Oct 292012

File this under “You can’t have federal aid without federal control.”

President Barack Obama’s campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki was aware Treasury Department officials crafted the press releases and public messaging for General Motors during the 2009 auto industry bailout, documents obtained by The Daily Caller show.

via Emails: Jen Psaki knew Treasury edited GM press releases | The Daily Caller.

Oct 162012

There is no possibility now of my voting for President Obama, but I might actually prefer his energy and environmental policies to Romney’s if he could figure out how to implement them without massive corruption, lawbreaking, and cronyism.

But this is little more than an ex post facto double-cross. Energy created the tax avoidance problem in the first place by gifting Argonaut and Madrone the net operating losses to delay the Solyndra crack-up that was fast becoming inevitable. That left taxpayers worse off than if they simply let Solyndra fail.

This raises a question or two for the President who once called Solyndra a “testament to American ingenuity and dynamism” and who keeps accusing Mitt Romney of supporting tax breaks for outsourcing and corporate jets, which he doesn’t. Here one of Mr. Obama’s own billionaire pals is trying to sidestep a federal tax bill amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of an epic crony capitalist fiasco.

via Review & Outlook: The Solyndra Memorial Tax Break – WSJ.com.

Oct 162012

Interesting article about Charles Koch, but the authors need to get out more, and find out what conservatives actually say.

But he also says things many conservatives would never dare say: Cut subsidies. Cut defense spending substantially. He also never says anything about religion, abortion, immigration or gun rights. And while political conservatives paint themselves as advocates for business, Charles Koch has accused corporate CEOs of cowardice for not speaking out for economic freedom.

via Charles Koch relentless in pursuing his goals | Wichita Eagle.

It’s not easy to find conservatives who advocate substantial cuts in defense spending, so the authors (Roy Wenzl and Bill Wilson) can be forgiven for not knowing there are some conservatives who would say just that.  But the rest suggests that the authors are severely constrained by their information bubble.

Oct 152012

This is not how one takes responsibility. Clinton is saying she doesn’t know what happened, but she takes responsibility. In other words, nobody is responsible.

“I take responsibility” for the protection of U.S. diplomats, Clinton said during a visit to Peru. But she said an investigation now under way will ultimately determine what happened in the attack that left four Americans dead.

via Clinton: I’m responsible for diplomats’ security – CNN Security Clearance – CNN.com Blogs.

One way to actually take responsibility would have been to say something like this:  “It’s my fault that security was inadequate.  It was my office that denied the requests for additional security. I am seeing to it that the persons who made those decisions will no longer be employed by the government.  Those that misled the White House will be dealt with more harshly yet.”

Or if she personally made the decisions to deny security and to mislead the White House, then she should resign. That, too, would be a way of taking responsibility.

If she really and truly is waiting the results of the investigation, she could say she will take responsibility to punish those who were unlucky enough to make wrong decisions, once those people are identified.

But she didn’t say there would be any consequences for bad decisions.

And it doesn’t take a fact-finding commission to find out who fed the White House with bad information. Low-level functionaries don’t get to do that.

I hate to say it, but it was my hero, Saint Ronald, who started this business of “taking responsibility” in a way that made nobody responsible. In 1983, after the bombing of Marine quarters in Lebanon, President Reagan said, “I was responsible and no one else for our policy and our people being there. I’m not going to deliver somebody’s head up on a platter, which seems to be the request of so many when things like this happen.”

If memory serves, at least a few conservative pundits called this for what it was – a way to abdicate responsibility.  Reagan didn’t take responsibility for managing his personnel, and we are still dealing with the consequences of that failure.

Tuesday addendum: Before I lose it, here is a link to a 1983 news article about Reagan’s “taking responsibility” for the Beirut bombing.

Oct 142012

The following is from the opening paragraph of a post by Francis Fukuyama.   But later in the article he lists control of corruption as an aspect of state power.  I would have thought it a limit or check on state power rather than a use of state power.   Trying to think this through…

It is a curious fact that in contemporary American political science, very few people want to study the state, that is, the functioning of executive branches and their bureaucracies. … [M]ost people are interested in studying political institutions that limit or check power—democratic accountability and rule of law—but very few people pay attention to the institution that accumulates and uses power, the state.

via The Strange Absence of the State in Political Science | Francis Fukuyama.

Perhaps this is a good time to examine the principle that government can be inefficient or it can be corrupt, but it can’t be neither.

If in the Department of Plumber Licenses you give bureaucrats the power to make decisions on their own, they can act very quickly.  A wannabe plumber calls up saying he needs a license, and the bureaucrat can issue one as soon as he gets the name and phone number.   But if give the bureaucrat the power to make this decision on his own, you also give him the ability to favor his friends or political allies and disfavor the others.  You give him the ability to trade favors.  This is corruption.

The way you prevent this kind of corruption is by making government inefficient.   You create a complicated set of rules to determine who should get a license and who shouldn’t.   The wannabe plumber has to fill out forms to prove that he has been trained in a certified, approved manner and that he doesn’t have anything in his background that would keep the government from giving him its imprimatur. It takes time and money to provide all this evidence.   No one bureaucrat is equipped to evaluate all of these forms, so you institute a multi-step approval process by which the form goes from one department to another for approval.    This all takes time.  And additional questions may come up at various steps along the way.   It’s a way to avoid corruption, but it’s not the path to efficiency.  A process like this can be corrupt, too, but with a proper system for appeals you have a chance of designing it to avoid the corruption by which bureaucrats can arbitrarily dispense or deny favors.

A corruption-free system of plumber licensing is not a system by which the state can operate quickly and efficiently.  This is why I find it puzzling that anyone would list the following items together as “aspects of state capacity”:

  • government effectiveness
  • regulatory quality
  • stability and absence of violence
  • control of corruption

Good topic to be discussing, though.

Oct 132012

To deal with Iran, Biden says we’ll use the same intelligence community that let Obama down in Libya.

“Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security again,” said Mr. Biden, contradicting the testimony of State Department officials. He also blamed “the intelligence community” for the Administration’s initial and false assertions that Ambassador Chris Stevens and three American colleagues were killed in a “spontaneous” protest against an anti-Islam video on YouTube. This is the same “intelligence community” he is sure can tell us with certainty when Iran has a bomb and the Taliban is defeated.

via Review & Outlook: Biden’s Intelligence – WSJ.com.

Oct 132012

This paragraph proves there is an parallel universe that is our inverse opposite.

Since the Republican capture of Congress in 1994, and even before, the Republican side has been characterized by relentless, take-no-prisoners partisanship; the Democratic side by disunity, vacillation, surrender. This is the fundamental fact of recent American political history, and Haidt shows no awareness of it.

via Boston Review — George Scialabba: Head and Heart (Conservatism, Morality).

Oct 122012

I’d think the “correct” number would be the number needed to protect the place.  Maybe the correct number was the wrong number.

“An embassy, a compound owned by us and serving like a consulate was in fact breached less than 60 days before, approximately 60 days before the murder of the ambassador in that facility,” said Issa. “Isn’t that true?”

“Sir, we had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 for what had been agreed upon,” Lamb said.

via State Dept. Confirms: Marines on 9/11/12 Were Protecting U.S. Embassy–in Barbados | CNSNews.com.

Oct 122012

Next time we look for places to cut spending, note that here is one worthless salary that can be zeroed out.  The guy is supposed to be talking to the messengers, not shooting them down.

QUESTION: As a follow-up to the hearing yesterday, how was —

MS. NULAND: Can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: Mike Levine with Fox.

MS. NULAND: Every time I turn around, I’ve got a new Foxie in the pool here. Going to have to talk to them about that.

via State Dept Spokesperson Objects to Fox News Reporter’s Presence at Press Conference.

Oct 122012

The buck stops there. Way, far, over there. Nobody in the administration was responsible, so there is nobody to be fired for this.

Vice President Joseph Biden speaks only for himself and President Barack Obama, and neither man was aware that U.S. officials in Libya had asked the State Department for more security before the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, a top White House official told The Cable.

via White House: Obama and Biden were never aware of requests for more Benghazi security | The Cable.

Of course, if President Obama and Vice President Biden don’t want to be responsible for what the executive branch does, that can be easily arranged.