Monday, February 02, 2009

The ease of hypocrisy

A Presidential Administration that comes in on 'hope & change' as its dogma and says that it will, indeed, be more transparent in its dealings with the Nation, has a hard path to set upon as not all in the world is easy, nor fast, nor prone to work the way you think it would from the outside. This shows up in ways both major and minor, so lets take a look at some of the broken promises, misdirection, and other attempts to not abide by the word of Candidate Obama now that he is President Obama.


Renditions to be preserved (H/t: Instapundit)

Citing the LA Times we find this about renditions in the Obama Administration -

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism -- aside from Predator missile strikes -- for taking suspected terrorists off the street.

The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.

The European Parliament condemned renditions as "an illegal instrument used by the United States." Prisoners swept up in the program have sued the CIA as well as a Boeing Co. subsidiary accused of working with the agency on dozens of rendition flights.

But the Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush administration's war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.

On 07 APR 2008 this is what Human Rights Watch recommends the US government should do about renditions (note I didn't check Dissenting Justice's use of these, and there are far better before/after ones there):


The US government should:

·Repudiate the use of rendition to torture as a counterterrorism tactic and permanently discontinue the CIA's rendition program;

·Disclose the identities, fate, and current whereabouts of all persons detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001, including detainees who were rendered to Jordan;

·Repudiate the use of "diplomatic assurances" against torture and ill-treatment as a justification for the transfer of a suspect to a place where he or she is at risk of such abuse;

·Make public any audio recordings or videotapes that the CIA possesses of interrogations of detainees rendered by the CIA to foreign custody;

·Provide appropriate compensation to all persons arbitrarily detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody.

And here we go back to the LA Times article:

One provision in one of Obama’s orders appears to preserve the CIA's ability to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects as long as they are not held long-term. The little-noticed provision states that the instructions to close the CIA's secret prison sites "do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis."

Despite concern about rendition, Obama's prohibition of many other counter-terrorism tools could prompt intelligence officers to resort more frequently to the "transitory" technique.

The decision to preserve the program did not draw major protests, even among human rights groups. Leaders of such organizations attribute that to a sense that nations need certain tools to combat terrorism.

Note the differences between President Obama's concept of not holding individuals 'long term' and that of HRW of ending the program completely? And what does HRW say to this? From the Times article, again:

"Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "What I heard loud and clear from the president's order was that they want to design a system that doesn't result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured -- but that designing that system is going to take some time."

What did happen to the call to 'permanently discontinue the CIA's rendition program' from 2008? Is now a little rendition good? The idea was, back then, that ANY rendition program could not ensure the safety of those being rendered and, thusly, should be ended. Now a little bit pregnant is a 'good thing'.

What is even more interesting is that HRW only started to care about this post-9/11 in its document Timeline of Detainee Abuse, but raised now problems with the use of the program under President Clinton (Source: History Commons context to the HRW document above). Indeed we can draw from this that renditions under Democratic Presidents is 'good' and those under Republicans is 'bad' according to HRW, which is now willing to give up its moral stance on renditions and expose its lack of ethics in doing so.

While in the US Senate Barack Obama voted for the Rockefeller Amendment (2006-256) which would give Congressional oversight to CIA programs and list what can and cannot be done with those detained by the US in detail (Source: On the Issues).

Do note that citing the us of US Army Field Manual for interrogation and extraordinary rendition are at odds with each other: by trying to give blanket coverage by the former and then cutting holes in the blanket with the latter, and asking the CIA to use its powers to see into the future to determine if a foreign power will use torture, President Obama is, effectively, putting in place the exact, same set-up as previously existed. The concept of 'temporary' holding is at the discretion of the President, and can last for the entire term of a President. That is why we give the President as Chief of State, Head of the Armies and the Navies and Head of the US Government such powers - to use them to protect the Nation. If a President finds a treaty to be at odds with that job to protect the Nation, he is to say so and remove the US from said treaty as is his power as President. Also the US Army Field Manual are orders from the President that can be countermanded BY the President as the Head of the Armies and the Navies.

Sen. Obama now learns as President Obama that the powers of the President are NOT under Congressional thumbs, but a separate branch with different powers TO that of the Legislative. The citizens of the United States hand much power in military affairs, overseas operations and how to conduct the affairs of the US to the President, not to Congress. There are checks and balances on those powers as they also serve as a check and balance to Congressional powers - but they are in no ways equal and in no way cover the same domains of power. It is easy to criticize from the Legislative side, but that side of government does not have full purview over the powers of the President and can only address those things that happen inside the US and under treaty obligations. As noted, the President may withdraw from treaties if those laws enforcing that treaty prove an obstacle to the job of the Executive.


Disaster Relief

On Hurricane Katrina, Sen. Obama had this to say on 06 SEP 2005 (Source: Waybackmachine archive of Sen. Obama's Senate site):

Which brings me to my final point. There's been much attention in the press about the fact that those who were left behind in New Orleans were disproportionately poor and African American. I've said publicly that I do not subscribe to the notion that the painfully slow response of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security was racially-based. The ineptitude was colorblind.

But what must be said is that whoever was in charge of planning and preparing for the worst case scenario appeared to assume that every American has the capacity to load up their family in an SUV, fill it up with $100 worth of gasoline, stick some bottled water in the trunk, and use a credit card to check in to a hotel on safe ground. I see no evidence of active malice, but I see a continuation of passive indifference on the part of our government towards the least of these.

And so I hope that out of this crisis we all begin to reflect - Democrat and Republican - on not only our individual responsibilities to ourselves and our families, but to our mutual responsibilities to our fellow Americans. I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the Hurricane. They were abandoned long ago - to murder and mayhem in their streets; to substandard schools; to dilapidated housing; to inadequate health care; to a pervasive sense of hopelessness.

That is the deeper shame of this past week - that it has taken a crisis like this one to awaken us to the great divide that continues to fester in our midst. That's what all Americans are truly ashamed about, and the fact that we're ashamed about it is a good sign. The fact that all of us - black, white, rich, poor, Republican, Democrat - don't like to see such a reflection of this country we love, tells me that the American people have better instincts and a broader heart than our current politics would indicate.

We had nothing before the Hurricane. Now we have even less.

I hope that we all take the time to ponder the truth of that message.

And when, as President, Barack Obama sees an ice storm hit Kentucky and a million people go without power for a week and some people perishing due to this, and FEMA doing next to nothing, what is his response?

To hold a party with $100 per portion steak for the guests (Source: Betsy's Page for the roundup). Apparently the good citizens of Kentucky were left, long ago, to be maltreated by benign neglect and President Obama just doesn't care.

FEMA was started as an organization meant to coordinate efforts after a nuclear war and was never designed to help in 'normal' emergencies. And it shows. It is the most lack-luster of agencies, leaving individuals in Florida at loose ends after multiple hurricanes for YEARS! Those people were stunned at the fast response given during Hurricane Katrina while THEY had STILL not received help promised years earlier.

It is a minor point, but note how much President Obama actually cares about a large scale 'emergency' in a State that is not photogenic, not able to play the 'race card' and not able to play the 'victim card' and that DOES have SUV's, credit cards and such and were STILL not able to respond well? Imagine what he will do for people less well off in a disaster...


Hiring Ethics at the White House

From the PRNewswire-USNewswire 12 NOV 2008, RNC document on lobbyists:

Obama: "[Lobbyists] Will Not Run My White House, And They Will Not Drown Out The Voices Of The American People When I'm President." "I won't take money from PACs, won't take money from federal registered lobbyists. (Applause.) They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I'm president." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At Ault Park Pavilion, Cincinnati, OH, 10/9/08)

Obama: "[Lobbyists] Won't Find A Job In My White House." "One year from now, we have the chance to tell all those corporate lobbyists that the days of them setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race - and I've won. I don't take a dime of their money, and when I am President, they won't find a job in my White House." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At A Campaign Event, Spartanburg, SC, 11/3/07)

On the campaign trail Sen. Obama felt secure in taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from those involved in lobbying firms or who were lobbyists, just so long as the money wasn't from a lobbying organization (Source: HotAir). The problematic support of a group like ACORN for President Obama, given ACORN's history, and his being a PAC-man during his early campaigns where he accepted a large proportion of his money from PACs, points to a deep involvement with lobbyists who financed his rise to power. Partisanship goes far beyond money, and accepting lobbyists working for *no money* while they still work for a lobbyist organization or have ties to one in their very recent past, indicates that Sen. Obama was more than willing to give lobbyists a greater voice at his meetings than the concerns of average Americans.

Thus it is no surprise that within days of winning the election he was already changing his direction on lobbyists, as seen at The Boston Globe on 12 NOV 2008:

Obama's transition chief laid out ethics rules - which also bar transition staff from lobbying the administration for one year if they become lobbyists later - and portrayed them as the strictest ever for a transfer of presidential power.

But independent analysts said yesterday that the move is less than the wholesale removal of lobbyists that he suggested during the campaign - and shows how difficult it will be to lessen the pervasive influence of more than 40,000 registered lobbyists.

"That is a step back and there is no other way of seeing it," said Craig Holman, who lobbies on governmental affairs for the watchdog group Public Citizen. Nonetheless, he said, Obama is still making "a very concrete effort to avoid what I consider a potentially corrupting situation."

Obama, who promised to change how business gets done in Washington, railed against lobbyists in the upper ranks of rival John McCain's campaign.

Yes, so strict for 'transferring power'!

Of course he had problems sticking to that as seen in this USA Today/ABC News article of 09 NOV 2008:

Campaign watchdog experts, such as Craig Holman of Public Citizen, say the close involvement of these big fundraisers — known as bundlers because they collect money from friends, family and business associates — could give them undue sway in the new administration. "The whole point of these bundlers bringing in so much money is that they get to exercise influence in the next administration," Holman said. Obama's pledge to clean up Washington "is encouraging," Holman said. "But this is a warning sign."

Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said transition members "were chosen based on their skills, ability and expertise."

In an interview, Peña said there is "no connection" between his fundraising and service on the transition team.

"The people who are in the transition process are people that (Obama) has great confidence in and who bring different talents and experiences to this effort," he said. "If some of them happen to also be involved in fundraising, that's simply a coincidence."

The new president will have to walk a fine line to avoid potential conflicts of interest as he fills key positions, said David Lewis, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and author of The Politics of Presidential Appointments.

"The campaign mobilized a tremendous number of donors and campaign workers and volunteers," he said. "Some of those people did it for the joy of participating in the political process, but many of those people participated … with the expectation they were going to get something."

Well so much for 'hope & change' on the transition. Going from 'no lobbyists' to 'bundlers ok' and 'lobbyists giving their own, personal cash' is just fine. One wonders if any of these 'personal' donations got reimbursed by their lobbying organizations? Of course that would be illegal... just like Mr. Hsu's work.

And when it comes time to name people, we see this from an AP article on 23 JAN 2009 (Source: HuffPo):

WASHINGTON — A former Raytheon lobbyist nominated to be deputy defense secretary despite President Barack Obama's ban on hiring lobbyists will sell his stock in the military contracting firm.

However, William J. Lynn won't be forced to step back from decisions related to his former employer, the Pentagon said Friday.

Instead, Lynn's dealings at the Defense Department will be subject to ethics reviews for one year, said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

The Obama administration's decision ended around an executive order that the president signed Jan. 20. His "revolving door" ban, part of Obama's "ethics commitments," ordered officials who had been lobbyists for up to two years prior to their hiring to recuse themselves from decisions involving their former employers.

Under the ban, former lobbyists could not "participate in any particular matter" they had been involved in as a lobbyist or "participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls."

But Lynn avoided a total recusal under the decision announced by Pentagon officials Friday.

On Thursday, the administration delivered to the Senate Armed Services Committee a waiver to Obama's "ethics pledge" for federal employees, exempting Lynn from two specific sections: a two-year prohibition on employees from participating in decisions related to their former employers and a more specific section banning individuals from taking jobs in the agencies they recently lobbied.

A total ban that lasted all of three days.

Such are what pass for 'ethics' in hiring at the White House.

This does go further than just the internal workings of the White House, however, as money is shoveled into the abyss of 'bailouts' it now becomes necessary to have a good lobbyist to get the attention of the President as seen in this Pittsburgh Business Times article of 27 JAN 2009 on the financial problems of Jefferson County:

Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Carns chides his fellow commissioners for allocating $1 million to a lobbying firm in a scathing press release that questions their judgment.

Carns opposed the county’s contract with Washington-based Book Hill Partners to lobby the federal government to assist the near-bankrupt municipality. Commissioners Sheila Smoot, William Bell and Bettye Fine Collins voted for the contract on Tuesday while Carns and Bobby Humphryes were against it.

Jefferson County is saddled with more than $3 billion in sewer debt. The Commission has balked on bankruptcy and is hiring Book Hill to snag federal money to stave off defaulting on bond payments. Carns said hiring a lobbying firm at the same time the county is laying off employees is “unconscionable.”

Carns’ two-page, single spaced release said the county’s top advocates are its legislative delegation. He said Book Hill does not have the ear of President Barack Obama and the county is paying more than four times on lobbying than JP Morgan who holds more than $2 million of the county’s bond debt.

Yes, unconscionable to spend money on a lobbying firm that doesn't have the ear of the President... one wonders if it would be ok to have spent it on one that DOES have the ear of the President? Such is what happens when a 'clean house' President decides to let such things slide by. You either CAN have such ethics rules or NOT: straddling points to expediency of your ethics and moral character, which is not a good sign for anyone, but quite the norm in politics.

Then there is the whole ethical dilemma of hiring people who have broken the law. Most notably the tax laws of the US. We now have a Treasury Secretary that not only didn't pay proper taxes, he didn't record all his income, told his employer he had paid reimbursable outlays when he never paid them out and then conveniently forgot to check to make sure that he was ok on his tax situation until he was nominated. Yes, a tax cheat as the head of the US Treasury!

Now Sen. Tom Daschle (D - S. D.) has been nominated to be the head of HHS and he has also 'forgotten' to pay taxes... while he was a member of Congress. Plus he was head of the Senate Finance Committee at the time. Yes the man in charge of the committee to review House started bills on revenue... couldn't pay his taxes. Or record income as a lobbyist after he left Congress.

From John J. Pitney at the corner at NRO:

“Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter. ” Sen. Tom Daschle, Congressional Record, May 7, 1998, p. S4507.


What are those?

And competence?

Perhaps we can all get such 'loopholes' for ourselves, and not pay taxes for a few years.

[This next section turns out to be in error due to Fox News getting the story wrong. I give plaudits to President Obama for an increase in the defense budget of 8% (Source: Hot Air). This goes into the 'doing something right' column. My thanks to the President for supporting our military needs during wartime. I don't do strikethroughs, if I make a mistake I prefer people to read it 'as is', such as the case here.]



Do you remember candidate Obama's pledge to go after al Qaeda in Pakistan? You know, the place where Congress declared war (via their extra special naming set that devolves into Congress declaring war)? When was the last time that ANY PRESIDENT wanted a CUT in military spending DURING a war? Ok, possibly LBJ... still for something like going after the organization and support network of a group that attacked the country on 9/11, you would think that President Obama would want to beef up spending there to show that he was serious about what he said on the campaign trail.


From Counter-Punch's Marc Herold on 06 AUG 2008 (emphasis mine):

Candidate Obama appears to have adopted wholesale what Cordesman was proposing about two year ago with one qualification: Obama recognizes that the U.S’s traditional European NATO allies will not provide large numbers of additional fighting forces, hence Obama proposes rotating three divisions or about 10,000 U.S. troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan.

If we examine candidate Obama’s most important prepared foreign policy speech to-date, that given on July 14, 2008, we find the elements of what as president he might do in Afghanistan. He forthrightly casts his interest in Afghanistan purely in terms of “making America safer”:

I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

In other words, Obama is committed to “finishing the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” translated as the fight against “Muslim extremism.” Notwithstanding that this examplifies a worst case example of fallacious sunk-cost reasoning, George W. Bush and candidate McCain would not disagree. He continues

Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq. That's what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier this month. And that's why, as President, I will make the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win…. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, and more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights. …Make no mistake: we can’t succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people.

Resources need to be focused upon Afghanistan because it “is the war we have to win.” In July 2008, the International Herald Tribune called it “the war of necessity against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.” Why? Candidate Obama points to Taliban controlling parts of Afghanistan and Al Qaeda possessing an “expanding base in Pakistan.” These are alleged to be spawning grounds of “another attack on our homeland.” George W. Bush and candidate McCain would concur in being in error.

Going after al Qaeda and Taliban are the 'top priority', right? More of everything, plus change our course towards Pakistan to confront them on their support of the Talibe, al Qaeda and local terrorist kingpin going global Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. This is a 'necessary war', right?


From FoxNews on 30 JAN 2009:

The Obama administration has asked the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff to cut the Pentagon's budget request for the fiscal year 2010 by more than 10 percent -- about $55 billion -- a senior U.S. defense official tells FOX News.

Last year's defense budget was $512 billion. Service chiefs and planners will be spending the weekend "burning the midnight oil" looking at ways to cut the budget -- looking especially at weapons programs, the defense official said.

For an economy between $12-14 trillion, that amount, $512 billion, is less than 5% and hovering in the 4% range. WWII, by contrast, ate up 50% of the economy for 1942-45. And, no, an 'economic downturn' that has lost more than the size of the Pentagon budget multifold, doesn't cut it: America is at war in Afghanistan, al Qaeda has not been brought to heel nor the Taliban. Where is that commitment for the Nation to succeed in Afghanistan which will require a strong military effort to start hunting down and killing the Talibe, al Qaeda and Hezb-e-Islami?

Perhaps we are going to send the FBI in to get them?

Worked so well for President Clinton, didn't it? That sending police after people using the methods of Private War that respect no Nation, no law and will be held accountable only to the Law of Nature. And President Obama wants to *cut* the DoD? What about our military obligations to our Allies?

Forgotten, apparently... this idea of protecting the Nation and prosecuting her war abroad.

[End the retracted section, a bit more at Ace's]

So that is where the Obama Administration stands on a few topics.

Do remember that no one said there would be change for the better....

UPDATED with add-on


Another Lobbyist at Labor

Byron York at the corner at NRO goes through the Labor Secretary nominee, Rep. Hilda Solis who had worked with the lobbying group American Rights at Work. Now for those of you who have missed the entire problem of the 'Big 3' in Detroit being about labor unions wanting to keep on as they have been with retirees able to vote as if actively employed, work rule regulations from UNIONS causing increased costs, and lovely health care and retirement packages that none of the 'Big 3' or the Unions can afford... well, having someone who works to empower Big Labor at the Dept. of Labor doesn't look good. Do remember that the overwhelming majority, nearly 9 out of 10 workers, are NOT in Unions. Plus Big Labor is backing the 'Employee Free Choice Act' which removes the secret ballot from voting for Union shops and only requires majority Union membership. That is something Big Labor uses to harass non-Union employees to get them to sign on to the Union: by having a list of who is in the Union and who works in a shop, that pressure can be applied by the Unions. Removal of the secret ballot is the only way for individuals to go against such pressure.

Thus we come to Rep. Solis' position for ARW:

American Rights at Work is an important part of Big Labor's push for the
Employee Free Choice Act, known more accurately as card check. A
recent account
in the lefty journal In These Times says that, "Early this year, unions plan to
present 1 million signatures in support of EFCA to Congress, and they are
calling on allies from civil rights, environment, religious and other movements
to broaden the campaign beyond labor. American Rights at Work, a labor-founded
coalition, is playing a leading role in this effort."

No one is accusing Solis of concealing her connection with the group; it was
common knowledge in the labor world, and she listed it in the paperwork she
submitted for her confirmation hearing. But she did not list it on the
disclosure forms she was required to submit to the House of
Representatives. It was an unpaid position, so there is no problem with
income. But there are questions about whether Solis, as Treasurer, played
a de facto role in the group's lobbying activity; if you're a member of
Congress, you're not supposed to simultaneously lobby Congress. (Solis has
told the Senate that she did not take part in the group's lobbying
activities.) In any event, you're required to list your affiliation on
disclosure documents, which Solis did not do. (On January 29, she filed
amended disclosure forms with the House, listing her association with the labor
group.) Some Senate Republicans don't view this as a major issue with the Solis
nomination, but they do want to know more about her specific activities for
American Rights at Work.

And considering how various Unions contributed to previous Obama campaigns and needing to work with them as part of the Democratic Machine in Chicago, having someone who took part in the financial activities of a pro-Union advocacy group nominated to be Labor Secretary smells like a pay-off. A Labor Secretary must not only represent all workers, but must also understand employment conditions at all levels of Labor, including those of small businesses. By listing affiliation and not her part in lobbying efforts, how can this be seen as anything other than a lobbyist trying to avoid being called such?

Perhaps she wasn't 'vetted'?

It is hard to believe there is no one better for the job, who can actually come clean on their lobbying activities or lack of same.

Mind you, when I screw up, I let you see it and know that I recognize I have done so.

President Obama?

He has yet to do so for his early mis-steps, blunders and reneging on campaign promises. That should leave his *supporters* angry - but to me he is just another Machine Politician from Chicago. You don't come to expect much in the way of humility, explanations or even keeping to promises unless they are pay-offs from that bunch.

No comments: