream media editors across the country. They are so cynical that they're willing to completely prostitute their journalistic credibility — by using headlines to tell obvious lies contradicted by the very stories they accompany — because those headlines fit their pre-existing pro-Obama narrative. They're willing to live with the likelihood that most people will either just read the headlines or won't read the actual text closely enough to spot the lies.
A couple of media outlets appear to have at least skimmed the story, since they deviated from the AP's own headline. The Boston Globe's headline, for example — "Lieberman says Palin ready, but he hedges a bit" — is better, but still inaccurate in suggesting a lack of confidence nowhere implied by Lieberman's words.
And of course, the Huffington Post shamelessly picks out of context the one phrase best calculated to convey the exact opposite of what Lieberman actually said in context: "Lieberman On Palin: 'Thank God She's Not Gonna Have To Be President From Day One'" — thus turning a reassurance of McCain's good health into a condemnation of Palin's readiness. That, of course, is beyond sleazy and well into pond-scum territory.
Don't be misled into thinking "early voting" reports necessarily, or even very closely, correspond to actual votes cast!
The mainstream media is trying to make you think it knows exactly how the early voting is going, but it's assuming that registrations equal actual voting decisions, which is very misleading (as I argued in a Thursday guest-post at HughHewitt.com).
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I was stunned to find a post on ABC News' Political Radar blog entitled Democrats Lead in Early Battleground Voting. I checked my calendar: Nope, it's still October. How, then, can ABC News report that "the early numbers in key battleground states show Democrats are outperforming Republicans"?
The answer is: This kind of report is grossly and dangerously misleading. And whether intended or not, it may have the practical effect of misleading people into thinking that their votes don't matter when in fact those votes may become crucial. This is dangerous misinformation that you should help combat, friends and neighbors.
What you're reading in these reports isn't based on political opinion polling — not even "exit polling." Instead, it's based on guesswork — specifically, a guess that in those states which record voter affiliation (typically either from votes cast in primaries or affirmative acts of registration by voters before the primaries), the top-of-the-ticket general election votes, as actually cast, will match up precisely with those registrations when the actual votes are counted (starting on November 4th after the polls close).
But in Texas, for instance, where early voting started this week, I am absolutely certain that many tens of thousands of dedicated Republicans crossed over in primary season — whether as part of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" or just out of sheer cussedness — to vote for Hillary Clinton and against Barack Obama in the Democratic Primary. They have absolutely no intention of voting for either in the general election. But if they vote early, then based on their having voted in the Democratic Primary, they'll be counted in "early voting" news reports like this one as "Democrats" and they'll be assumed — wrongly — to have voted for Barack Obama.
Besides such "strategic cross-over voters," this reporting also will misreport "PUMA" votes from real Democrats who nevertheless choose not to vote for Obama. And it will misreport genuinely undecided voters who nevertheless voted in the Democratic primary, perhaps because they wanted to have a voice in down-ballot races, and ended up breaking their indecision by the time of the general election in McCain-Palin's favor.
Some states have continuing registrations that persist until the voter takes some affirmative action to change it. But in no state does your voter registration prevent you from voting for the opposite party in the general election! Some folks may still be registered as Democrats even though they haven't voted for one since Jimmy Carter in 1980, and they may have actually cast their early vote this time for the GOP ticket again, but they'll show up in these reports as yet another Obama vote.
And some people do actually change their minds to vary their actual votes from their registration status at the last minute. With no incumbent running and one candidate in this race being such a comparatively unknown quantity, there are substantial reasons to suspect that may be even more true in this election season than in most.
Moreover, there are all sorts of well-demonstrated reasons why early and absentee voters' actual votes, when they're actually counted starting on November 4th, may vary substantially from the trends set by those who vote on Election Day itself. But these numbers are even more unreliable as a basis for projecting final-vote results than even an accurate count of the early votes would be, if somehow the actual votes could be counted before Election Day (which they can't be). So these reports of early voting have at least a two-fold inaccuracy built in.
And this isn't just a failure to get the totals right, it's an affirmative mis-mark, where one voter being wrongly presumed to have voted in conformity with his/her registration will show up in the totals both as one too many votes for one slate and one too few for the other. In what was assumed to have been a 100-to-100 tie, in other words, the actual count will turn out to be 101-to-99 (and a two-vote margin of victory) when the mistaken assumption is backed out and the actual vote is properly counted.
USA Today's comparable article at least contains this explanation, buried several paragraphs down:
Election records in many states show whether voters are affiliated with a political party or are independent. States that must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, such as Georgia and North Carolina, also show racial breakdowns. No votes will be counted until Nov. 4.
But many reports don't have even that explanation. And a casual reader might well be misled into thinking that these are hard numbers being reported, instead of guesswork.
Please, please — whatever your preferences in this election! — don't be misled into thinking that you're seeing anything but guesses yet when the press start quoting these numbers. Only one party (and its adoring press) is pushing the "it's over, don't bother" meme this year, but don't fall for that tripe regardless of your own voting intentions. If you make the mistaken assumption from these sorts of reports that your vote doesn't count, then you may regret that for the next four years — as voters of both parties in the Florida panhandle did when they dropped out of election lines in 2000 after the networks had prematurely, and wrongly, "called" Florida for Gore after the polls closed in the part of Florida in the Eastern time zone. Treat your vote as if it could decide the election.
Los Angeles Times lies through its teeth to maintain claim that McCain had "no recorded basis" for saying Obama's political career was "launched" at Ayers' house
My friend Patterico pushed the Los Angeles Times to the point that it either had to leave a bold-face lie uncorrected (for the benefit of Barack Obama) or make an embarrassing admission that it had already mangled the truth. The LAT chose to stick with the lie, as I wrote last Wednesday in a guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
The editors of the Los Angeles Times are lying through their teeth to elect Barack Obama. The lie is brazen and unashamed. They are counting on the fact that those who know of their lie will be less well able to publicize it than the LAT itself was able to spread the lie to begin with, so that telling the lie will remain a net plus for the Obama campaign. Posting here is all I can do to upset that calculation, but you too can help by passing along this report.
[# More #] The Obama campaign has systematically minimized the nature, length, and extent of the contacts between him and unrepentant terrorist and modern education radical Bill Ayers, starting with Obama's description of Ayers during one of the Democratic primary debates as just "a guy from my neighborhood."
When, in the third presidential debate, John McCain described Obama has having "launched" his political career in Bill Ayers' living room, that created a direct controversy between the two presidential candidates about the nature of this political event.
The Los Angeles Times wrote that there is "no recorded basis" for McCain's claim. That's not saying that John McCain was incorrect, or had relied on reports that the Los Angeles Times believed were unreliable. That's saying that John McCain made his criticism up out of thin air.
Patrick Frey, who blogs as "Patterico," proved that there in fact was a "recorded basis" for McCain's claim, a blog post which had been put up in 2005 — long before the current campaign and before anyone had any motivation to spin the facts — by someone who had first-hand personal experience of the facts because she had attended the event at Ayers' home. She wrote that Ayers and his wife were "launching" Obama's political career.
The Obama campaign nevertheless insists that the event in Ayers' home can't properly be characterized as the "launch" of Obama's political career and that the event in Ayers' home was merely one of many contemporaneous events, others of which better deserve that description.
Okay, then. That means there are conflicting sources. But at least one such source — from someone with personal knowledge and no motivation to lie — supports McCain's claim. When the LAT itself first claimed that there was "no recorded basis" for this characterization (and implicitly but necessarily that John McCain had made this claim up out of thin air), the LAT was, at a minimum, wrong. Perhaps it was an innocent mistake in their reporting, although we should hold major media outlets to a very high standards when they're accusing a presidential candidate of making something up out of thin air three weeks before the election.
But now comes the proof which rules out the possibility, at least on an on-going basis, that the LAT was merely mistaken. Now comes the proof that the LAT is deliberately, knowingly refusing to correct its prior misrepresentation of fact. Now comes the proof that the LAT's editors will withhold even a back-page correction to protect the election prospects of Barack Obama, rather than admit their error. If it wasn't a deliberate lie before, it is now. And the proof of that is conclusive: an email from an LAT official acknowledging the existence and content of the blog post, but announcing the LAT's decision not to issue a correction and to instead continue standing on its statement that there was "no recorded basis" for McCain's claim.
According to Jamie Gold, the LA Times' "Reader Representative" (an Orwellian phrase that ought to be changed to "Obama Agitprop Mouthpiece"), the newspaper is entitled to make a secret decision about which of competing sources to believe, and then to deny that the source which disagrees with them — and supports McCain's claim — ever even existed:
Here’s what the editors say: News reports reconstructing Obama’s campaign that year suggest that the poster was incorrect in claiming that the coffee at Ayers’ home ‘launched’ Obama’s career. Accounts differ, but what editors find suggests that Obama held a number of informal coffees that fall, and that he had made clear his intention to run before his appearance at Ayers’ house.
As such, the comments by the poster may reflect that person’s impression — or misimpression — but they are not something on which the Times would base a correction.
If that's indeed what the editors have concluded, then the correction ought to have read something like this: "The LAT was completely and inexcusably wrong in writing that there was 'no recorded basis' for Sen. McCain's claim that the event in Ayers' living room 'launched' Obama's career. We ought to have reported instead that there is at least one description of the event as 'launching Obama' made in 2005 by a long-time Democrat and current Obama supporter who actually attended the event, and then there are other, conflicting reports by people who may or may not have been at that event, who may or may not have personal knowledge, but who have a different impression. We choose to believe those unnamed sources, and so the LAT continues to believe that McCain was wrong, even if there was indeed at least one recorded basis for his claim and we were badly mistaken to imply that McCain had made his claim up out of thin air. We apologize for the error."
It's theoretically possible, in other words, to disbelieve the blog report, and to therefore continue to believe McCain was wrong. But it's not possible — not without expanding the original lie by denying and concealing the existence of the blog report entirely — to continue to insist that there was "no recorded basis" for McCain's claim.
We say someone is "lying through his teeth" when the liar is so very conscious that what he's saying is a lie that he can't help clenching his jaw to try to control his face. Jamie Gold is lying through her teeth — apparently at the instruction of her editors — for the purpose of perpetuating an unfair smear of John McCain.
My contempt for the LAT knows no bounds. The likely effect of their lie is arguably smaller, but in terms of how deliberately and knowingly they've abandoned of any semblance of journalistic ethics in order to subvert an American election, what the the Los Angeles Times is doing is indistinguishable from what Dan Rather and CBS News tried to do during Rathergate with the Killian Forgeries in 2004.
CNN is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt or all of the above
To his credit, CNN reporter Drew Griffin has since apologized for having brutally wrenched out of context a passage from a Byron York article in National Review in order to ambush Sarah Palin, but my guest-post at HughHewitt.com last Tuesday was a protest against that ambush.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
If a lawyer made this kind of misrepresentation to a court, he'd likely lose his license to practice law, and very deservedly so. Drew Griffin and his producer(s) should be fired and shunned by every other media employer for this outrageous piece of bad faith.
UPDATE (Tue Oct 21 @ 7:20 p.m. CST): Allahpundit points out that Griffin has recently done good reporting on Ayers and ACORN, which makes this all the more perplexing. But quick, full, and sincere apologies are still in order for this misstep.
UPDATE (Fri Oct 24 @ 5:50 p.m. CST): Griffin apologized yesterday. Good for him. Now if he'll only get back to investigative reporting on Ayers and ACORN, he can make amends.
Monday, October 20, 2008
The many tentacles of the Ayers-Obama coverup: Candidate, media, leftie bloggers all willing to rewrite history to support each others' lies
Night and fog. That couple who lived on the corner, who you haven't seen since last week? They never lived there. Nacht und nebel. If you're smart, you'll stop asking about that couple who didn't ever live on the corner.
My latest guest-post on HughHewitt.com links my friend Patterico's tale of how liberal bloggers who were there at the launching of Barack Obama's political career in Bill Ayers' living room are air-brushing history to remove their own report of that event.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Bill Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn spent years on the run from the law. They relied on friends to help cover their tracks.
Nothing changes, except that now another one of their friends, one they've acquired more recently, is leading in the polls as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate two weeks before the election. And now it's the tracks between him and Ayers that they desperately want to cover.
I respect Colin Powell, but as I listened very carefully to him explain his reasoning for endorsing Barack Obama on yesterday's Meet the Press, I was struck by his insistence that Bill Ayers and Barack Obama have a "very, very limited relationship." I thought to myself: "General, what sources are you relying upon for the information on which you're basing your endorsement?"
I am sure of two things about Bill Ayers.
First: There is an effort going on by some people in America to expose the full extent of Bill Ayers' and Barack Obama's relationship — an effort that is greatly hampered by the facts that (a) Barack Obama himself has never given a thorough and candid explanation for even those contacts that have been proved by independent witnesses and documentary evidence, and (b) the mainstream media reporters who have daily, even hourly access to Obama resolutely refuse to ask him any more probing questions about this subject.
Second: There is an effort going on by some people in America to conceal the full extent of Bill Ayers' and Barack Obama's relationship — an effort that is greatly assisted by (a) and (b) from the paragraph just above.
Here's the pattern: Obama, either himself or through campaign surrogates, lies about Obama's relationship with Ayers. The media lies to cover up those lies. Evidence exposing the lies of both appears. Then the evidence which proves that they were lying is made to disappear.
My friend Patrick Frey, who blogs under the nickname "Patterico," has long served as the self-appointed conscience for the Los Angeles times that its ownership has tried to surgically remove from its own staff. He caught them again last Thursday. The LA Times claimed that there is “no recorded basis” for John McCain’s statement that Obama "launched his political career in Bill Ayers’s living room." That same day, Patterico linked to both the LAT story which made that attack on McCain's truthfulness, and to a blog post which Patterico had tracked down from a quote and reference (without a hyperlink) in a Politico.com article from February 22, 2008, to a post on a blog called "Musings and Migraines" on January 27, 2005, by one Maria Warren. Ms. Warren, a political liberal, had personally attended the function in Ayers' home. The quote, as Patterico reprinted it to refute the LA Times (boldface his):
When I first met Barack Obama, he was giving a standard, innocuous little talk in the livingroom of those two legends-in-their-own-minds, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. They were launching him — introducing him to the Hyde Park community as the best thing since sliced bread.
Patterico is still waiting for a reply from the LA Times — he's publicly proved them wrong so many times that they no longer completely stonewall and ignore him, but they still drag their feet.
But lo and behold, by the oddest of coincidences, the blog post that had been "out there" on the internet for more than three years, and that had been only casually mentioned by the Politico.com story without even a link to it — long before the McCain statement that the Obama forces wanted to ridicule — has, as Patterico writes today, been miraculously been scrubbed from its original URL at Musings and Migraines. It's been sent down the "memory hole."
"Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Musings & Migraines does not exist," the internet tells us. But in a new post, someone writing on the blog admits that the post has been deliberately removed, even if the concealment effort won't work: "We know deleting doesn't erase it from memory. Like so much urine in a swimming pool, trace elements will remain." The reasoning: "[T]his blog is independently run, and reserves the right to pull material, specifically if that material hurts the blog at large." Only a fool could fail to read the phrase "material [which] hurts the blog" as really meaning "material which proves that Obama and the media have been concealing the true scope of Bill Ayers' and Obama's relationship."
Patterico anticipated that exactly this might happen, so he kept a screencap of the original post. And he's published it.
Nevertheless: Even smart and honorable people like Gen. Powell continue to believe, with only two weeks before the election, that Ayers and Obama only had a "very, very limited relationship" because those people have mistakenly placed their trust in the mainstream media without digging beneath their superficial and demonstrably inaccurate treatment.
But you're not such a person. If you've gotten to this point in this post, you've demonstrated that you aren't a prisoner of the mainstream media. You consider alternative sources — critically and even cynically, I hope — including this one. You click the hyperlinks to see if the sources relied upon actually support the arguments being made. And if so, you've seen how the media — in this particular instance, the Los Angeles Times — has attempted to deceive us all, and you've seen how someone has attempted to conceal the proof that the LAT is wrong.
There are people out there who you know, who trust you — perhaps even more than Gen. Powell trusts the mainstream media. Like him, they may be drawing some conclusions and refusing to draw others based on incomplete, faulty, and even false versions of evidence about Obama and Ayers. Will you leave them in ignorance? Or will you set them straight?
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Dazzling daylight between Webb & Obama on guns and other policies
The below-mentioned Matt Bai piece in the NYT Sunday Magazine also produced a couple of priceless quotes, reproduced in my guest-post at HughHewitt.com, that I hope are quoted and emailed to every gun-owner, conservative, and moderate in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I couldn't resist taking the opportunity in a post earlier this evening to mock the beginning of Matt Bai's article in Sunday's NYT Magazine about Barack Obama's attempts to lure working-class voters because Sen. Obama's attempts to explain his "Bittergate" comments are just so ridiculous.
I'd think more of Obama if he just admitted to us all that he'd screwed up by telling those folks in San Francisco the truth about what he really thinks, rather than by continuing to insult our intelligence. Anyone who thinks — as Sen. Obama was trying to persuade Bai and Bai's readers — that Obama really had been trying to convert his listeners in San Francisco, so that they too would embrace (in between sips of wine) the bitter people of flyover country who cling to guns and religion, is a likely buyer for bridges (be it that Golden Gate one or the equally famous one in Brooklyn).
But Bai is a perceptive fellow, and his article is a good read by NYT standards, which is to say that he only bumps into the edge of the Obama tank about every third or fourth paragraph. In particular, I commend these paragraphs, unfortunately buried about three-fourths of the way down, to every voter in the Commonwealth of Virginia (bold-face mine):
A week after Obama visited Lebanon and Norfolk, [Virginia,] I went to see Jim Webb in his Capitol Hill office. Obama’s campaign considers Webb, a war hero and former Republican, to be one of its most critical validators all over Virginia, specifically because he appeals to white men who are skeptical of Democrats in general. In fact, Webb’s Scots-Irish family hails from coal country. Not long after he entered the Senate, he became embroiled in a mini-controversy when an aide accidentally carried one of Webb’s favorite guns onto the Capitol grounds.
I was surprised, then, when Webb told me that while he was enthusiastic about Obama and would campaign for him, he did not intend to vouch for him on social issues. “I believe that Barack Obama has the temperament and the intellect and the ideas to be president,” Webb said. “But I don’t talk about his positions, and I don’t defend his positions.” When I commented that Webb wasn’t where Obama was on gun rights (Obama favors what he calls some “common sense” restrictions), Webb cut me off. “No, he’s not where I am on guns,” he said pointedly. It occurred to me that this was probably the kind of validation Obama could do without. (Webb appears to have softened his stance. A few weeks later, he decided to tape an ad promising voters in southwestern Virginia that Obama would not, in fact, confiscate their guns.)
It seems that Sen. Webb also had an unguarded moment of truth-telling. Props to Bai for not subjecting it to the normal MSM nacht-und-nebel routine that they use on most statements and events that are unflattering to The One.
A sad reaction to Peggy Noonan's Palin meltdown
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar).
I have to work hard to avoid taking personal offense from Peggy Noonan's op-ed in Friday's Wall Street Journal, and I can't quite succeed entirely at that effort.
I've long been a fan of Ms. Noonan's work as a speechwriter and a pundit, and she's been uniformly gracious in the two or three times we've exchanged emails. Her op-ed doesn't mention me by name, of course. But I've voted twice for George W. Bush, and although I have not agreed with all of his decisions and he has sometimes disappointed me, I've never regretted those votes, given the alternatives that were available. I look at my four safe, healthy children as I drive them to school within range of oil refineries that would be prime terrorist targets, and I am grateful to him and everyone under his command who have kept us safe on American soil since 9/11/01. Indeed, my own fondness for Ms. Noonan has waned in step with her growing disdain for the president.
And now, from this op ed, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that Ms. Noonan thinks that I am, and that people like me are, "a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics," and that we're "no good, not for conservatism and not for the country." It's impossible to avoid drawing that conclusion because I'm a long-time and enthusiastic supporter of Gov. Sarah Palin, after all — and that's exactly what Ms. Noonan has written about her. It's as vicious an attack as I've ever read or heard her make, both unmoderated and immoderate.
When ridiculed, it's hard to resist replying with ridicule. That wouldn't be constructive here, and I'm trying my best to avoid snark: Even though I and those like me are, along with Gov. Palin, the objects of Ms. Noonan's disdain, I do not want her as an enemy.
But she clearly expects counterattacks: "[C]ome and get me, copper," is how she defiantly ends her essay. Still, I don't think she's talking to me or to very many other of the 62 million Americans who voted for George W. Bush in 2004 (which might include you). Instead, she apparently is referring to the "conservative intelligentsia," by which I can only assume she means the folks who write for National Review and the like, which is to say, her peers in the old media.
And that actually is a comfort. When one inhabits a world in which calling children "kids" is insufferably vulgar, then one presumably can't grasp the existence of, for example, gansta rap. In some ways, then, I envy her the comfort of the cocoon in which she can apply that Nineteenth Century value system. But she seems to have lost the capacity to credit anyone less fussy than she is with basic decency. Maybe I shouldn't assume Ms. Noonan was referring to me or people like me. It's equally possible that she simply forgets that we exist. And if so, that's a reason to be sad, not angry.
Similarly, it's ironic, but sadly so, that Ms. Noonan, in an op-ed almost completely devoid of any discussion of Gov. Palin's actual achievements or statements, can write that Gov. Palin "doesn't think aloud. She just . . . says things." This is an essay in which Ms. Noonan seems not to have thought much, but has instead just ... written things.
Here's an example, the closest to a substantive critique of Gov. Palin anywhere in the piece:
For seven weeks I've listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite — a spender, to speak briefly, whose political decisions seem untethered to a political philosophy, and whose foreign policy is shaped by a certain emotionalism, or a conservative whose principles are rooted in philosophy, and whose foreign policy leans more toward what might be called romantic realism, and that is speak truth, know America, be America, move diplomatically, respect public opinion, and move within an awareness and appreciation of reality.
I admit to holding Ms. Noonan to higher standards than I do myself in my own writing, simply because she's been one of my heroes as a wordsmith. But it genuinely pains me to see such an elegant writer produce a run-on sentence as awful as that one.
From the context, I think she means Bush-43 when she refers to "Bushian." If she's curious about Gov. Palin's views on spending (a subject that appears on only one side of the parallel construction), then she could look at Gov. Palin's record from several years as a city official and, now, governor. On that, there is ample and compelling evidence that she's been a far more disciplined fiscal conservative than Bush-43, Bush-41, or Ronald Reagan for that matter.
But most of this blast seems to be about foreign policy. Where in it is the recognition that state governors — including the state governor who used to be Ms. Noonan's boss, Ronald Reagan — don't have much occasion to do foreign diplomacy? Where is the recognition that vice presidential candidates — especially those running behind POTUS nominees whose own long suit is foreign policy and national defense — are ill advised to start promoting any policy positions contrary to or even slightly independent from their running mates'? We know that Gov. Palin seems entirely comfortable adopting Sen. McCain's positions on these matters as her own. Given that she's running for vice president, that's frankly enough for now.
Ms. Noonan writes often and well of grace. I'm sad that she has lost any appreciation for that quality when it comes to her appraisal of Gov. Palin and, inevitably, those who are enthused by her.
I do not urge that Ms. Noonan be condemned or shunned. And I don't care what the "conservative intelligentia" think or say or do in response. But I, for one, as a conservative new-media pundit from flyover country, reject her opinions on Gov. Palin as being unpersuasive because they're based entirely upon unfortunate (and, frankly, highly unflattering) emotional reactions.
Ms. Noonan's Palin meltdown is not apostasy. But it is an indication that Ms. Noonan needs a long vacation outside the corridors of the opinion elites — if she cares a whit about the tens of millions of American voters who consider ourselves non-vulgar conservatives and Republicans, regardless of her poor opinion of us. If not, I'm sad to be at the point at which I'm inclined to stop listening to or reading her opinions.
(A last point: I write here only for myself, and my views on this ought not be imputed to Hugh Hewitt.)
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
My question that I wish Bob Schieffer would ask Barack Obama tomorrow night
What do elemental mercury and the Congo have in common? They're the subject of the only two pieces of legislation Barack Obama has passed through Congress as author and principal sponsor. In my evening guest-post at HughHewitt.com, that's what I suggest moderator Bob Schieffer ought to ask Obama about in tomorrow night's debate.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Earlier today, Hugh asked readers here to email him at Hugh@HughHewitt.com with questions they'd like to see moderator Bob Schieffer pose to Barack Obama tomorrow night. I have only one, but I think it's substantive as any debate question could possibly be:
Senator Obama, during your first two years in the Senate, senior GOP senators Richard Lugar and Tom Coburn invited you to join them as a bipartisan co-sponsor on bills involving securing nuclear weapons stockpiles and making information on government funding available on the internet. Both of those bills passed the Senate by unanimous consent and the House on voice vote — meaning they were so non-controversial that not a single member of Congress went on record against either of them. You were the principal sponsor, and saw passed into law in December 2006, a low-profile bill to provide financial relief and promote stability in the Congo, but it too passed without a single dissenting vote in either chamber.
Your party gained control of the Senate and the House almost two years ago, and since then you've also been one of many co-sponsors on such legislation as the ethics reform bill in 2007, which had 16 other co-sponsors besides you and which passed the Senate by a vote of 96 to 2.
But it wasn't until just last month — after a rather pointed jab from Gov. Palin in her convention speech before 40 million Americans — that you finally managed, as author and principal sponsor, to pass through both chambers of Congress a law of any arguable national significance, Senate Bill 906, the "Mercury Market Minimization Act of 2007." But it has still yet to be either signed into law or vetoed by President Bush. And it, too, passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, and by a roll-call vote of 393 to 5 in the House — which suggests that there's not really much controversy over restricting the foreign export, or the domestic sale by U.S. agencies, of elemental mercury.
Since you still haven't actually been the principal sponsor of a single piece of significant and controversial federal legislation from the drafting stage through passage into law during your almost four full years as a U.S. Senator, why should voters think you'd be any more effective in the vastly harder job of President of the United States?
Additional notes and links:
The nonproliferation bill, which built upon legislation previously authored by Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Sen. Lugar, started as Senate Bill 1949 in the 109th Congress, entitled the "Cooperative Proliferation Detection, Interdiction Assistance, and Conventional Threat Reduction Act of 2005," and it was sponsored by Sen. Lugar with Sen. Obama as the single co-sponsor. It went nowhere after introduction, but was reintroduced by Sen. Lugar the following year as Senate Bill 2566, re-titled as the "Cooperative Proliferation Detection, Interdiction Assistance, and Conventional Threat Reduction Act of 2006," with Sen. Obama now listed among 26 co-sponsors. That version was reported out of commmittee and placed on the Senate legislative calendar on May 25, 2006, but never received a vote in the full Senate in that form. Instead, its guts were inserted into House Bill 6060, the "Department of State Authorities Act of 2006," which passed the House by voice vote on December 8, 2006, and then passed the Senate by unanimous consent on December 9, 2006. It was thus signed into law as part of Public Law No. 109-472 by President Bush on January 11, 2007, without so much as a single member of either chamber of Congress having voted against it.
The funding disclosure bill started as Senate Bill 2590, entitled the "Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006." It was introduced on April 6, 2006, by Sen. Coburn, with Sen. Obama, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as original co-sponsors. Eventually it picked up a total of 47 Senate co-sponsors, and on September 7, 2006, it passed the Senate by unanimous consent. It passed the House by voice vote on September 13, 2006. It, too, was thus signed into law as Public Law No. 109-282 on September 26, 2006.
Public Law No. 109-456, the 2006 bill to "to promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost "about $50 million over the 2007-2011 period," which of course is only a fraction of the amount in pork earmarks Sen. Obama has sought and obtained for a region in substantially greater need of "relief, security, and [especially] democracy" — Illinois.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
"The Audacity of Hope" versus "The Erosion of Doubt"
Canaries and unicorns abound in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com, with more thoughts on the big-picture significance of Tuesday night's presidential debate.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Step back. Take a breath. Try to imagine how, come December, Tuesday night's debate will look in hindsight.
If Sen. Barack Obama is then the president-elect, tonight's debate will be seen as a nothing-burger. It's a year in which the Democratic Party is expected to win, a year in which Democratic partisans think they have their most attractive candidate in many years, and he's been leading in the public opinion polling almost continuously since long before either he or John McCain officially wrapped up their respective nominations.
If Sen. McCain is the president-elect, this debate will be seen as Barack Obama's next-to-last — and tragically failed — opportunity to seal the deal by delivering either a knockout blow to McCain or by finally, permanently vanquishing the doubts about himself.
If he had not already mortgaged it to the hilt through his past dealings with the likes of Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama would gladly sell his RAW political soul just for the election to be held tomorrow. The opinion polling suggests that he now has a lead in both the popular and electoral college votes. But he had huge momentum and a big lead during the Democratic primaries, too — and still managed to barely win his party's nomination, despite the fact that his early delegate lead was banked and not subject to the erosion of new doubts.
The canaries in the coal mine here are the secondary post-debate headlines, the ones on the "analysis" pieces, from his very bestest of friends, the websites of the mainstream media:
The Washington Post: Showdown Is More of a Letdown.
The Washington Post: New Crisis. Old Ideas.
The Washington Post: Hunting Small Game.
- The Los Angeles Times: Economic Issues Dominate Second Debate, Yet McCain and Obama Battle Mostly to a Draw
The New York Times: Downturn in Decibels, Too.
Doncha know, friends and neighbors, that they want to write "Obama Obliterates McCain: Old Guy Led Drooling from the Stage"?
"He should be leading by twenty points by now — in this economy, after eight years of George W. Bush, this should be our year for a blow-out!" This is the secret whisper of every politically knowledgeable Democratic partisan. They worry that too many late deciders will decide against him.
They're right to worry.
Expect the canaries to take a deep collective breath and begin singing songs of hopey-changitude again, all about how there's a golden unicorn coming down the rainbow. But some of them, in their hearts of hearts, don't quite believe in unicorns, and the thing about rainbows is that you can see them both from the Left and the Right.