May 22, 2009

Quote of the Weekend: Charles Krauthammer, As Obama Vindicates Bush’s National Security Legacy

At RealClearPolitics, and surely many other places:

The Bush policies in the war on terror won’t have to await vindication by historians. Obama is doing it day by day. His denials mean nothing. Look at his deeds.

It must be heck to have spent the last 6-plus years waiting for your guy to come in and undo all of George Bush’s supposed evil, only to see the guy who you thought would do the undoing largely do the opposite.

I’m not under any illusions that Obama isn’t a weakling in many foreign-policy areas, or that his public poses as a hawk will be reflected in key or even day-to-day decisions. Sadly, he is a weakling, and has shown it in several ways already, and his advisers will virtually always recommend that he take the appease-y way out.

Still it’s fun to watch the guy directly contradict so many things he said on the campaign trail and fail to do so many of the things he promised he would do to return us to a pre-9/11 mentality, while the left is forced to swallow it with minimal objection — lest they too offend Dear Leader.

Nancy Pelosi Imperfectly Tries the Three Steps of Super-sized Lying

Filed under: Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 4:38 pm

Rephrased, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is very imperfectly trying to apply the Three Steps of Super-sized Lying I discussed yesterday in presidential terms at Pajamas Media to her knock-down, drag-out spat with the CIA:

  1. First, you have to have the nerve to state what you know is an obvious falsehood without betraying any hint that you realize it is false, and in a way that causes virtually all who hear it to instinctively believe it.
  2. Sadly, more often than not, Step 1 is enough, because the second step requires actual follow-up by someone who heard it. That someone has to discover, document, and prove beyond doubt that the statement or contention made by the person involved is not true.
  3. Sometimes Step 2 occurs, but the truth-tellers’ proof gets little or no attention. But if it does, the third step requires the person to cling to their guns, so to speak, using a variety of tactics that effectively amount to saying, “Who are you going to believe, me or the irrefutable evidence?”

Step 1? Well, she tried, but too many people weren’t buying.

Step 2? There’s been enough follow-up to show that she has indeed been lying. That knowledge, while not particularly widespread, has gone well beyond what little people know about the whoppers Obama and his peeps have foisted on us that were noted at the PJM column.

Step 3? She’s trying, but the video below would seem to indicate that it’s not working particularly well. A long holiday weekend will help her cause.

Unfortunately and unlike President Obama, who along with former president Bill Clinton has the Three Steps down cold, she’s just not that good at it. Anyone familiar with the dispute knows she’s lying, at this point, that has to include her Democratic Party colleagues. There are simply too many others with sufficient credibility who have contradicted her, and she has produced no evidence to support her contentions.

What will be the consequences? I’m guessing you won’t hear the word “ethics” much from the Democratic Party for a while. Beyond that, who knows? Watch this YouTube, and decide for yourself (HT Hot Air):

UPDATE: For the slow of learning, the Pajamas Media column also referenced above identifies the five biggest alleged lies of the Bush administration and shows that they weren’t, and still aren’t.

NYT Made Cheney Speech Harder to Access. I Wonder Why?

NYTHomePgCheneyObama052109

TOPSIDE NOTE: I don’t think I have ever seen any of the major networks, cable shows, or so-called newspapers of record link to an important speech as a PDF. If anyone can cite a specific example besides the one cited here, let me know.

If there isn’t one (and I don’t think there is), that would make the speculations here that much more plausible.

_______________

At the right is an enlarged screen cap of part of the home page at the New York Times taken at about 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon.

Hmm. Obama’s speech was right there, one-click ready. Cheney’s is a clunky, clumsy PDF, even though:

  • Bill Kristol, who wrote for the Times until recently and has contacts there, had the remarks as prepared for delivery at the Weekly Standard at 10:30 in the morning.
  • The American Enterprise Institute also presumably put their pre-speech transcript up in the morning.
  • Text-only PDFs can be converted to HTML pretty easily.

Did the Times link to a PDF because Cheney was so verbose? Nope: Cheney’s speech weighed in at about 5,500 words. Barack Obama’s was over 6,500.

Since the Cheney speech was clearly and readily available in HTML, process of elimination for motivation pretty much leaves slant, slight, pettiness, or laziness.

But why would the Times want readers to go to the more easily accessed Obama speech and make them work to get to Cheney’s? The first three of the items mentioned in the last paragraph would explain it.

I would suggest that there is motive. After all, as far as the Old Gray Lady is concerned, the fewer readers who saw this excerpt from Cheney’s speech the better — especially while it was the topic du jour:

Our government prevented attacks and saved lives through the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which let us intercept calls and track contacts between al-Qaida and persons inside the United States. The program was top secret, and for good reason, until the editors of the New York Times got it and put it on the front page.

After 9/11, the Times had spent months publishing the pictures and the stories of every single individual killed by al-Qaida on 9/11. Now here was that same newspaper publishing secrets in a way that could only help al-Qaida. It impressed the Pulitzer committee, but it damn sure didn’t serve the interests of our country or the safety of our people.

The Politico put the full Cheney speech up at 4:45 yesterday afternoon in user-ready form.

The Times finally posted the Cheney speech transcript from the Associated Press in HTML at 9:44 last night after the buzz died down. Mission accomplished?

Exit speculation: Did the Times convert a reader-ready HTML to PDF in the name of obstruction? Given the petty people there, that’s not inconceivable.

Speaking of speculation: Jimmy Orr at the Christian Science Monitor wonders if Obama started late to prevent the networks from covering Cheney. I wonder if Obama rambled on and on for the same reason. This is what you do when you know your ideas are weaker. Cheney waited until Obama was done. Surely a lot of people with afternoon plans who attended the AEI event had them messed up. That’s just another day in Obama’s it’s-all-about-me world.

Here We Go Again: This Time Gov’t. Is Trying to Shaft Unsecured GM Bondholders

NoToGMandChrysler0109 Earlier today, I noted in a post updating the sad situations at bankrupt Chrysler and headling-for-bankruptcy General Motors, that GM is, according to a Wednesday Reuters report, offering secured bondholders a much better deal than the 29 cents on the dollar Chrysler’s secured creditors have been offered. Chrysler’s “non-TARP secured lenders,” after what they allege with much evidential support was a campaign of threats and intimidation by President Obama and the White House, abandoned their efforts to have their first-lien rights recognized in bankruptcy court.

But Indiana pension funds holding some of that secured debt representing teachers, police, and other workers have taken legal action objecting to the terms of the Chrysler bankruptcy that don’t give first-lien lenders their proper and legal due.

It thus appears, despite a chest-thumping May 2 assertion in the New York Times that the White House’s Chrysler hardball might have taught GM lenders a “lesson,” that Obama and his car guys don’t have the stomach for riding roughshod over the rights of GM’s secured bondholders and ending up with the possibility of another bankruptcy moving into a regular federal district court (the Indiana situation could be the first).

Now what? Well, if you’re Team Obama, you instead try to put the screws to GM’s unsecured bondholders — to the benefit of the United Auto Workers’ Voluntary Employee Benefits Association (VEBA) trust.

GM owes the VEBA about $20 billion. It is believed that the company’s tentative deal with the UAW, announced Thursday but not officially commented upon, has it paying the VEBA $10 billion and forgiving the other $10 billion in exchange for a 39% ownership stake in the “reconstituted GM.”

Meanwhile, remaining unsecured bondholders, according to this report which references a Bloomberg TV commentary, are being asked to forgive $27 billion of the $35 billion they are owed in exhange for a whopping 10% stake in the new company.

The complete proposed lineup is supposed to turn out this way:

  • UAW’s VEBA — Of $20 billion owed, $10 billion forgiven, 39% ownership.
  • Unsecured bondholders — Of $35 billion owed, $27 billion forgiven, 10% ownership.
  • Uncle Sam — Of $15.4 billion owed, representing money funneled to the company since December, “the bulk” is forgiven, for a 50% ownership stake (it’s reasonable to believe that it’s really a tad more than 50%).
  • Existing shareholders get a 1% ownership stake.

Everything I’ve seen thus far would indicate that the VEBA does not have superior status in the bankruptcy pecking order over unsecured bondholders. Yet its ownership stake is about 4% for each billion forgiven, while the unsecured bondholders get less than a 0.4% stake for each billion they are supposed to forgive.

As you would expect, unsecured bondholders are furious. A group calling itself “Main Street Bondholders” alleges that:

Unions and large investors have a seat at the negotiating table, but what about the average Americans that have played by the rules and now face a devastating loss, particularly seniors and soon-to-be seniors?

….. The Administration’s offer to “Main Street” bondholders is unfair – cents on the dollar – for individuals relying on these bonds to finance retirements, college tuition and medical expenses. It is disheartening that the Obama Administration is driving GM into bankruptcy.

They have brought their complaints to Congressmen, who have in turn raised the fundamental issue (bold is mine):

Four U.S. Republican lawmakers have complained to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that a plan to restructure automaker General Motors Corp subverts the rights of bondholders, according to a letter from the lawmakers obtained by Reuters on Friday.

A proposed restructuring favors the claims of the United Auto Workers union “over the rights and claims of the company’s diverse group of bondholders, who collectively hold $7 billion more in General Motors debt than the UAW’s health trust and are equal members of the creditor class,” the lawmakers said.

“We are extremely concerned that in the name of restructuring General Motors, the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry … has begun waging what some believe amounts to a war on capital: contractual rights of investors are being trampled by the government under the rationale of ‘extraordinary circumstances,’” the lawmakers wrote.

So this must be just a front for a bunch of evil, greedy hedge funds, as with Chrysler, right? Wrong, twice. First, the Indiana pension litigation shows that real, everyday people, union and non-union, are getting unfairly and illegally hosed under the current deal at Chrysler. Second, GM’s unsecured bondholders are flesh-and-blood people too:

Calling themselves Main Street bondholders, the investors said they are ” average” Americans who purchased GM bonds “as a part of their financial planning for retirement, medical expenses, small business expenses, and providing for their children’s education,” according to a statement. The meetings in Congress, the group said, are intended to highlight their “interest in a fair and equitable solution to GM’s financial crisis.”

….. Jim Graves, a 58-year-old software developer from Celebration, Fla., said that under those terms, he and his mother stand to lose most of the $100,000 in GM debt they have been counting on for retirement.

When such a thing happens to an everyday person who is ripped off by a financial planner, the press is sympathetic, usually justifiably so. But when the government and the companies it has for all practical purposes nationalized do the same to large numbers of people, the media silence is deafening.

If you see anything about this large-scale fleecing of unsecured investors for the benefit of organized labor on the Big 3 evening news programs or on any non-business cable news channel besides Fox, let me know. I don’t expect a flurry of tips.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

God Bless Dick Cheney: His American Enterprise Institute Speech (Update: Obama’s Full Text Follows)

DickCheney0509.jpgSensible conservatives have been waiting for the appearance of another Ronald Reagan-like figure on the national scene. We’re learning that he’s actually been here all along.

Objective history will identify Dick Cheney as a successful Congressman; Defense Secretary; Vice President; and — largely thanks to this speech — patriot and statesman (Update: President Obama’s speech follows Cheney’s; thus we can see later who history vindicates):

Thank you all very much, and Arthur, thank you for that introduction. It’s good to be back at AEI, where we have many friends. Lynne is one of your longtime scholars, and I’m looking forward to spending more time here myself as a returning trustee. What happened was, they were looking for a new member of the board of trustees, and they asked me to head up the search committee.

I first came to AEI after serving at the Pentagon, and departed only after a very interesting job offer came along. I had no expectation of returning to public life, but my career worked out a little differently. Those eight years as vice president were quite a journey, and during a time of big events and great decisions, I don’t think I missed much.

Being the first vice president who had also served as secretary of defense, naturally my duties tended toward national security. I focused on those challenges day to day, mostly free from the usual political distractions. I had the advantage of being a vice president content with the responsibilities I had, and going about my work with no higher ambition. Today, I’m an even freer man. Your kind invitation brings me here as a private citizen – a career in politics behind me, no elections to win or lose, and no favor to seek.

The responsibilities we carried belong to others now. And though I’m not here to speak for George W. Bush, I am certain that no one wishes the current administration more success in defending the country than we do. We understand the complexities of national security decisions. We understand the pressures that confront a president and his advisers. Above all, we know what is at stake. And though administrations and policies have changed, the stakes for America have not changed.

Right now there is considerable debate in this city about the measures our administration took to defend the American people. Today I want to set forth the strategic thinking behind our policies. I do so as one who was there every day of the Bush Administration –who supported the policies when they were made, and without hesitation would do so again in the same circumstances.

When President Obama makes wise decisions, as I believe he has done in some respects on Afghanistan, and in reversing his plan to release incendiary photos, he deserves our support. And when he faults or mischaracterizes the national security decisions we made in the Bush years, he deserves an answer. The point is not to look backward. Now and for years to come, a lot rides on our President’s understanding of the security policies that preceded him. And whatever choices he makes concerning the defense of this country, those choices should not be based on slogans and campaign rhetoric, but on a truthful telling of history.

(more…)

Statism Failing: Taxpayer Losses in GM and Chrysler Debacles Continue to Mount

Chrysler’s bankruptcy, and what looks to be the impending bankruptcy of government-run General Motors, are getting ever more bizarre and outrageously expensive. Two pics will demonstrate.

First, there’s this from Reuters on Wednesday:

ReutersGMmessStoryPic052009

That’s more than likely at least $16 billion down the dumper taxpayers and future generations get to eat: $6 billion in secured debts assumed, minus their underlying asset value ($3 bil at most, I would estimate), plus “the bulk of” $15.4 billion in emergency “loans.”

The Reuters piece further notes that “The government is negotiating the terms on which it will assume GM’s secured debt and might make an …. offer to holders of the debt that is far superior to the one made to Chrysler LLC’s secured lenders.

That’s precious. The New York Times portrayed Obama’s threatening hardball with Chrysler’s non-TARP secured first-lien creditors as a “lesson” for GM’s creditors — who appear to be on the verge of getting a far better deal. The “far superior” treatment of GM’s secured creditors, if it indeed comes to pass, shows that it’s the government that got schooled.

Speaking of schools, this will be good news for pension funds representing teachers and police in Indiana that have taken legal action objecting to the terms of the Chrysler bankruptcy that don’t give first-lien lenders their proper and legal due:

Richard Mourdock, Indiana’s treasurer, said in a statement (that) “The Indiana state funds suffered losses when the Obama administration overturned more than 100 years of established law by redefining ‘secured creditors’ to mean something less.”

They should be demanding at least what GM secured lenders are getting. The litigants are even moving to move the entire Chrysler bankruptcy matter out of bankruptcy court into federal district court “to deal with what they argue are constitutional issues.” It doesn’t seem likely that Chrysler will be emerging from bankruptcy on the Obama 60-day timeline. (Update, 11:30 pm.: The bankruptcy judge seems bound and determined to push the sale through before the Indiana litigants see if they can be heard in federal district. Update 2, 11:55 p.m.: But the left-for-dead Chrysler Financial and the terminated dealers are also lodging objections to the sale.)

Now imagine my surprise (no, not really; the fun never stops in the Obama-Geithner Industrial Complex) when I got this from CNNMoney.com in my e-mail yesterday evening:

CNNGMACgets7pt5BilFromUS.052109.jpg

Just another capital infusion down the drain, right? Well yes, but it’s more than that.

I think this infusion was necessary because of this story from two weeks ago:

Chase Terminates Chrysler Dealer Loans

One of our sources reports that Chase has just told Chrysler dealers that it will no longer loan them money to buy Chrysler products.

Chase has officially terminated the floorplanning of Chrysler vehicles. Given the freeze at CFC [Chrysler Finance], now nobody can buy cars. ….. the expected losses to the taxpayer are going to be through the roof.

“Floorplan” loans are made to dealers so they can stock cars on their lots and have them available for sale. GMAC became the lending arm for Chrysler when it filed for bankruptcy. The real message of the e-mail is that Chrysler was dead company if the government didn’t jump into the day-to-day floorplan lending business. How many other near-death experiences that only be avoided by pumping in more and more money await us (e.g. suppliers, utilities, contractors, etc.)?

If, as I expect, Chrysler’s sales continue to tank, and surviving dealers’ sales volumes even after the pruning go below their current levels, much of that $7.5 billion will be lost to write-offs.

The march towards the $100 billion in taxpayer losses predicted when President Bush sadly opened the floodgates after Congress wouldn’t continues.

All of this may yet have a happy ending for those who believe in free markets and, ultimately, human progress. Enough potential buyers to matter (and it doesn’t take that many) might recoil from all of this and refuse to buy GM and Chrysler vehicles, deciding that they would rather not be someday seen as willing accessories to creeping statism, or merely that they can’t trust government-run companies to make good products and back their promises. If that occurs, all of Dear Leader’s horses and all of his men won’t be able to put the companies back together again.

If the crack-up that becomes more likely with each passing day occurs, the one-word lesson for any other company or industry thinking about going for a government bailout will be there for all to see: Don’t.

Positivity: Fourth Poll This Month Shows U.S. Public Opinion Trending Pro-Life on Abortion

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

Though there’s a long way to go, Life News provides three more examples beyond the Gallup poll I cited last week of a national trend towards respecting pre-born life (link to Rasmussen news story added by me; links to others were included in original):

The fourth poll released this month has confirmed a definite shift in American public opinion towards the pro-life perspective on abortion. A new Rasmussen Reports poll joins surveys from Gallup, Pew and Fox News in confirming that Americans are taking a decidedly more pro-life position on abortion.

The Rasmussen survey, released on May 5, asked a different question than the others and found that 58 percent of Americans say abortion is morally wrong most of the time. Just twenty-five percent disagree and the rest had no opinion.

The survey found women are more strongly pro-life than men as 64 percent of women believe most abortions are morally wrong, a view shared by just 51% of men.

Of those who identified themselves as pro-life, 88 percent say most abortions are morally wrong as do 29 percent of those who call themselves pro-choice.

Meanwhile, another Rasmussen survey question found a majority of Americans, 52 percent, think it is too easy to get an abortion in America. That’s up seven percent from two years ago when 45 percent thought it was too easy.

Just 13 percent now say it’s too hard to get an abortion, while 21 percent believe the current availability is about right.

Most Republicans (68%) and adults not affiliated with either major party (52%) say abortion is too easy in this country. Among Democrats, 37 percent say it’s too easy, 17 percent too hard and 27 percent about right.

Some 84 percent of pro-life Americans think it’s too easy to get an abortion and even 20 percent of “pro-choice” adults agree. A plurality of those who are pro-choice say the level of difficulty involved is about right. Surprisingly, only approximately one-third of those who call themselves pro-choice say abortions are too difficult to obtain. ….

Go here for the rest of the story.