Thursday, April 30, 2009
There's NO Shutting Up Joe.
Labels: Public health
KARL ROVE: "Obama Outsources His Presidency".
He may come to regret letting Congress write his major legislation.
By KARL ROVE
While officials in the Obama White House dismissed yesterday's "100 Days" anniversary as a "Hallmark Holiday," they understood it was what sociologist Daniel J. Boorstin called a "pseudo-event." By that, Boorstin meant an occasion that is not spontaneous but planned for the purpose of being reported -- an event that is important because someone says so, not because it is.
What happens in a president's first 100 days rarely characterizes the arc of the 1,361 that follow. Jimmy Carter had a very good first 100 days. Bill Clinton did not.
Still, a president would rather start well than poorly -- and Mr. Obama has a job approval of 63%. That leaves him tied with Mr. Carter, one point ahead of George W. Bush, and behind only Ronald Reagan's 67%. Four of the past six presidents had approval ratings that ranged between 62% and 67%, a statistically insignificant spread.
Mr. Obama is popular because he is a historic figure, has an attractive personality, has passed key legislation, and receives adoring press coverage.
However, there are cautionary signs. Mr. Obama's policies are less popular than his personality, the pace of polarization with Republicans has proceeded faster than ever in history, and independents are thinking more like Republicans on the issues and less like Democrats.
The first 100 days can reveal a pattern of behavior that comes to characterize a presidency. In this respect, there are two emerging habits of Team Obama worth watching.
One is the gap between what Mr. Obama said he would do and what he is doing. His administration is emphasizing in its official 100 days talking points steps he has taken to "deliver on the change he promised." During the campaign, Mr. Obama denounced the $2.3 trillion added to the national debt on Mr. Bush's watch as "deficits as far as the eye can see." But Mr. Obama's budget adds $9.3 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years. What happened to Obama the deficit hawk?
From Mr. Obama's Denver acceptance speech through the campaign, Mr. Obama did not publicly utter the phrase "universal health care." Instead, his campaign ran ads attacking "government-run health care" as "extreme." Now Mr. Obama is asking, as he did at a townhall meeting last month, "Why not do a universal health care system like the European countries?" Maybe because he was elected by intimating that would be "extreme"?
Another emphasis in the Obama 100 days talking points is that the president is a decisive leader. However, Mr. Obama is enormously deferential to Democrats in Congress and has outsourced formulation of key policies to them. He appears largely ambivalent about the contents of important legislation, satisfied to simply sign someone else's bill.
On the $787 billion stimulus package, he specified less than a quarter of the bill's spending and let House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey decide the rest. On cap and trade, Mr. Obama is comfortable to let Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and Edward Markey write that legislation with virtually no White House guidance. On health care, the White House is providing very little detail. Mr. Obama tees up an issue, but leaves its execution to congressional Democrats.
This leadership style may be a carryover from his Senate years, when he was unusually detached from the substance of legislation. Mr. Obama's focus on broad descriptions of a goal will produce laws, but handing over control of the process may produce deeply flawed products.
The stimulus bill turned into a liberal spending wish list that will retard, not hasten, recovery. Already, with mounting job losses the gap between the 3.675 million jobs he said he would create or protect in his first two years and the number of actual jobs in the economy has risen to nearly five million. Reaching his job target now requires creating 249,400 new jobs a month for the next 20 months. Democrats will not fare well in next year's elections if there is a yawning Obama "job gap."
Democratic congressional leaders are ecstatic about Mr. Obama's willingness to outsource major legislation to them. They thrive on sausage making and, with the president's popularity high, they appreciate that his strengths are not their strengths. Yet Mr. Obama clearly did not gain their respect for his legislative abilities during his Senate years.
Mr. Obama is a great face for the Democratic Party. He is its best salesman and most persuasive advocate. But he is beginning to leave the impression that he is more concerned with the aesthetics of policy rather than its contents. In the long run, substance and consequences define a presidency more than signing ceremonies and photo-ops. In his first 100 days, Mr. Obama has put the fate of his presidency in the hands of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He may come to regret that decision.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
Labels: General information
George F. Will: Does "Reconciliation" Reconcile?
George F. Will
WASHINGTON — Under Senate rules, "reconciliation" can be a means for coping with disharmony by deepening it. The tactic truncates Senate debate and curtails minority rights. The threat to use it to speed enactment of health care reform has coincided with talk about possible prosecutions relating to the previous administration's interrogation policies. Harmony is becoming more elusive.
Under "reconciliation," debate on a bill can be limited to 20 hours, enabling passage by a simple majority (51 senators, or 50 with the vice president breaking a tie) rather than requiring 60 votes to terminate debate and vote on final passage. The president and Senate Democrats have decided to use reconciliation by Oct. 15, unless Republicans negotiate compliantly regarding health care. But the threat of reconciliation mocks negotiations.
The reconciliation process was created in 1974 to facilitate adjustments of existing spending programs. Former Sen. John Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says using reconciliation to ram through health care reform would "circumvent the normal and customary workings of American democracy." But those workings have changed markedly.
The most important alteration of the legislative process in recent decades has been the increasingly promiscuous use of filibusters to impose a de facto supermajority requirement for important legislation. And "important" has become a very elastic term.
It should be difficult for government to act precipitously. "Great innovations," said Jefferson, "should not be forced on slender majorities." Revamping health care — 17 percent of the economy — qualifies as a great innovation. This is especially so because the administration and its allies, without being candid about what is afoot, are trying to put the nation on a glide path to a "single-payer" — entirely government-run — system. They would do this by creating a government health insurance plan to compete with private insurers. It would be able to — indeed, would be intended to — push private insurers out of business.
But when Republicans ran the Senate, they, too, occasionally made dubious use of reconciliation. And Republicans' merely situational commitment to legislative due process was displayed in 2003 when they held open a House vote for three hours until they could pressure enough reluctant Republicans to pass the prescription drug entitlement.
As Washington becomes increasingly opaque to normal Americans, its quarrels come to seem increasingly trivial, even when they are momentous. The reconciliation tactic is unknown to most Americans and so, too, is the institution at the center of the controversy about torture — the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. From it came the so-called "torture memos" arguing the legality of certain "enhanced interrogation" techniques.
The OLC provides opinions about what is and is not lawful government behavior. By not quickly quashing talk about prosecutions of the authors of the memos — or, by inference, higher officials who acted on the basis of those memos — the president has compromised the OLC's usefulness: If its judgments can be criminalized by the next administration, OLC can no longer be considered a bulwark of the rule of law.
On the other hand, four things are clear. First, torture is illegal. Second, if an enemy used some of the "enhanced interrogation" techniques against any American, most Americans would call that torture. Third, that does not mean that the memos defending the legality of those techniques were indefensible, let alone criminal, because: Fourth, the president might be mistaken in saying that there is no difficult choice because coercive interrogation techniques are ineffective.
A congressional panel, or one akin to the 9/11 commission, should discover what former CIA Director George Tenet meant when he said: "I know that this program has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots." And what former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell meant when he said: "We have people walking around in this country that are alive today because this process happened."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was frequently briefed as a member of the Intelligence Committee, could usefully answer the question: What did you know and when did you know it? She regularly conquered reticence about her disapproval of the Bush administration. Why not about the interrogation methods?
Furthermore, four of the President's 15 Cabinet members are former members of Congress, as are the President, Vice President and White House chief of staff. So seven of the administration's 18 most senior figures might usefully answer those questions, and this one: What did you do about what you knew?
George F. Will is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Labels: General information
What Chrysler's Bankruptcy Filing Means: A Primer.
By MICHELINE MAYNARD
Chrysler is the first major automaker to file for bankruptcy and attempt to reorganize since Studebaker in 1933. The process can be complicated. Here is a quick look at how it is likely to play out.
Q. Will Chrysler cease to operate?
A. No. Chrysler is reorganizing under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. The law allows companies to shed assets, restructure debt, cancel contracts and close operations that normally would have to continue running. Once they secure financing to leave bankruptcy, these companies are reconstituted as new legal entities.
Should Chrysler fail to successfully reorganize, it might turn to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which would mean a liquidation.
Q. How long will this take?
A. The Obama administration spoke of a “surgical bankruptcy” which it said could be completed in 30 to 60 days. It plans to use Section 363 of the bankruptcy code to sell assets, rid the company of liabilities and restructure its debt, creating a new Chrysler.
In reality, most bankruptcies take much longer. United Airlines spent more than three years under bankruptcy protection. Delphi, the auto parts supplier, has been in Chapter 11 since 2005. The bankruptcy by LTV, a steelmaker, took seven years to resolve.
Bankruptcy law changed in 2005 to give management of a company the exclusive right to draft a plan of reorganization for only 18 months. A judge can extend this period, which is called exclusivity, but creditors or potential buyers for a company can present a competing plan once that period expires.
Q. What happens to Chrysler dealers?
A. Chrysler is able under bankruptcy to cancel franchise agreements with its dealers, and the government said that will happen. Dealers can sue to block the action, but a final decision would be up to the judge. In the meantime, Chrysler would continue to provide dealers with vehicles to sell.
Chrysler Financial will cease making loans for Chrysler vehicles; GMAC, with support from the government, will provide financing for Chrysler dealers.
Q. What happens to Chrysler employees?
A. The White House said it did not anticipate any reductions in white- or blue-collar jobs as a result of the bankruptcy. However, Chrysler employees who are not union members do not have any job security. The company can ask a judge for an immediate pay cut for its salaried employees, and can announce job eliminations and close offices, just as it can outside bankruptcy,
Contracts covering members of the United Automobile Workers union and other unions will remain in force, until the company asks a judge to void them. U.A.W. members approved changes to their contract on Wednesday that presumably would mean the contract would stay in place.
But if the company asked for contracts to be terminated and replaced with terms it can more readily afford, the union would have a chance to respond in court. Negotiations would take place before any cuts were imposed. This process could take months.
Q. Are pensions and retiree health care benefits protected?
A. Companies have the right under bankruptcy law to ask to terminate their pension plans. If such a request was made, a judge would convene a mini-trial on the subject and hear both sides. If pensions are terminated, employees would still receive about one-third of their benefits through funding from the federal pension agency.
A company also can eliminate retiree health care benefits for non-union employees; they would subsequently be covered by Medicare. The U.A.W. and Chrysler agreed in 2007 to transfer responsibility for union retiree health care to a special fund, and the fund would administer those retiree benefits.
Q. What happens to Chrysler suppliers?
A. The White House said supplier contracts would remain in force, and it has created a program to provide federal help to parts makers. But in bankruptcy, supplier contracts can be canceled.
Chrysler can ask to cancel suppliers’ contracts and grant business to new suppliers, or seek lower rates. Suppliers would have the opportunity to negotiate with the company, just as they would in any business deal.
Republican National Committee (RNC) Feuds With Chair., Micheal Steele; Newt Gingrich Joins In His Defense. Read More And Watch Video Below.
"For Specter, Full Circle".
By E.J. DIONNE JR.
WASHINGTON — When Arlen Specter ran for Philadelphia district attorney in 1965, he proudly proclaimed himself a "Kennedy Democrat," and said he was running as a Republican to take on what he saw as the corruption of the city's then-legendary Democratic machine.
Forty-four years later, Arlen Specter has come full circle.
In announcing his switch to the Democratic Party on Tuesday, the maverick Pennsylvanian was doing more than trying to save a political career jeopardized by the increasing conservatism of the Republican Party. He was also ratifying a decisive shift in American politics.
The GOP in his home state had once been a bastion of moderates and liberals including William Scranton, Hugh Scott and Richard Schweiker. In the age of Barack Obama, Republicans of that stripe are flooding into the Democratic Party. Specter is not a leading indicator. His conversion is the culmination of an inexorable trend.
In a sense, Specter's departure is a victory for conservatives who, since the days of Barry Goldwater, have been intent on purging liberals from the GOP. The raw political fact is that Specter was in grave danger of losing a Republican primary to former Rep. Pat Toomey, an anti-tax activist. One Democratic strategist reported seeing polling that showed Specter less popular among Pennsylvania Republicans than President Obama.
Conservatives had once hoped that creating an ideologically pure party would put them on the path to a majority. But they must now worry that the Republicans' continued rightward drift is putting the party at odds with a moderate to liberal mood that pervades the country almost everywhere outside the Deep South. And Specter's switch would give the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, assuming that Minnesota's Al Franken eventually takes the seat for which he now leads after an extended recount.
At the instant of his conversion, Specter transformed himself from a political underdog into a favorite for re-election in 2010. That's because Pennsylvania became far more Democratic in the final years of George W. Bush's presidency. In 2004, Democrat John Kerry carried the state by roughly 144,000 votes. Barack Obama's margin in 2008 was more than 620,000. According to the network exit polls, Democrats went from a two-point advantage in party identification in 2004 to a seven-point lead in 2008.
Reflecting a trend across the Northeast and Midwest, Democrats have posted especially strong gains in the suburbs, particularly in the counties around Philadelphia. They had once provided a base for moderate Republicans — notably Specter himself. They are now helping to pad Democratic margins, and Specter is hoping they will support him in his new political incarnation.
The agony of moderate Republicanism was reflected in Specter's efforts to appease his party's primary electorate over the last few months, even as he tried to maintain an independent stance that had served him well in general elections. It was as if he was trying to solve a simultaneous equation for which there was no answer.
At the beginning of the year, for example, he pleased Democrats and angered Republicans by backing a compromise stimulus package sought by Obama. But in the course of the negotiations, he annoyed Democrats by insisting that the package be held below $790 billion.
Specter had long received help from the labor movement. Indeed, the unions encouraged some of their members to switch parties in 2004 when Toomey challenged Specter in a primary the first time. But this year, Specter enraged union leaders when he said he could not support their central legislative goal, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for labor organizations to sign up new members.
Specter, once a master of the ideological two-step, found himself tripping again and again in the new political environment.
And so he finds himself back where he started his political life. A man always attuned to the direction of the political winds, Specter has signaled that they are clearly blowing the Democrats' way. A politician always ready to surprise and confound his political adversaries, Specter now finds the party of Obama as appealing as long ago found the party of John F. Kennedy. And Specter could not resist paraphrasing Kennedy in declaring that "sometimes party asks too much." His decision reflects his own personal needs, but it also stands as a warning to the party he once embraced and has now abandoned.
E.J. Dionne is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
HYPOCRISY: Thy Name Is Pennsylvania U. S. Senator, Arlen Specter. Watch Video.
Mitch McConnell Gave $10,000.00 To Arlen Specter's Re-Election Campaign. He Should Ask For His Money Back. Read More.
McConnell gave $10,000 to Specter, none to Bunning
By John Cheves
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell may be fuming at Sen. Arlen Specter now, but a month ago, he was cutting him a $10,000 check.
McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, gave $10,000 to Specter’s 2010 re-election campaign on March 11 ... .
Of course, Specter at the time was the Republican senator from Pennsylvania. On Tuesday, he shocked the political world by announcing that his party has moved too far to the right, so he was becoming a Democratic senator from Pennsylvania. Specter said he still plans to run for re-election next year and is counting on Democratic President Barack Obama to campaign for him.
Specter’s switch gives the Democrats’ Senate caucus 59 votes, one shy of what it needs to overcome Republican filibusters. Democrat Al Franken is ahead in Minnesota’s legally contested Senate race, which could make him the 60th Democratic vote.
“Well, obviously we are not happy,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.
By the end of 2009’s first fund-raising quarter, there was no sign of McConnell giving to the campaign of fellow Republican and Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, who also is running for re-election next year.
Laugh Out Loud, With Joel Pett.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Watch POTUS Barack Obama's 100 Day Press Conference Held Tonight.
POTUS Barack Obama Basks In The Glory Of His 100 Days. Watch Video.
POTUS Barack Obama Marks 100 Days In Office With A "Gift" Of Arlen Specter's "Defection". Watch The Video.
Thomas Sowell: Bending Over Backwards.
By Thomas Sowell
It used to be said that self-preservation is the first law of nature. But much of what has been happening in recent times in the United States, and in Western civilization in general, suggests that survival is taking a back seat to the shibboleths of political correctness.
We have already turned loose dozens of captured terrorists, who have resumed their terrorism. Why? Because they have been given “rights” that exist neither in our laws nor under international law.
These are not criminals in our society, entitled to the protection of the Constitution of the United States. They are not prisoners of war entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention.
There was a time when people who violated the rules of war were not entitled to turn around and claim the protection of those rules. German soldiers who put on U.S. military uniforms, in order to infiltrate American lines during the Battle of the Bulge, were simply lined up against a wall and shot.
Nobody even thought that this was a violation of the Geneva Conventions. American authorities filmed the mass executions. Nobody dreamed up fictitious “rights” for these enemy combatants who had violated the rules of war. Nobody thought we had to prove that we were nicer than the Nazis by bending over backward.
Bending over backward is a very bad position from which to try to defend yourself. Nobody in those days confused bending over backward with “the rule of law,” as Barack Obama did recently. Bending over backward is the antithesis of the rule of law. It is depriving the people of the protection of their laws, in order to pander to mushy notions among the elite.
Even under the Geneva Conventions, enemy soldiers have no right to be turned loose before the war is over. Terrorists — “militants” or “insurgents” for those of you who are squeamish — have declared open-ended war against America. It is open-ended in time and open-ended in methods, including beheadings of innocent civilians.
President Obama can ban the phrase “war on terror” but he cannot ban the terrorists' war on us. That war continues, so there is no reason to turn terrorists loose before it ends. They chose to make it that kind of war. We don't need to risk American lives to prove that we are nicer than they are.
The great Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that law is not some “brooding omnipresence in the sky.” It is a set of explicit rules by which human beings structure their lives and their relationships with one another.
Those who choose to live outside those laws, whether terrorists or pirates, can be — and have been — shot on sight. Squeamishness is neither law nor morality. And moral exhibitionism is beneath contempt, when it sacrifices the safety of those who live within the law for the sake of self-satisfied preening, whether in editorial offices or in the White House.
As if it is not enough to turn cutthroats loose to cut throats again, we are now contemplating legal action against Americans who wrung information about international terrorist operations out of captured terrorists.
Does nobody think ahead to what this will mean — for many years to come — if people trying protect this country from terrorists have to worry about being put behind bars themselves? Do we need to have American intelligence agencies tip-toeing through the tulips when they deal with terrorists?
In his visit to CIA headquarters, President Obama pledged his support to the people working there and said that there would be no prosecutions of CIA agents for prior actions. Then he welshed on that in a matter of hours by leaving the door open for such prosecutions, which the left has been clamoring for, both inside and outside of Congress.
Repercussions extend far beyond issues of the day. It is bad enough that we have a glib and sophomoric narcissist in the White House. What is worse is that whole nations that rely on the United States for their security see how easily our President welshes on his commitments. So do other nations, including those with murderous intentions toward us, our children and grandchildren.
Dr. Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and writes a column for Creators Syndicate.
Labels: General information
"A Wakeup Call For The GOP"; But Don't Expect It To Answer.
By Don Balz
How much more can the Republicans take? Demoralized, shrinking and seemingly lacking an agenda beyond the word “no,” Republicans yesterday saw their ranks further thinned with the stunning news that Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter is switching parties and will run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat.
Specter is worried about his own survival — and particularly a primary challenge from the right. Many in the GOP might say good riddance. After supporting President Obama's stimulus package, Specter was persona non grata in his own party. So it may be easy for some Republicans to conclude that they are better off without people like Arlen Specter.
But his defection is a reminder that the Republican Party continues to contract, especially outside the South, and that it appears increasingly less welcome to politicians and voters who do not consider themselves solidly conservative. Northeast Republicans have gone from an endangered species to a nearly extinct species. Republicans lost ground in the Rocky Mountains and the Midwest in the last two elections. That's no way to build a national party.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows the depth of the party's problems. Just 21 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Republicans. That's the lowest since the fall of 1983, when just 19 percent identified themselves as Republicans. Party identification does fluctuate with events. But as a snapshot indicator, the latest figures highlight the impact of Obama's opening months on the Republican Party. From a high-water mark of 35 percent in the fall of 2003, Republicans have slid steadily to their present state of affairs. It's just not as cool to be a Republican as it once was.
The Republicans have many demographic challenges as they plot their comeback. Obama has attracted strong support from young voters and Latinos — two keys to the future for both parties and once part of the GOP's calculation for sustaining themselves in power. Suburban voters have moved toward the Democrats. Specter can see that problem acutely in the suburbs around his home in Philadelphia. Obama is also holding a solid advantage among independents, the proxy measure for the center or swing portion of the electorate.
Reihan Salam, co-author of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save America, said this week that the danger for Republicans is to believe they now represent a vast, silent majority that is waiting to reassert itself. A louder voice from a smaller cadre of supporters is not the answer, he warned. That will just prevent Republicans from reassessing their old agenda, developing new ideas and once again learning to reach out broadly.
The Post-ABC News poll points to the progress Republicans have not made since Obama was sworn in last January. The approval rating for congressional Republicans has slipped from 38 percent in February to 30 percent today. Congressional Democrats have seen their support drop too, but still remain 15 points higher than the Republicans.
More discouraging for a party trying to pick itself up after two bad elections is the wide gulf in public trust between the President and congressional Republicans. Sixty percent of the country trusts Obama to make the right decisions for the country's future — but just 21 percent trust Republicans in Congress.
Despite their solid opposition to the President's economic and budgetary policies, Republicans in Congress have seen this trust quotient decline eight points since January. A CBS News-New York Times poll found that 70 percent of Americans believe Republicans have opposed those policies for political reasons, rather than because GOP lawmakers genuinely believe the policies are bad for the economy.
In the first 99 days of the Obama administration, it has sometimes felt like the Republicans have had a different “leader” each day. Last week the leader of the party was Dick Cheney, attacking Obama for his decision to end the harsh interrogation techniques on some terrorist suspects and to release Justice Department memos outlining those procedures.
Earlier, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour have taken the spotlight. Rush Limbaugh? He too led the Republicans for a week last winter. Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee chairman? He was pretty visible for a time earlier this year, wasn't he? The list goes on. Don't forget Newt Gingrich or the two elected “leaders” in Congress: House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).
That tells you something. At this moment when the journalistic world is awash with assessments of President Obama's opening months in office, it's useful to reflect on one reason for his strong start: he has been blessed with weak opposition. The Republicans may be united, but they have yet to find a leader who resonates beyond their conservative base or an agenda that attracts real support.
The way back will require both strategic thinking and some luck. Obama has put so much in motion that, say some savvy conservatives, it's almost inevitable that some initiatives will fail. Daniel Casse, a conservative strategist, believes by this time next year, Republicans may have any number of opportunities for taking on Obama that will look more attractive to the voters. But he hardly underestimates Obama's formidable skills as a politician.
For Republicans, the gubernatorial races in 2010 will showcase some of the party's beyond-the-Beltway up and comers. That group includes Jindal, despite his poor performance delivering the Republican response to Obama's speech to Congress earlier this year and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who has caught the eye of some prominent Democratic strategists.
Those 2010 races will also give some shrewd Republican policy entrepreneurs the chance to incubate some new ideas for the party — ideas that can reach beyond the conservative base and offer a way forward. If there are people ready to seize the opportunity.
Republicans have been on a downward slide for the past four years, a decline that began not long after the reelection of former president George W. Bush in 2004. Many Republicans have blamed most of the party's problems on Bush's leadership. But the problems go deeper than any one person. Specter's shocking departure may provide a wakeup call to Republicans that a broad reassessment is now urgently needed.
Don Balz covers politics for The Washington Post.
Labels: General information
Nick Anderson Takes On The GOP On Arlen Specter.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Talking About Harry Reid, "Our Country Deserves Better" Group Targets Him In Ad. Watch.
Labels: Ad wars
Hypocrisy? Arlen Specter Condemned Jim Jeffords For Switching Parties In 2001. Read More.
More GOP Reaction: Jim Bunning Blames "The Senate Republican Leadership" For Arlen Specter's Change Of Parties. Read More.
“Well, obviously, we are not happy that Senator Specter has decided to become a Democrat,” McConnell said Tuesday. “He visited with me in my office late yesterday afternoon and told me quite candidly that he’d been informed by his pollster that it would be impossible for him to be re-elected in Pennsylvania as a Republican because he could not win the primary; and he was also informed by his pollster that he could not get elected as an independent, and indicated that he had decided to become a Democrat. What this means, if we are not successful in Minnesota, as you know, is that the Democrats, at least on paper, will have 60 votes.”
Fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, who like Specter is also facing a tough re-election bid, was more blunt.
“I am disappointed, but not surprised, by Senator Specter’s self-serving decision to switch parties at a time when his vote is so important to maintaining some balance of power here in Washington,” Bunning said. "The Senate Republican leadership’s coddling of Senator Specter shows just how far the Republican Party has lost its way."
More GOP Reaction: RNC Chair., Michael Steele Uses Arlen Specter's Party Switch To Beg For Donations. Read His Email. Has The Man NO Shame?
I hope Arlen Specter's party change outrages you. It should for two reasons:
First--Specter claimed it was philosophical--and pointed his finger of blame at Republicans all over America for his defection to the Democrats. He told us all to go jump in the lake today.
I'm sorry, but I don't believe a word he said.
Arlen Specter committed a purely political and self-serving act today. He simply believes he has a better chance of saving his political hide and his job as a Democrat. He loves the title of Senator more than he loves the party--and the principles--that elected him and nurtured him.
Second--and more importantly--Arlen Specter handed Barack Obama and his band of radical leftists nearly absolute power in the United States Senate. In leaving the Republican Party--and joining the Democrats--he absolutely undercut Republicans' efforts to slow down Obama's radical agenda through the threat of filibuster.
Facing defeat in Pennsylvania's 2010 Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record, and an end to his 30 year career in the U.S. Senate, he has peddled his services--and his vote--to the leftist Obama Democrats who aim to remake America with their leftist plan.
As recently as April 9th, Senator Specter said he would run in the Pennsylvania primary next year as a Republican. Why the sudden change of heart? Clearly, this was an act based on political expediency by a craven politician desperate to keep his Washington power base--not the act of a statesman.
His defection to the Democrat Party puts the Democrats in an almost unstoppable position to pass Obama's destructive agenda of income redistribution, health care nationalization, and a massive expansion of entitlements.
Arlen Specter has put his loyalty to his own political career above his duty to his state and nation.
You and I have a choice. Some will use Specter's defection as an excuse to fold the tent and give up. I believe that you are not one of those people. When Benedict Arnold defected to the British, George Washington didn't fold the tent and give up either.
He grit his teeth more determined than ever to succeed. That's what I'm asking you to do today.
Join me in this fight by making a secure online contribution of $25, $50, $100, $500 or $1,000 right now to build our army of supporters and defeat Democrat candidates like Arlen Specter in next year's elections.
Stand with me. I need your support today.
Chairman, Republican National Committee
P.S. ., we need to respond to Senator Specter's decision to join President Obama's efforts to change America into a European Welfare State. Please help our Party move forward by making a secure online contribution of $25, $50, $100, $500 or $1,000 to give our Republican leaders & candidates the political muscle they need to resist the Obama-Pelosi-Specter agenda. Thank you.
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Contributions from corporations, labor unions, federal contractors and foreign nationals
without permanent residency status are prohibited.
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More GOP Reactions To Senator Arlen Spector: Lindsey Graham Of South Carolina Has It Right, And He Is Back In My "Admired Person" Column. Read More.
More GOP Reactions To Senator Arlen Spector: Mitch McConnell Sees "Threat To The Country Presented By Specter's DEFECTION!". Watch Video.
Breaking News: Pennsylvania Senator, Arlen Specter, To Switch Parties, Give Democrats Filibuster Proof Majority.
Read more here.
Republicans have managed to PUSH the Senator to the other side. If they don't watch it, they'll push Maine's two Senators over, too.
(Hat tip to the "Fix").
Update: Specter releases statement:
Specter's statement: "Not defined" by party
Statement by Sen. Arlen Specter:
I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.
Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.
When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.
Since then, I have traveled the state, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
I have decided to run for reelection in 2010 in the Democratic primary.
I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for reelection determined in a general election.
I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank specially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.
I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for reelection because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania's economy.
I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.
While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.
My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords' switch, which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (card check) will not change.
Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy's statement that sometimes party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.
Update: RNC Chair responds:
Statement from RNC Chairman Michael Steele:
"Some in the Republican Party are happy about this. I am not. Let's be honest-Senator Specter didn't leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record. Republicans look forward to beating Sen. Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don't do it first."
Lexington, Kentucky, Is In The News - Again - For Finance Problems. Oversight Urged.
"We Need An Immigration Stimulus".
A recession is exactly when we want innovative outsiders.
By L. GORDON CROVITZ
At the dawn of the Industrial Age, in 1719, the British Parliament passed a law banning craftsmen from emigrating to France or other rival countries. The law also targeted anyone who tried to entice skilled British workers to share technological information with foreigners.
"At that time the chief concern was the loss of iron founders and watchmakers," Gavin Weightman writes in his new book, "The Industrial Revolutionaries." Spies from around the world tried to uncover the secrets of British engineering, but "were often reduced to lurking around local inns, hoping to engage knowledgeable workmen in conversation and induce them to cross the Channel for some splendid reward."
This attempted protectionism of ideas was doomed by easier travel and communication. The precursor to the London Times complained in 1785 that a Briton who set up a textile plant in France had "entailed more ruin and mischief on this kingdom than perhaps even the loss of America."
Which brings us to our own era, and the debate on immigration reform beginning this week with congressional hearings that include an appearance by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. President Barack Obama says he wants to address the issue by the end of the year.
It usually pays to be skeptical about immigration reform, given the alliance between nativists and labor unions for tighter borders. Still, an economic downturn is the right time to move on immigration, one of the few policy tools that could clearly boost growth.
The pace of lower-skilled migration has slowed due to higher unemployment. This could make it less contentious to ease the path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented workers and their families in the U.S. It's also a good time to ask why we turn away skilled workers, including the ones earning 60% of the advanced degrees in engineering at U.S. universities. It is worth pointing out the demographic shortfall: Immigrants are a smaller proportion of the U.S. population than in periods such as the late 1890s and 1910s, when immigrants gave the economy a jolt of growth.
Immigrants have had a disproportionate role in innovation and technology. Companies founded by immigrants include Yahoo, eBay and Google. Half of Silicon Valley start-ups were founded by immigrants, up from 25% a decade ago. Some 40% of patents in the U.S. are awarded to immigrants. A recent study by the Kauffman Foundation found that immigrants are 50% likelier to start businesses than natives. Immigrant-founded technology firms employ 450,000 workers in the U.S. And according to the National Venture Capital Association, immigrants have started one quarter of all U.S. venture-backed firms.
Banks getting federal bailouts are saddled with new hurdles to get visas for skilled workers. The wait for H-1B visas for skilled people from countries such as China and India is now more than five years, with only 65,000 visas granted annually among 600,000 applications. But countries such as Canada and Singapore actively recruit technologists and scientists. As Intel Chairman Craig Barrett has suggested, instead of sending the half million higher-education students from overseas home when they graduate, we should "staple a green card to their diplomas."
Economic recovery and immigration are closely linked, as New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg also understands. Last month he launched a business-plan competition targeting business and engineering students overseas with winners getting cash and introductions to venture capitalists in the city. "Unfortunately, as we're moving to open our doors even wider to the world, Congress is moving in the opposite direction," Mr. Bloomberg said.
There's a strong case that we need both more skilled and unskilled immigrants. In "The Venturesome Economy," Columbia business professor Amar Bhidé showed that wherever technology is developed, it's the creative application of innovation that builds great businesses. The Web was conceived in a lab in Switzerland, but it matured in Silicon Valley. Mr. Bhidé argues that immigrants at all levels, including as "venturesome consumers," are an important reason the U.S. retains a strong lead in innovation, even as the lead in advanced technology and science has eroded.
At a time when our financial-capital markets are still reeling from the credit bust, the human-capital market remains open for business. Fewer workers will be lured to the U.S. during a recession, but the ones who come will speed recovery. There are costs to immigration, especially in border states with generous welfare programs, but the overall benefit is akin to the advantages of free trade in goods and services.
In contrast to the early days of the Industrial Revolution, when manufacturing secrets drove competitive advantage, today's information technologies thrive as innovators share new ideas and make businesses out of them. Much of this activity is being done by foreigners who want to become economically successful Americans. This makes more open immigration one of the few stimulus packages Washington can deliver with confidence that it would help.
Labels: General information
Today Is A Good Day To Laugh.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Judd Gregg: "Elections Have Consequences".
'Elections Have Consequences'
Obama's would-be commerce secretary on the president's big-government agenda.
By BRIAN M. CARNEY
Sen. Judd Gregg is perhaps best known for something he didn't do. Two weeks into the Obama administration, he announced that he was leaving the Senate to become commerce secretary. Two weeks later, he withdrew his name, drawing a testy jab from the administration for denying it a bipartisan feather in its cap.
[The Weekend Interview] Zina Saunders
It's hard to reconcile the man who nearly boarded the Obama express with the tough-minded Republican senator who sat across from The Wall Street Journal's editorial board at our offices earlier this week. As for the lessons he learned from his dalliance with the administration, he reserves his criticism for himself: "I should have been smart enough to see the daylight before I walked in the door. . . . I don't think there's any big lesson here for anybody but myself, which is the obvious: It would have been impossible for me to be with the president 100% of the time, which is what a cabinet secretary has to be."
Just how obvious that should have been became clear in the course of our interview. Also obvious, Mr. Gregg said, was that the Obama administration is filled with "really capable, dedicated, smart, sharp people with an agenda that they intend to pursue aggressively."
The kind words mostly stop there. From health care to global warming, financial regulation, spending and tax policy, Mr. Gregg doesn't pull any punches in his criticism of the new president. He may be "a charismatic person" with "a very strong understanding of who he is and what he wants to do," but when it comes to the substance of what Mr. Obama seeks to accomplish, Mr. Gregg is less charitable. "They have a goal," the senator says, "and he's very open about it. They are going to grow this government."
Mr. Gregg believes the stakes are high. "This is the first time a budget's had real meaning in a long time," he says. In recent years, presidential budgets have been formulaic exercises. Even if Congress went on to adopt them, they would only serve, at best, as rough guidelines for the real work of crafting the appropriations bills that actually set discretionary funding levels. But this budget "is real, and he [Mr. Obama] intends to push it."
That's bad news, in Mr. Gregg's view, because "We're headed on an unsustainable path. The simple fact is these [budget] numbers don't work and the practical implications of them are staggering for the nation and the next generation."
His "main concern," he says, "is that if you look at the Obama budget, it projects on average about a $1 trillion deficit [every year] over the next 10 years." And as a result of all that spending, "You see the size of government growing from 21% [of gross domestic product] to 22%, to 23%, 24%, 25% . . . toward 30%."
Set against this spending growth, Mr. Gregg points out, "the revenue base is only so big. Granted, right now it's way down because of the economic situation. But even if you took it back to an economy that's performing extremely well, say [revenues of] even 19% [of GDP], you can't close that gap under the present projected situation. And so we're in trouble. And the policies of this administration are driving that to an even more acute situation." Spending and deficits are both heading skyward, and government debt held by the public is heading toward 80% of GDP.
For Mr. Gregg, this is like living a nightmare. He has been a hard-nosed advocate for government spending restraint since his days as a Congressman (1981-87) and governor of New Hampshire (1987-93). At times, his commitment to fiscal responsibility led him to oppose tax cuts when they weren't matched by spending restraint. Those stances incurred the ire of his Republican colleagues, but he always stuck to his fiscal-responsibility guns. Now he's staring down a spending explosion that makes those battles look picayune.
One of the big drivers of government spending in the Obama budget is universal health insurance. And on this point, Mr. Gregg says, "At least Obama was half-way honest about how much he was going to spend on health care. He had it at $600 billion. And the real number . . . is $1.2 trillion." But that's better than Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad. "What Conrad did was take the entire amount off-budget and not account for any of it." Mr. Obama's budget, therefore, "was honest to a higher degree. It held itself to a higher degree of integrity than the Senate budget or the House budget."
Well, except for one point: "the huge savings that they claimed on defense spending, which was a total fraud." Mr. Gregg refers to the fact that the administration's budget builds the full cost of the surge in Iraq into the budget baseline. Under that assumption, we would continue to appropriate money for the surge every year for the next 10 years. That allows the administration to "find" $1.6 trillion in savings, "all of which is spending we would never do," according to Mr. Gregg.
Health-care reform is not just about the price tag. How it gets done matters too. And in Mr. Gregg's view, the Obama administration's goal is crystal-clear. "This is a single-payer government. . . . It doesn't want to say that publicly and it rejects it publicly. But the goal is to push that substantively. Because that's what they believe." In other words, what Mr. Obama bills as a "public option" for those who need health insurance but can't get it through their employer or in the private market would soon become the only option -- even for those happy with their current insurance.
Before you cry "conspiracy," Mr. Gregg argues that he has history on his side. The Democrats, he says, pulled the same public-private switcheroo before with student loans for college. Back in the late 1990s, "there was a huge debate in the committee . . . between myself and [Senator Ted] Kennedy over a private plan versus a public plan." In the end, they compromised -- the government would offer loans directly to students, but that program would have to compete with private-sector lenders. "And the agreement was very formal, and the record shows this very clearly. We agreed to level the playing field, put both plans on the playing field at an equal status and see who won. Well, private plans won. Big time."
Given the choice, most borrowers went to the private sector for their loans. But the Democrats who wanted to nationalize the student-loan market did not take defeat in the marketplace gracefully. "They didn't like that," Mr. Gregg says. "So ever since then they've tilted the playing field back and now they're going to wipe out the private plans in their budget."
When it comes to health insurance, Mr. Gregg expects more of the same. "That's the scenario that you're going to see if you have a public plan for insurance that competes with the private plans. That's the game plan" -- call it competition at first, but tighten the screws until the private insurers leave the market or get forced out. But with health-care spending representing 17% of GDP and climbing, the stakes are much, much larger. "Everyone in this country is affected by these policies."
And while the aspiration for universal coverage may be noble, the practical realities of getting there may prove harder for the American public to swallow. "There's no question," the senator says, "that this is a debate about rationing to a large degree. All your single-payer systems are rationing systems. It's also a debate about technology and innovation. Because you will not have capital pursuing technology, innovation and science if it's health-care related, because the return on capital won't be there. And these things are so expensive, especially on the pharmaceutical side and the biologic side, that you'll dramatically slow improvements in the quality of health care through science with a single-payer plan." Mr. Gregg thinks that critique will resonate with the public.
Even so, given the balance of power in Washington, Mr. Gregg gives the Democrats good chances of success in nationalizing our health-insurance market. "I think the odds are pretty good that it's going to happen -- that you'll have a major health-care reform bill pass." As he says, "Elections have consequences."
That said, Mr. Gregg doesn't necessarily think the American people will be happy with those consequences if the Democrats succeed in pushing through a "stalking horse" for a single-payer health-care system. "If they produce a partisan bill and pass it on a party-line vote, it's their baby," he warns. "They're going to have to defend it in the next election cycle and it's likely that it's not going to be perceived as fair by the American people."
Moreover, he says, "I don't think the American people want unilateral government control over the entire health-care system. I think most people understand that we've got a pretty good health-care system. It doesn't reach as many people as it should, and that has to be corrected. But it's innovative, it gives you decent health care for most Americans, and it's a lot better than any of the other countries that have these massive national plans."
That, together with the runaway spending and growing pile of debt, could yet set the stage for a Republican comeback, and sooner than most pundits would predict. Mr. Gregg will not run for re-election when his current term ends next year. Republicans, he says, "became very clouded as to what we stood for under the Bush presidency." But now they're getting their "definition" back.
"We're beginning to speak in a much more definitional voice on issues that were historically Republican issues: fiscal responsibility, giving individuals the opportunity to go out and create a better life for themselves, American exceptionalism, viewing America as a special place, not apologizing for our nation. These are things that we've always, as a party, resonated around. And I think we're starting to do it again." He corrects himself: "I know we are."
The Republican excesses during the Bush administration "haven't been forgiven and they haven't been forgotten" by voters. But if the president and his majorities in Congress get their way, voters will, Mr. Gregg believes, be ready for an alternative. "And we're the only show in town."
Mr. Carney is a member of the Journal's editorial board and the coauthor of "Freedom, Inc.," forthcoming from Crown Business in the fall.
Labels: General information
Did GOP Chair, Michael "Lack Of Steel" Steele Lose A Big One In New York State? Watch Video.
POTUS Barack Obama Scores BIG With Washington Post-ABC News Poll. Read More.
BREAKING NEWS: General Motors (GM) Plans To Kill 21,000 Jobs, 13 Plants, 42% Of Its Dealerships, Pontiac, Hummer, Saab And Saturn. Read & Watch Video.
Joel Pett Invites Us To Laugh.
Words To Live By.
-- Fisher Ames, letter to George Richard Minot, 23 June 1789
Labels: Words to live by
Sunday, April 26, 2009
DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Let The Senate Investigate The Interrogations".
It's the only way we'll understand the program.
By DIANNE FEINSTEIN
President Barack Obama's release of memos detailing CIA interrogation policies under the Bush administration has ignited a political firestorm that continues to dominate the nation's front pages and news programs. The pressure is intense -- on Capitol Hill and elsewhere -- for Congress to "do something," and do it fast.
It's time to step back, take a breath, and set the record straight.
Here are the facts:
We already are doing something. Last year, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence began reviewing CIA materials on the first two high-value detainees to be captured, and is finalizing a classified report on their detention and interrogation.
Last month, we launched a comprehensive, bipartisan review of CIA interrogation and detention policies. Since then, we have identified and requested from the CIA, among other things, a voluminous amount of materials and records related to conditions of detentions and techniques of interrogations.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is the appropriate body to conduct this review, because it is responsible for the oversight of America's 16 intelligence agencies -- most specifically, the CIA. The committee has access, on a regular basis, to classified materials and is supplementing its existing professional staff to carry out the investigation with bipartisan oversight.
All of this will be done in a classified environment, and the results will be brought to the full committee for its careful consideration. The committee will make a determination with respect to findings and recommendations.
It's important to note the fundamental realities underpinning this effort. First, it's vital that our work be structured in such a way as to avoid a "witch hunt" or a "show trial." That's easy. We do the vast bulk of our work behind closed doors -- precisely because the subject matter is highly classified. This allows us to examine the entire, unvarnished record in our search for the truth.
Second, for our review to succeed, it simply must be bipartisan, as is our tradition. This committee's last major investigation, in 2004, into prewar Iraq intelligence, was both bipartisan and critical in providing public understanding of the failed intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Democrats and Republicans on the committee came together with shared purpose in this latest endeavor. And we announced the committee's action, in a joint statement issued March 5.
Here's part of what we said: "The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has agreed on a strong bipartisan basis to begin a review of the CIA's detention and interrogation program. The purpose is to review the program and to shape detention and interrogation policies in the future."
We went on to explain that the review would specifically examine:
- How the CIA created, operated and maintained conditions of detention and interrogation.
- Whether the CIA accurately described the detention and interrogation program to other parts of the U.S. government, including the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
- Whether the CIA implemented the program in compliance with official guidance, including covert action findings, Office of Legal Counsel opinions and CIA policy.
- The intelligence gained through the use of enhanced and standard interrogation techniques.
Our objective is clear: to achieve a full understanding of this program as it evolved in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
So amid all the quarreling and confusion, I say this: Let's not prejudge or jump to conclusions. And let's resist the temptation to stage a Washington spectacle, high in entertainment value, but low in fact-finding potential.
Let the Senate Intelligence Committee do its job.
Mrs. Feinstein is chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
ROBERT B. REICH:We Need Public Directors On TARP Bank Boards.
The government's role should be honest and transparent.
By ROBERT B. REICH
I don't know whether Bank of America shareholders will oust Ken Lewis from his chairmanship next week. I don't know if Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will eventually do it, either. What really worries me is I don't know who would actually be responsible for doing the deed, or by what criteria.
When it comes to keeping top corporate executives in line we usually entrust the job to shareholders -- or, as a practical matter, institutional investors that represent shareholders' interests. When it comes to keeping top public servants in line we generally trust voters -- or, as a practical matter, the elected officials who represent them. But when, as now, the public has committed large amounts of its money to particular companies in the private sector, we're in a quandary.
The $45 billion we've sent to the Bank of America should give the public some say over whether Mr. Lewis remains in his job because he is now accountable to us as well as to his shareholders. But to which group should he be more accountable?
And: Is Mr. Lewis's main job still to make money for his shareholders, or does he now have a higher public responsibility to lend more money to Main Street? Was that public responsibility also paramount last fall when Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson told Mr. Lewis to proceed with the Merrill-Lynch merger -- and when, according to Mr. Lewis's sworn testimony, he believed they didn't want him to disclose Merrill-Lynch's financial losses?
It's not even clear who represents us as members of the public. Next month, AIG holds its annual shareholders meeting. Are you attending?
Maybe you should. The $170 billion we've committed to AIG so far amounts to nearly 80% of its shares. Some private shareholders are pushing for a vote to oust an AIG board member and to further restrict executive pay. But these dissident shareholders represent only a slice of the 20% of AIG's private owners.
AIG has three public trustees, each of whom is being paid $100,000 a year. Should they vote with the dissidents? There's no way to know, because the public trustees have no charter or mission statement to guide them, and they don't seem to report to anyone, either.
The question of public representation keeps growing. Now that our loans to Citigroup have been turned into common stock, you and I and other members of the public are poised to become Citigroup's biggest shareholder, holding about 36% of its voting shares. But who represents us, and how should they vote?
The Obama administration apparently wants to do more of these debt-for-equity swaps. They're a means to get more capital to the banks without returning to Congress to ask for more money -- which Congress would be very reluctant to provide. But the swaps also expose the public to more risk. At least loans have to be repaid.
Share prices, as we've seen, sometimes go down. Yet without a means for representing the public's interest in the governance system of these banks, we can only rely on the Treasury secretary to keep a watchful eye over the ongoing decisions of every bank. That's unrealistic.
Even if our public interests were being represented, it's not clear exactly what they are beyond getting repaid or possibly making a bit of a profit. Presumably taxpayer dollars are being committed because of some larger public purpose. Yet companies are designed to make profits, not to fulfill public responsibilities.
Suppose the government, representing the public, instructs the Wall Street banks it now controls to lend more money to Main Street. But top bank executives believe they can better raise share prices by using the money for new investments, bigger dividends, or to lure and retain "talent?" The executives have a duty to do what the government tells them to do, but they have an even larger fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to raise share prices.
Suppose the government instructs AIG to clean up its balance sheet, but AIG's executives think they can make more money by inventing new off-balance-sheet derivatives? The executives' primary job is to make money for their shareholders. The fact that the public now owns 80% of AIG doesn't change that.
Suppose we tell General Motors Corp. -- now partly ours -- to shift its fleet to more fuel-efficient cars. Yet its executives know that as long as gas prices are low, Americans remain infatuated with highly profitable SUVs and pickup trucks? GM executives would have a perfect right, if not a duty, to disregard what we as citizens tell them to do in favor of what shareholders want them to do.
Democratic capitalism entails two systems by which people with significant power are held accountable. One is capitalism, by which companies and their executives are accountable to the market. The other is democracy, by which public agencies and their leaders are accountable to voters. Americans may disagree about how much we want of one or the other, but most people understand we need both systems of accountability. When we confuse the two, we run the danger that people with great power may escape accountability altogether.
That's the problem right now. Bank of America's Ken Lewis is fully accountable to no one. AIG's public trustees have no charter or public mission to guide them. GM is trying to satisfy the Treasury and its shareholders simultaneously, and is doing neither very well. Even as the public takes larger ownership stakes in big Wall Street banks, the public has no systematic means of expressing its growing interest, whatever it is.
Perhaps government had no business meddling in the private sector to begin with. AIG, the big banks and the auto companies should have been forced to work out their problems with their creditors, or else be put into temporary receivership until their profitable units or nonperforming loans could be sold off. Perhaps any company that's judged too big to fail is too big, period. Antitrust laws should have been used to break these giants up before they got so big.
These arguments may be relevant to the recent past and possibly to the future, but they're beside the point right now. The immediate challenge is to sort out public from private responsibilities and to create clearer lines of accountability.
At the least, when government takes an ownership stake in a company, the pubic should be represented on that companies' board of directors in direct proportion to the size of its stake. Those public directors should be appointed by the president. In exercising their oversight function, they should seek guidance from the president and his top economic officials. And their votes on critical issues before the board -- such as whether to fire Ken Lewis -- should be made public.
Mr. Reich is professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.
Labels: General information
Lexington Herald Leader Editorial:Investigate Torture Under Bush".
Sometimes we have to dig up the past to get the future right. This country's descent into the practice of torture is one of those times.
Such an investigation would be painful and distracting. But avoiding the truth would be even worse, costing the United States any claim to moral leadership.
The demands for an accounting will only grow as more Bush-era secrets become public. Particularly noteworthy was the report last week by McClatchy Newspapers that Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld pressured interrogators to use extreme methods to prove a non-existent link between al Qaida and Saddam Hussein.
Like the Chinese Communists, from whom we borrowed "enhanced interrogation" techniques, we were torturing to extract false confessions. It wasn't about defending America; it was about defending the Iraq War's false premise.
American voters renounced that false premise in the last election. Still, it's easy to understand why President Barack Obama might rather close the book on past abuses and keep Congress and the public focused on the enormous problems ahead.
The economy is still in shambles, al-Qaida allies appear to be on the verge of taking control of Pakistan and Shia-Sunni tensions are resurgent in Iraq. Obama's plate is overflowing with Bush leftovers.
Just figuring out what form an investigation should take — special prosecutor, bipartisan truth commission, relying on a Democrat- controlled Congress to continue to investigate?— is enough to jam Washington's gears.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is already signaling that Republicans will go all out to block exposure of wrongdoing by the Bush administration.
Despite all that, the long-term risks of not coming to terms with the truth would be worse.
For one thing, unless we figure out how our leaders, both military and civilian, could have made such extreme misjudgments, we risk repeating them.
Why, for example, did the military after 9/11 turn for advice to a unit that trains Americans to withstand techniques, universally regarded as illegal, that have been used to torture false confessions from American POWs? Wouldn't it have been smarter to seek advice from experts in how to get the truth out of prisoners?
The interrogation techniques, which Obama has now banned, include near drowning, confinement in a small box, sleep deprivation, hooding, the use of animals and stress postures — all legitimized by Justice Department lawyers, one of whom was rewarded with a federal judgeship.
It should be noted that some officials in the military and Justice Department risked their careers by warning against crossing the line into torture. And as Cheney, once the lord of secrecy, now wants all to know, some "high value" detainees spilled the beans. We don't know if they would have talked without being tortured.
We do know that thousands of American lives were lost after the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo fired up the Iraqi insurgency and recruited militant Islamists to fight in Iraq; our ability to gain allies and intelligence was hurt.
The Bush-Cheney team proved that the United States can't bully the world into following us. But we can still lead by example. If we want a world governed by the rule of law, we must live by the law. If we want others to respect human rights, so must we. What example would we set by stuffing the truth down a dank hole in Langley?
Labels: News reporting
Republican Ed Rollins Gives POTUS Barack Obama An "A". Watch The Video.
Labels: General information
Nick Anderson Takes On Texas Governor, Rick Perry.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Jordan King, Abdullah II, Says America Tortured. Watch Video.
2002 Military Memo Critical Of "Extreme" Torture Was Ignored By Bush Administration. Read More Below.
Laugh Again With Nick Anderson.
Friday, April 24, 2009
POTUS Barack Obama Aims To Crack Down On Credit Card Companies. That's Like Music To My Ears.
Want more credit card news? Watch below:
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama
BREAKING NEWS: I Spoke Too Soon, As The FEDS Have "CYPHERED" Out This One And Charged Karen Sypher With Trying To Extort $Millions From Rick Pitino.
Six days after the disclosure that University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino was the target of an extortion attempt, a Louisville woman was charged today with extortion and lying to the FBI.
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S District Court, Karen Sypher, with the help of unnamed others, tried to extort money from Pitino with threats to harm his reputation in connection with events that occurred in 2003.
The complaint, filed by FBI agent Steven J. Wight, said she lied to the FBI when she told investigators that she didn’t know the identity of the person who was making threatening phone calls to Pitino.
According to an affidavit by Wight, Pitino told investigators that he received three voice-mail messages in late February threatening to go public with criminal allegations against him.
Pitino said that after receiving the first two messages he met with Sypher and her husband, Tim, according to the affidavit, and asked what she wanted.
According to the affidavit, they discussed the possibility of a house, cars and money. The affidavit goes on to say that Tim Sypher delivered to Pitino on March 6 a written list of demands from Karen Sypher calling for college tuition for her children, two cars of her choice, a house paid off, $3,000 cash per month and a lump-sum payment of $75,000 if Pitino leaves U of L.
According to the affidavit, the note says, “If all is accepted, I will protect Rick Pitino’s name for life.”
The affidavit said she later withdrew her demands and through an attorney requested $10 million from Pitino.
The university disclosed last Saturday that Pitino had asked the FBI to investigate.
Pitino gave no specifics on the actions he claims are being taken against him, but said in the statement, “I intend to vigorously defend my reputation and the character of my family against any criminal scheme to extort money.”
Editor's comment: Don't you wonder why Rick Pitino met with her, and why her husband was the courier service for the extortion attempts, if there was no truth to her allegations, notwithstanding the crime of extortion?
Also, contrary to popular speculation, the FBI agent, in his affidavit, suggests the interaction between Rick Pitino AND A WOMAN were criminal in nature.
So the extortion does not involve Tim Sypher, Karen Sypher's estranged husband, as has been speculated.
In fact, if you keep reading the criminal complaint, you'll find out that it concerns an encounter Rick Pitino had with Karen Sypher in 2003, BEFORE SHE MARRIED HER PRESENT HUSBAND!
While we are at it, did you notice the involvement of her previous Attorney in the extortion attempts?
OK, I'm Certain Many Of You Want To Hear From Karen Sypher About Rick Pitino. Well, She's Still Talking, But Not Saying Much.
Peggy Noonan: Past, President and Future.
Obama was right to resist reopening the torture debate.
By PEGGY NOONAN
What makes it hard at the moment to write sympathetically of Barack Obama is the loud chorus of approbation arising from his supporters in journalism as they mark the hundred days. Drudge calls it the "Best President Ever" campaign. It is marked by an abandonment of critical thinking among otherwise thoughtful men and women who comprise, roughly speaking, the grown-ups of journalism, the old hands of the MSM who have been through many presidents and should know better. They are insisting too much. If they were utterly confident, they wouldn't be.
In the area of foreign affairs, one of the arguments for candidate Barack Obama was that he would put a new stamp—new ways, new style and content—on America's approach to the world. This might allow some in the world—occasional allies, foes, irritated sympathizers—to recalibrate and make positive readjustments in their attitude toward Washington. With George W. Bush, everyone got dug in, and the ground froze. After 9/11 he cut like a sword and divided: You were with us or against us. He launched a war that angered major allies. For seven years there was constant agitation, and the world was allowed to make a caricature of U.S. leadership. There was no capture of Osama bin Laden, the man who made 9/11 and whose seizure would have provided a unifying Western rallying point and inspired instructive admiration: Those Yanks get their man.
A second foreign-affairs argument for Obama is that we had entered the age of weapons of mass destruction (we'd entered it before 9/11, but only after that date did everyone know) under solely Republican rule. Which allowed anyone who wanted to, to perceive it, or play it, as a Republican war, a Republican drama. There were potential benefits in a change in leadership, one being that the Democrats would now share authority and responsibility for the age and its difficulties. They'd get the daily raw threat file, they'd apply their view of the world and do their best. A primary virtue of that: On the day something bad happened—and that day will come, and no one in the entire U.S. intelligence community will tell you otherwise—we would as a nation be spared, as we got through it, the added burden of the terrible, cleaving, partisan divisiveness of 2000-08. This would help hold us together in a hard time.
Is Mr. Obama putting a new style and approach on the age? Yes. On the occasion of the hundred days one can say: So far, so good. (We are limiting this discussion to foreign policy because in terms of domestic policy there are only so many ways to say "Oy.") There is an air of moderation, a temperate approach. Mr. Obama shakes hands with everyone, as is appropriate, for if American presidents dined only with leaders of high moral caliber and democratic disposition, they'd often sit alone at the table of nations. Though the controversy was that Mr. Obama shook Hugo Chavez's hand at the summit last week, the news was the desperation with which Mr. Chavez tried to get in the picture with him. It's not terrible when they want to be in the picture with you. It all depends on what you do with the proximity and in the ensuing conversation.
But now a hard issue has arisen, and it may well have bad foreign-policy implications.
Mr. Obama has had great and understandable difficulty in balancing competing claims regarding how to treat government information on prisoner abuse. The White House debated, decided to release Bush-era memos, then said they wouldn't allow anyone to be prosecuted, then said maybe they would. It was flat-footed, confusing. The only impressive Obama we saw on the question this week was the one described by "a senior White House official" in the Washington Post. He or she was quoted saying, of the internal administration debates, that "the president's concern was that would ratchet the whole thing up," and "His whole thing is: I banned all this. This chapter is over. What we don't need now is to become a sort of feeding frenzy where we go back and relitigate this."
Assuming the official spoke accurately of Mr. Obama's attitude, the president was wise in his reservations.
A problem with the release of the documents is that it opens the way—it probably forces the way—to congressional hearings, or a commission, or an independent prosecutor. It is hard at this point to imagine that what will follow will not prove destructive to—old-fashioned phrase coming—the good of the country.
Torture is bad, and as to whether the procedures outlined in the memos constituted torture, you could do worse than follow the wisdom of John McCain, who says, "Waterboarding is torture, period." This is something he'd know about. Abuse is wrong not only in a specific and immediate sense but in a larger one: It coarsens and damages the nation that does it while undermining its reputation in the world and its trust in itself. I freely admit it is easy to say this on a pretty day in spring 2009, and might not have been when 3,000 Americans had just been killed. In New York it took months for us to lose the terrible, burnt-plastic smell of the smoke. The earliest memos were written by men who still had the smell of smoke in their noses.
Why have reservations, then, about release of the memos and the investigations that will no doubt follow?
For these reasons. Prisoner abuse has been banned. Mr. Obama himself, as he notes in the quote above, banned it. It's over. The press, with great difficulty, and if arguably belatedly, did and is doing its job: It uncovered and revealed the abuse. The historians are descending, as they should. Hearings, commissions or prosecutors would suck all the oxygen out of the room and come to obsess the capital, taking focus off two actual, immediate and pressing emergencies, the economy and the age of terror. Hearings, especially, would likely tear up the country as we descended into opposing camps. They would damage or burden America's intelligence services, and likely result in the abuse of those who acted from high motives, having been advised their actions were legal. As for the memo writers, some of whose constitutional theories were apparently tilted to the extreme in favor of the executive, it is hard to see how it would help future administrations, or this one, to have such advice, however incorrectly formulated, criminalized.
Finally, hearings would not take place only in America. They would take place in the world, in this world, the one with extremists and terrible weapons. It is hard to believe hearings, with grandstanding senators playing to the crowd, would not descend into an auto-da-fé, a public burning of sinners, with charges, countercharges, leaks and graphic testimony. This would be a self-immolating exercise that would both excite and inform America's foes. And possibly inspire them.
Meanwhile, a resurgent Taliban is moving toward Islamabad and, possibly, the Pakistani nuclear arsenal; Israel and Iran are at loggerheads; and Iraq and Afghanistan continue as live and difficult wars. And that's just one small part of the world.
What a time to open a new front, and have a new fight, and not about what is but what was.
Hard not to believe it wouldn't be better to leave this one to history, and the historians. Absent that, a commission is better than a public prosecutor with an endless prosecution, and a public prosecutor is better than congressional hearings. Really, almost anything would be better than that.
Labels: General information
The "Torture" Debate Takes A BIZZARE Turn. Now It's Shawn Hannity Versus Keith Olbermann. This Sure Will Get Interesting! Watch Video.
Joel Pett Joins The "Torture" Debate. Laugh Away.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Talking About Torture, This Discrimination Case Will Torture The U. S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Watch Video.
Britain Joins "Torture" Debate. Read More Below.
British High Court demands U.S. torture documents
By JULIE SELL
LONDON -- The chief justice of the British High Court on Wednesday gave the British government one week to obtain the U.S. release of classified information about the alleged torture of a British resident who had been detained at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The court indicated that it would issue its own order if the government doesn't respond or justify why continued secrecy is warranted.
Noting that President Barack Obama had released highly sensitive documents tracing the decisions on torture during the Bush administration's war on terror, the high court judges voiced exasperation that the British government hasn't acted in what they said was the British public interest in being similarly open.
The hearing illustrated how Obama's decision to be more transparent about his predecessor's detainee policies is having ripple effects abroad, but it also threw the ball back to the Obama administration to approve release of the contested information.
The White House said it had no comment Wednesday.