Less Talkin’, More Kickin’

50 days in, and we’ve just learned another shocking revelation concerning the Obama administration’s response to the Gulf oil spill. In an interview aired this morning, President Obama admitted that he hasn’t met with or spoken directly to BP’s CEO Tony Hayward. His reasoning: “Because my experience is, when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he’s gonna say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words. I’m interested in actions.”

First, to the “informed and enlightened” mainstream media: in all the discussions you’ve had with the White House about the spill, did it not occur to you before today to ask how the CEO-to-CEO level discussions were progressing to remedy this tragedy? You never cease to amaze. (Kind of reminds us of the months on end when you never bothered to ask if the President was meeting with General McChrystal to talk about our strategy in Afghanistan.)

Second, to fellow baffled Americans: this revelation is further proof that it bodes well to have some sort of executive experience before occupying the Oval Office (as if the painfully slow response to the oil spill, confusion of duties, finger-pointing, lack of preparedness, and inability to grant local government simple requests weren’t proof enough). The current administration may be unaware that it’s the President’s duty, meeting on a CEO-to-CEO level with Hayward, to verify what BP reports. In an interview a few weeks ago with Greta Van Susteren, I noted that based on my experience working with oil execs as an oil regulator and then as a Governor, you must verify what the oil companies claim – because their perception of circumstances and situations dealing with public resources and public trust is not necessarily shared by those who own America’s public resources and trust. I was about run out of town in Alaska for what critics decried at the time as my “playing hardball with Big Oil,” and those same adversaries (both shortsighted Repubs and Dems) continue to this day to try to discredit my administration’s efforts in holding Big Oil accountable to operate ethically and responsibly.

Mr. President: with all due respect, you have to get involved, sir. The priorities and timeline of an oil company are not the same as the public’s. You cannot outsource the cleanup and the responsibility and the trust to BP and expect that the legitimate interests of Americans adversely affected by this spill will somehow be met.

White House: have you read this morning’s Washington Post? Not to pile it on BP, but there’s an extensive report chronicling the company’s troubling history:

“BP has had more high-profile accidents than any other company in recent years. And now, with the disaster in the gulf, independent experts say the pervasiveness of the company’s problems, in multiple locales and different types of facilities, is striking.

‘They are a recurring environmental criminal and they do not follow U.S. health safety and environmental policy,’ said Jeanne Pascal, a former EPA lawyer who led its BP investigations.”

And yet just 10 days prior to the explosion, the Obama administration’s regulators gave the oil rig a pass, and last year the Obama administration granted BP a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) exemption for its drilling operation.

These decisions and the resulting spill have shaken the public’s confidence in the ability to safely drill. Unless government appropriately regulates oil developments and holds oil executives accountable, the public will not trust them to drill, baby, drill. And we must! Or we will be even more beholden to, and controlled by, dangerous foreign regimes that supply much of our energy. This has been a constant refrain from me. As Governor of Alaska, I did everything in my power to hold oil companies accountable in order to prove to the federal government and to the nation that Alaska could be trusted to further develop energy rich land like ANWR and NPR-A. I hired conscientious Democrats and Republicans (because this sure shouldn’t be a partisan issue) to provide me with the best advice on how we could deal with what was a corrupt system of some lawmakers and administrators who were hesitant to play hardball with some in the oil field business. (Remember the Alaska lawmakers, public decision-makers, and business executives who ended up going to jail as a result of the FBI’s investigations of oily corruption.)

As the aforementioned article notes, BP’s operation in Alaska would hurt our state and waste public resources if allowed to continue. That’s why my administration created the Petroleum Systems Integrity Office (PSIO) when we saw proof of improper maintenance of oil infrastructure in our state. We had to verify. And that’s why we instituted new oversight and held BP and other oil companies financially accountable for poor maintenance practices. We knew we could partner with them to develop resources without pussyfooting around with them. As a CEO, it was my job to look out for the interests of Alaskans with the same intensity and action as the oil company CEOs looked out for the interests of their shareholders.

I learned firsthand the way these companies operate when I served as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC). I ended up resigning in protest because my bosses (the Governor and his chief of staff at the time) wouldn’t support efforts to clean up the corruption involving improper conflicts of interest with energy companies that the state was supposed to be watching. (I wrote about this valuable learning experience in my book, “Going Rogue”.) I felt guilty taking home a big paycheck while being reduced to sitting on my thumbs – essentially rendered ineffective as a supervisor of a regulatory agency in charge of nearly 20% of the U.S. domestic supply of energy.

My experience (though, granted, I got the message loud and clear during the campaign that my executive experience managing the fastest growing community in the state, and then running the largest state in the union, was nothing compared to the experiences of a community organizer) showed me how government officials and oil execs could scratch each others’ backs to the detriment of the public, and it made me ill. I ran for Governor to fight such practices. So, as a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with Hayward. Demand answers.

In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

And, finally, Mr. President, please do not punish the American public with any new energy tax in response to this tragedy. Just because BP and federal regulators screwed up that doesn’t mean the rest of us should get punished with higher taxes at the pump and attached to everything petroleum products touch.

– Sarah Palin

Tarp Jr.

by Brian Darling

Remember all of those bold statements that the so called “Troubled Assets Relief Program” (TARP), the Bailout of Wall Street Bill, was a one time deal and our federal government should and will never do it again. Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner testified in January of this year before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

Many Americans look at what happened with AIG, and the rest of the financial rescue, and simply ask: Why was it necessary? Why was it fair for the government to take taxpayer money and put it into an institution that had mismanaged itself to the edge of collapse? The answer is that it was not fair, and it was not something our government should ever have to do. But those Americans, those families and business owners who played by the rules and played no role in giving rise to this recession, should understand that if the government had failed to act, that failure would have unleashed substantially greater damage upon them.

If TARP “was not fair” and not “something our government should ever have to do,” then why is Congress trying to impose the TARP model on small business? Congress will consider legislation this week to establish TARP, Jr. for small businesses to be administered and run by none other than Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner. The House is considering H.R. 5297, the Small Business Lending Fund Act that provides “temporary authority to the Secretary of the Treasury to make capital investments to eligible institutions in order to increase the availability of credit for small businesses.”

The legislation creates a federally run new bureaucracy called the “Small Business Lending Fund. ” To qualify a financial institution has to have less than $10 billion in assets and the new creation would have up to $30 billion in new investment authority. This allegedly temporary program is set up “without further appropriation of fiscal year limitation,” i.e. not temporary, to purchase “preferred stock and other financial instruments” from small business as a means to infuse money into local banks with the condition that they lend to failing small business. Local banks will be lending in exchange for equity small business, therefore these banks will be using federal monies to buy equity in companies. This is an idea born from socialism and one that will harm the free market for small business, because failure will be rewarded by federal subsidies while success will be punished.

The bill also creates a “Small Business Credit Initiative” with $2 billion of your tax dollars to be given to states that have created programs to provide funds to banks to bailout small businesses in trouble. This would provide an incentive for states to adopt the crony capitalism programs of the federal government exemplified by the federal takeover of General Motors and the activities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Setting up a system with private profits, yet socialized losses, will diminish capitalism and the American free market system. This legislation, TARP, Jr., extends the failed and free market offensive TARP model to small business. Considering that the original TARP program was “not fair, and it was not something our government should ever have to do,” Congress might want to heed the advice of Secretary Geithner of January 2010 and pause before creeping a few more steps toward American socialism.

Reuters Admits Cropping Photos of Ship Clash, Denies Political Motive

On the left, the uncropped photo. On the right, Reuters' released photo. (Reuters)

The British-based Reuters news agency has been stung for the second time by charges that it edited politically sensitive photos in a way that casts Israel in a bad light. But this time Reuters claims it wasn’t at fault.

The news agency reacted to questions raised by an American blogger who showed that Reuters’ photo service edited out knives and blood traces from pictures taken aboard the activist ship Mavi Marmara during a clash with Israeli commandos last week. Nine people were killed and scores were injured in the clash.

The pictures of the fight were released by IHH, the Turkish-based group that sponsored the six-ship fleet that tried to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

In one photo, an Israeli commando is shown lying on the deck of the ship, surrounded by activists. The uncut photo released by IHH shows the hand of an unidentified activist holding a knife. But in the Reuters photo, the hand is visible but the knife has been edited out.

The blog “Little Green Footballs” challenged Reuters’ editing of the photo.

“That’s a very interesting way to crop the photo. Most people would consider that knife an important part of the context. There was a huge controversy over whether the activists were armed. Cropping out a knife, in a picture showing a soldier who’s apparently been stabbed, seems like a very odd editorial decision. Unless someone was trying to hide it,” the blog stated.

In a second photo the unedited print issued by IHH showed blood along the ship’s railing and a hand holding a knife as an Israeli soldier lies on the deck. Both the blood and the knife were missing in the photo that Reuters released.

Reuters on Tuesday denied it intended to alter the political meanings of the photographs.

“The images in question were made available in Istanbul, and following normal editorial practice were prepared for dissemination which included cropping at the edges,” the news agency said in a statement. “When we realized that a dagger was inadvertently cropped from the images, Reuters immediately moved the original set as well.”

Reuters has yet to respond to charges about the second photo.

This is the second time Reuters has been accused of manipulating photos. In 2006 a Reuters photographer, Adnan Hajj, doctored several photos of the destruction caused by Israel’s bombing of Beirut. In one he added smoke to a panoramic picture of South Beirut to make the damage look more severe than it was. In a second photo, he showed a woman whose home had supposedly been destroyed in the same raid, but an investigation revealed that the woman’s house had been destroyed prior to the Israeli strike.

Reuters later removed all of Hajj’s more than 900 photos from distribution and severed its relationship with him. A photo editor also was fired.

What happened on the Mavi Marmara and who was responsible for the killing and bloodshed on the ship is still a matter of debate. Activists charge that Israeli commandos fired first and provoked the skirmish. Israeli commandos say they were compelled to use deadly force after they were attacked by people on board the ship.

Fox News

Pelosi blames GOP for … pretty much everything, basically

'It seems to me the choice is clear,' Nancy Pelosi said to a receptive crowd of progressives Tuesday. 'Democrats want to rein in Big Oil, the Republicans say no. Democrats wanted to rein in health insurance costs, the Republicans said no. The Democrats are reining in Big Banks, and the Republicans are saying no.' AP Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0610/38249.html#ixzz0qHjMxzTy

By SIMMI AUJLA

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shouted over vociferous protesters Tuesday as she tried to assure attendees at a progressive conference that Democratic leaders will get the country back on track.

About 20 members of the disability rights group ADAPT began shouting just minutes into her speech, creating an uncomfortable atmosphere for Pelosi, who came to speak to a sympathetic liberal audience.

The group is calling for the passage of the Community Choice Act, which would make it easier for the disabled to receive care in their own homes instead of at nursing homes. Pelosi paused to listen to their message but decided to continue the rest of her talk anyway.

“You have made your point,” she told them. “I’m going to make my speech over your voices.”

The protestors didn’t relent, chanting “our homes, not nursing homes,” again and again over the next 20 minutes.

A second group of protestors also held a banner right — right in front of the stage — which read “Stop funding Israel terror.”

Other audience members at the “America’s Future Now” gathering in Washington who were sitting close to the stage stood up during the speech to show their support for Pelosi, clapping again and again as the speaker kept speaking.

“Listen, I’m used to noise,” she quipped. “I talk to the Democratic caucus every single day.”

When she finally settled into her speech, Pelosi blamed the exploding national debt on the Bush administration and said Democrats’ push to invest in education, job creation and health care would bring America out of its financial troubles.

“President Obama and the Democratic Caucus have saved this country from a financial crisis created under the Bush administration,” she said.

She blamed Republicans for deregulating big oil, assuring the receptive crowd that BP would be held accountable for its handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

And she had harsh words for Wall Street, as the House and Senate get set for a final conference committee on a financial reform bill.

“No longer will recklessness on Wall Street be able to cause joblessness on Main Street,” she said. “No longer will those on Wall Street be able to privatize the gain and nationalize the risk, send the bill to the taxpayer if things don?t go their way,” she said.

She said the oil spill crisis highlighted the difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ approach to problem solving.

“It seems to me the choice is clear,” she said. “Democrats want to rein in Big Oil, the Republicans say no. Democrats wanted to rein in health insurance costs, the Republicans said no. The Democrats are reining in Big Banks and the Republicans are saying no.”

Obama Tells Graduating Class, ‘Don’t Make Excuses,’ Drawing GOP Taunts

President Obama delivers the commencement address for Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Mich., on June 7. (AP Photo)

Don’t point fingers. Don’t make excuses. Don’t pass the buck.

That was the advice President Obama gave to a graduating high school class in Michigan Monday night — advice that sent off an irony alert among Republicans who accuse the president of having “spent his tenure” doing exactly that.

Obama offered his guidance during the commencement speech at Kalamazoo Central High School.

“Don’t make excuses. Take responsibility not just for your successes, but for your failures as well,” he told the graduates. “The truth is, no matter how hard you work, you won’t necessarily ace every class or succeed in every job. There will be times when you screw up, when you hurt the people you love, when you stray from your most deeply held values.

“And when that happens, it’s the easiest thing in the world to start looking around for someone to blame. Your professor was too hard, your boss was a jerk, the coach was playing favorites, your friend just didn’t understand. We see it every day out in Washington, with folks calling each other names and making all sorts of accusations on TV.”

He told the students that “pointing fingers” and “blaming parents” and everyone else in their lives is not the road to follow.

Senate Republicans reacted quickly to the speech, sending out a “best-of” list of instances in which Obama was “looking around for someone to blame.” The quotes showed Obama using Bush as a scapegoat for everything from the deficit to America’s image abroad.

Obama over the past 17 months has selectively blamed the Bush administration for the big problems he now faces.

One of the president’s favorite rhetorical devices is the figurative “mop” he uses to clean up what he says were the mistakes of his predecessor.

“I don’t mind cleaning up the mess that some other folks made. That’s what I signed up to do,” he said at a Democratic fundraiser last October.

Obama even chalked up Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s upset victory in the Massachusetts special election to Bush-directed outrage in January.

“The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News. “People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”

Fox News

ROB FISHER LAUNCHES TV CAMPAIGN

(Salisbury) – Republican entrepreneur and Eastern Shore native Rob Fisher today announced the launch of the first television ads in the campaign for Maryland’s 1st District Congressional seat.

“Over the last few months, I have met hundreds of Marylanders and I’m very excited by the strong encouragement I have received so far,” said Fisher. “Our media strategy combined with our grassroots outreach will strongly increase First District voters’ awareness that they finally have a choice: Instead of another career politician, they can send a Representative to Congress with real-world experience who will put people ahead of party and help lead our country back to prosperity.”

The initial ad begins airing Wednesday June 9 and highlights Fisher’s business experience and the need to change the way things are done in Washington. It is the first in a series of ads that will run through the Republican primary on September 14.

“Voters need to know there is an alternative to politics as usual in this election,” said Fisher. “First District residents want a representative who will put Maryland first and work to solve our problems, instead of blindly following Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats as they push our economy off a cliff with job-killing programs and runaway spending.”

The ad will also be available on the campaign’s website, www.robfisherforcongress.com beginning June 9.

How Obama Reduced Crime Rates

by John Lott

President Obama surely didn’t intend it, but he deserves some credit for last year’s 7.4 percent drop in murder rates. His election caused gun sales to soar, and crime rates to plummet.

While gun sales started notably rising in October 2008, sales really soared immediately after Mr. Obama won the presidential race. 450,000 more people bought guns in November 2008 than bought them in November 2007, that’s over a 40 percent increase in sales. By comparison, the change from November 2006 to November 2007 was only about 35,000. Over the last decade, the average year-to-year increase in monthly sales was only 21,000.

The increase in sales continued well beyond November 2008. From November 2008 to October 2009, almost 2.5 million more people bought guns in the 12 months after the election than in the preceding 12 months. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, doesn’t tell us how many guns each person bought just the number of people who bought them. Most likely though, gun sales rose by more than the number of people who purchased them.

At the same time gun sales were soaring, there was an unusually large drop in murder rates. The 7.4 percent drop in the murder rate was the largest drop in murder rates since the 1999. For those who don’t remember, 1999, when President Bill Clinton and Columbine occurred, was another time when gun sales soared. With people such as Elena Kagan serving as Mr. Clinton’s deputy domestic policy adviser were pushing hard for more gun control, Americans were worried that more gun bans were coming. And in response gun sales soared.

Just as higher arrest and conviction rates, longer prison sentences, or the more frequent use of the death penalty reduce crime, so does letting victims defend themselves with guns. More certain or greater penalties make it more risky for criminals to commit crime. Victims who can defend themselves can also make committing crime more dangerous and deter criminals.

Americans living in the District of Columbia and Chicago have seen this phenomenon themselves. After the ban went into effect in both cities, murder rates rose dramatically. After the Supreme Court threw out DC’s ban and gunlock laws in 2008, the District’s murder rates plunged by 25 percent in 2009. Indeed, my research in the just released third edition of More Guns, Less Crime shows that every place in the world that we have crime data for has seen murder rates climb when guns were banned.

If Mr. Obama really understood that letting law-abiding citizens defend themselves reduces crime, it is unlikely that gun sales would have had to increase. Yet, if the Supreme Court strikes down the Chicago gun ban this month, Americans may get to see yet again that more guns mean less crime.

Get ready to lose your insurance under Obamacare

By: David Freddoso

We’ve been warning you about this problem for nearly a year, but today’s Politico gives the lie to President Obama’s promise that his health care bill will let you keep the coverage you have.

If you have a low premium, low cost insurance plan, you are going to lose your coverage and be forced into a much higher-cost plan. The Politico piece specifically finds this problem in the mini-med market, where as many as 1 million people will lose their coverage under Obamacare.

Under the provision, insurance companies will no longer be able to apply broad annual caps on the amount of money they pay out on health policies. Employer groups say the ban could essentially wipe out a niche insurance market that many part-time workers and retail and restaurant employees have come to rely on.This market’s limited-benefit plans, also called mini-med plans, are priced low because they can, among other things, restrict the number of covered doctor visits or impose a maximum on insurance payouts in a year. The plans are commonly offered by retail or restaurant companies to low-wage workers who cannot afford more expensive, comprehensive coverage.

Depending on how strictly the administration implements the provision, the ban could in effect outlaw the plans or make them so restrictive that insurance companies would raise rates to the point they become unaffordable.

Mini-meds aren’t the only ones in danger. People with low-cost high-deductible plans (including myself) will probably also be forced into high-cost plans. It’s impossible to know how bad the damage will be because the Obamacare law gives so much discretion over the changes to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Are Liberals Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics.

By DANIEL B. KLEIN

Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101.

Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and I considered the 4,835 respondents’ (all American adults) answers to eight survey questions about basic economics. We also asked the respondents about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian.

Rather than focusing on whether respondents answered a question correctly, we instead looked at whether they answered incorrectly. A response was counted as incorrect only if it was flatly unenlightened.

Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: “Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable.” People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.

Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.

Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of “somewhat disagree” and “strongly disagree.” This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer “not sure,” which we do not count as incorrect.

In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.

The other questions were: 1) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree). 2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago (unenlightened answer: disagree). 3) Rent control leads to housing shortages (unenlightened answer: disagree). 4) A company with the largest market share is a monopoly (unenlightened answer: agree). 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree). 6) Free trade leads to unemployment (unenlightened answer: agree). 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).

How did the six ideological groups do overall? Here they are, best to worst, with an average number of incorrect responses from 0 to 8: Very conservative, 1.30; Libertarian, 1.38; Conservative, 1.67; Moderate, 3.67; Liberal, 4.69; Progressive/very liberal, 5.26.

Americans in the first three categories do reasonably well. But the left has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics.

To be sure, none of the eight questions specifically challenge the political sensibilities of conservatives and libertarians. Still, not all of the eight questions are tied directly to left-wing concerns about inequality and redistribution. In particular, the questions about mandatory licensing, the standard of living, the definition of monopoly, and free trade do not specifically challenge leftist sensibilities.

Yet on every question the left did much worse. On the monopoly question, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (31%) was more than twice that of conservatives (13%) and more than four times that of libertarians (7%). On the question about living standards, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (61%) was more than four times that of conservatives (13%) and almost three times that of libertarians (21%).

The survey also asked about party affiliation. Those responding Democratic averaged 4.59 incorrect answers. Republicans averaged 1.61 incorrect, and Libertarians 1.26 incorrect.

Adam Smith described political economy as “a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator.” Governmental power joined with wrongheadedness is something terrible, but all too common. Realizing that many of our leaders and their constituents are economically unenlightened sheds light on the troubles that surround us.

Mr. Klein is a professor of economics at George Mason University. This op-ed is based on an article published in the May 2010 issue of the journal he edits, Econ Journal Watch, a project sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research.