Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gulf coast

Jobs Take Second Place, Again

The Obama team, we are told, can’t figure out how to stem unemployment. But actually, it seems they simply place job creation and preservation below other priorities. This report explains:

Senior Obama administration officials concluded the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling would cost roughly 23,000 jobs, but went ahead with the ban because they didn’t trust the industry’s safety equipment and the government’s own inspection process, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Critics of the moratorium, including Gulf Coast political figures and oil-industry leaders, have said it is crippling the region’s economy, and some have called on the administration to make public its economic analysis. A federal judge who in June threw out an earlier six-month moratorium faulted the administration for playing down the economic effects.

The Obama administration, the least transparent in history, however, has been actively misleading the court: “The administration has said in court filings that the economic effect of suspended drilling wasn’t as severe as the industry asserted.” The administration turns out to have less credibility than Big Oil. (“An American Petroleum Institute spokesman said the documents show ‘the government itself understood there would be significant impacts felt throughout the region.’”) And, in fact, the administration simply ignored those who raised the warning flag:

In another document, William Hauser, chief of the regulations and standards branch of what was formerly called the Minerals Management Service, outlined the risks of various drilling activities in an email to colleagues and then wrote: “The more I write this stuff the more I believe we can/should/could regulate/stop activities through a prudent management process versus a moratoria scheme.”

This shouldn’t surprise us. The administration’s proclivity to make grand gestures, finger point, bash private industry, and satisfy the left’s pent-up demand has meant that time and time again, the Obama team gave job creation and preservation short shrift. Extend the Bush tax cuts; we can “weather it.” Pass ObamaCare; business will absorb the costs.

It’s no wonder voters think Obama and the Democratic Congress have failed to focus on jobs. They are about to find out the perils of ignoring the voters’ concerns.

The Obama team, we are told, can’t figure out how to stem unemployment. But actually, it seems they simply place job creation and preservation below other priorities. This report explains:

Senior Obama administration officials concluded the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling would cost roughly 23,000 jobs, but went ahead with the ban because they didn’t trust the industry’s safety equipment and the government’s own inspection process, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Critics of the moratorium, including Gulf Coast political figures and oil-industry leaders, have said it is crippling the region’s economy, and some have called on the administration to make public its economic analysis. A federal judge who in June threw out an earlier six-month moratorium faulted the administration for playing down the economic effects.

The Obama administration, the least transparent in history, however, has been actively misleading the court: “The administration has said in court filings that the economic effect of suspended drilling wasn’t as severe as the industry asserted.” The administration turns out to have less credibility than Big Oil. (“An American Petroleum Institute spokesman said the documents show ‘the government itself understood there would be significant impacts felt throughout the region.’”) And, in fact, the administration simply ignored those who raised the warning flag:

In another document, William Hauser, chief of the regulations and standards branch of what was formerly called the Minerals Management Service, outlined the risks of various drilling activities in an email to colleagues and then wrote: “The more I write this stuff the more I believe we can/should/could regulate/stop activities through a prudent management process versus a moratoria scheme.”

This shouldn’t surprise us. The administration’s proclivity to make grand gestures, finger point, bash private industry, and satisfy the left’s pent-up demand has meant that time and time again, the Obama team gave job creation and preservation short shrift. Extend the Bush tax cuts; we can “weather it.” Pass ObamaCare; business will absorb the costs.

It’s no wonder voters think Obama and the Democratic Congress have failed to focus on jobs. They are about to find out the perils of ignoring the voters’ concerns.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

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Power Dirge

Passage of the Democrats’ health-care bill back in March was so historic, we were told, it not only established President Obama as a superstar against the backdrop of our political past; it would also secure his future standing in the pantheon of great American leaders. “Obama’s health care win ensures his legacy,” blared the McClatchy news service  headline.

This achievement was no end in itself. It heralded an Obama “power surge” of global reach. “In Washington, for the first time in his presidency, Obama is feared,” wrote the Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart. “Suddenly, Democrats are not so terrified about the midterm elections. …The Russians have backed down and signed an arms-control pact that doesn’t scrap missile defense in Eastern Europe.”

Pffh. Slaying the Russian bear with insurance regulation was just a warm-up. “Mr. Obama could retire into the history books, many presidential scholars say, on the health-care achievement alone,” wrote Helene Cooper in the New York Times. “But there is a swagger emanating from the White House that suggests he may now have acquired a liking for the benefits of sticking his neck out to lead.” Also in the Times, Tom Friedman assured us that health care’s passage made Obama a more formidable international player. “You don’t have to be Machiavelli to believe that the leaders of Iran and Venezuela shared the barely disguised Republican hope that health care would fail and, therefore, Mr. Obama’s whole political agenda would be stalled and, therefore, his presidency enfeebled,” he wrote.

Obama was on course to take out the Republicans, Russians, Iranians, Venezuelans, Martians, Aztecs, and Incas and still make tee time at Pebble Beach.

Too bad the power surge died before the spring. “Americans are more pessimistic about the state of the country and less confident in President Barack Obama’s leadership than at any point since Mr. Obama entered the White House,” runs an extraordinary lede in today’s Wall Street Journal. A new poll shows that the country is losing faith in the abilities of the world historic president who just three months ago passed historic legislation. That’s not nearly all. The White House is losing its grip on the military, getting smacked down by the judiciary on its drilling ban, and going into battle with about 15 states over health care. Oh, and the Russians ate us for breakfast on that arms treaty, the Iranians had us for lunch on UN sanctions, and the Venezuelans are seizing our oil rigs for dinner. Finally, pace Beinart, Democrats are “terrified about the midterm elections.”

How could this be? Leadership through Nancy Pelosi’s prop gavel and the imposition of mystery legislation doesn’t confer actual power? Go figure.

The big historic health-care victory was nothing more than a procedural high-wire act. Kind of like getting your package to FedEx at 7:55 p.m. on a rainy Friday. Never mind that the package is empty or, worse, that its contents are dangerous. ObamaCare’s popularity sinks with each day’s new frightening analysis.

What people do want are jobs. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that Americans chose “job creation and economic growth” as their top-priority issue for the federal government to address. “The Gulf Coast oil spill and energy” was second. Health care came in at a distant number six, beating last place “social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.”

Like Tom Friedman says, you don’t have to be Machiavelli to see that Obama isn’t competently addressing the most important issues; you just have to be American. In fact, you don’t have to be Machiavelli at all. You just have to be effective. People instruct the president to get mad or get compassionate. But he only needs to get things done. All the “impressive leadership” stuff comes after a leader actually accomplishes something. For now, the new poll does at least partially vindicate Peter Beinart: people are certainly afraid of Barack Obama.

Passage of the Democrats’ health-care bill back in March was so historic, we were told, it not only established President Obama as a superstar against the backdrop of our political past; it would also secure his future standing in the pantheon of great American leaders. “Obama’s health care win ensures his legacy,” blared the McClatchy news service  headline.

This achievement was no end in itself. It heralded an Obama “power surge” of global reach. “In Washington, for the first time in his presidency, Obama is feared,” wrote the Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart. “Suddenly, Democrats are not so terrified about the midterm elections. …The Russians have backed down and signed an arms-control pact that doesn’t scrap missile defense in Eastern Europe.”

Pffh. Slaying the Russian bear with insurance regulation was just a warm-up. “Mr. Obama could retire into the history books, many presidential scholars say, on the health-care achievement alone,” wrote Helene Cooper in the New York Times. “But there is a swagger emanating from the White House that suggests he may now have acquired a liking for the benefits of sticking his neck out to lead.” Also in the Times, Tom Friedman assured us that health care’s passage made Obama a more formidable international player. “You don’t have to be Machiavelli to believe that the leaders of Iran and Venezuela shared the barely disguised Republican hope that health care would fail and, therefore, Mr. Obama’s whole political agenda would be stalled and, therefore, his presidency enfeebled,” he wrote.

Obama was on course to take out the Republicans, Russians, Iranians, Venezuelans, Martians, Aztecs, and Incas and still make tee time at Pebble Beach.

Too bad the power surge died before the spring. “Americans are more pessimistic about the state of the country and less confident in President Barack Obama’s leadership than at any point since Mr. Obama entered the White House,” runs an extraordinary lede in today’s Wall Street Journal. A new poll shows that the country is losing faith in the abilities of the world historic president who just three months ago passed historic legislation. That’s not nearly all. The White House is losing its grip on the military, getting smacked down by the judiciary on its drilling ban, and going into battle with about 15 states over health care. Oh, and the Russians ate us for breakfast on that arms treaty, the Iranians had us for lunch on UN sanctions, and the Venezuelans are seizing our oil rigs for dinner. Finally, pace Beinart, Democrats are “terrified about the midterm elections.”

How could this be? Leadership through Nancy Pelosi’s prop gavel and the imposition of mystery legislation doesn’t confer actual power? Go figure.

The big historic health-care victory was nothing more than a procedural high-wire act. Kind of like getting your package to FedEx at 7:55 p.m. on a rainy Friday. Never mind that the package is empty or, worse, that its contents are dangerous. ObamaCare’s popularity sinks with each day’s new frightening analysis.

What people do want are jobs. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that Americans chose “job creation and economic growth” as their top-priority issue for the federal government to address. “The Gulf Coast oil spill and energy” was second. Health care came in at a distant number six, beating last place “social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.”

Like Tom Friedman says, you don’t have to be Machiavelli to see that Obama isn’t competently addressing the most important issues; you just have to be American. In fact, you don’t have to be Machiavelli at all. You just have to be effective. People instruct the president to get mad or get compassionate. But he only needs to get things done. All the “impressive leadership” stuff comes after a leader actually accomplishes something. For now, the new poll does at least partially vindicate Peter Beinart: people are certainly afraid of Barack Obama.

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Obama Grasps at Straws

Barack Obama is learning the hard way about the limits of the power of the presidency.

Obama told Louisiana residents, who are confronting the worst environmental disaster in history because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, that he couldn’t “suck it up with a straw.” “Even though I’m president of the United States, my power is not limitless,” Obama told residents from Grand Isle as they sat around a table together. “So I can’t dive down there and plug the hole. I can’t suck it up with a straw.”

When a major American city was 80 percent under water due to a breached levee caused by one of the worst hurricanes in our history, then-Senator Obama was silent about the limits on the power of the president. In fact, he excoriated his predecessor for his “unconscionable ineptitude” in the context of Katrina, despite the fact that George W. Bush had to deal with local and state leaders far more incompetent than the ones facing Obama. “We can talk about a trust that was broken, the promise that our government will be prepared, will protect us, and will respond in a catastrophe,” Obama said in 2008.

There was no mention of straws.

Obama’s comments to Louisiana residents come on top of what Obama told Politco’s Roger Simon in an interview. “The overwhelming majority of the American people” have reasonable expectations, Obama said. “What they hope and expect is for the president to do everything that’s within his power. They don’t expect us to be magicians.”

I think most American do have reasonable expectations of what a president can and cannot do. But if their expectations are reasonable, it is not because of anything Barack Obama has ever said before. In fact, you can review his speeches during the campaign, and you will find a lot about what a magical, transformational, hopeful, and historical moment his election would be. Even when offering a perfunctory acknowledgement of his own limitations, what Obama promised America was, even by campaign standards, extraordinary (see here and here.)

Yet almost 17 months into his presidency, the man who was going to remake this nation, who was going to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless, who was going to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace, who was going to open doors of opportunities to our kids and replace cynicism with hope and stop the rise of the oceans and heal the planet — this man has come up short. None of this has come to pass. It turns out he cannot even, in his own words, “plug the damn hole.” He has not issued waivers that he should, nor has he provided Gulf Coast governors with the requests they need, nor coordinated the clean-up effort that the people of the Louisiana are begging for. He can do nothing, it seems, except blame others. The man whom, we were told, was the next Lincoln and FDR is coming to grips with his own impotence and ineptitude. From Iran to the Gulf of Mexico, from Middle East peace to job creation, from uniting our country to cleansing our politics, Barack Obama is being brought to his knees.

This doesn’t mean the Obama presidency is broken or beyond repair. And Obama’s admission of the limits to the power of the presidency is justified. The problem for the president is that his comments now were preceded by so much hubris. Obama and his aides set mythic expectations. Those expectations now lie in ruin. What we’re seeing was, therefore, inevitable and predictable. Barack Obama is reaping what he has sown. Let’s hope for the sake of the country that he learns from the punishing blows reality has dealt him.

Barack Obama is learning the hard way about the limits of the power of the presidency.

Obama told Louisiana residents, who are confronting the worst environmental disaster in history because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, that he couldn’t “suck it up with a straw.” “Even though I’m president of the United States, my power is not limitless,” Obama told residents from Grand Isle as they sat around a table together. “So I can’t dive down there and plug the hole. I can’t suck it up with a straw.”

When a major American city was 80 percent under water due to a breached levee caused by one of the worst hurricanes in our history, then-Senator Obama was silent about the limits on the power of the president. In fact, he excoriated his predecessor for his “unconscionable ineptitude” in the context of Katrina, despite the fact that George W. Bush had to deal with local and state leaders far more incompetent than the ones facing Obama. “We can talk about a trust that was broken, the promise that our government will be prepared, will protect us, and will respond in a catastrophe,” Obama said in 2008.

There was no mention of straws.

Obama’s comments to Louisiana residents come on top of what Obama told Politco’s Roger Simon in an interview. “The overwhelming majority of the American people” have reasonable expectations, Obama said. “What they hope and expect is for the president to do everything that’s within his power. They don’t expect us to be magicians.”

I think most American do have reasonable expectations of what a president can and cannot do. But if their expectations are reasonable, it is not because of anything Barack Obama has ever said before. In fact, you can review his speeches during the campaign, and you will find a lot about what a magical, transformational, hopeful, and historical moment his election would be. Even when offering a perfunctory acknowledgement of his own limitations, what Obama promised America was, even by campaign standards, extraordinary (see here and here.)

Yet almost 17 months into his presidency, the man who was going to remake this nation, who was going to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless, who was going to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace, who was going to open doors of opportunities to our kids and replace cynicism with hope and stop the rise of the oceans and heal the planet — this man has come up short. None of this has come to pass. It turns out he cannot even, in his own words, “plug the damn hole.” He has not issued waivers that he should, nor has he provided Gulf Coast governors with the requests they need, nor coordinated the clean-up effort that the people of the Louisiana are begging for. He can do nothing, it seems, except blame others. The man whom, we were told, was the next Lincoln and FDR is coming to grips with his own impotence and ineptitude. From Iran to the Gulf of Mexico, from Middle East peace to job creation, from uniting our country to cleansing our politics, Barack Obama is being brought to his knees.

This doesn’t mean the Obama presidency is broken or beyond repair. And Obama’s admission of the limits to the power of the presidency is justified. The problem for the president is that his comments now were preceded by so much hubris. Obama and his aides set mythic expectations. Those expectations now lie in ruin. What we’re seeing was, therefore, inevitable and predictable. Barack Obama is reaping what he has sown. Let’s hope for the sake of the country that he learns from the punishing blows reality has dealt him.

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The Obama Administration Bullies Business Again

Obama and congressional Democrats have become accustomed to badgering, bullying, and berating business. They see nothing wrong with suing and excoriating Goldman Sachs for shorting the housing market. They thought it was fine to force AIG to take away bonuses from executives who were contractually entitled to receive them. And now this:

BP faced demands Tuesday that it withhold its first-quarter dividend, which it committed to pay in April, in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon crisis. A confirmation of the payment date Tuesday drew a letter of condemnation from 32 members of Congress. … The dilemma comes as BP faces tremendous heat over the issue. Last week, President Barack Obama warned the company against “nickel and diming” people affected by the spill and said BP had “moral and legal obligations” to Gulf Coast residents that may supersede its obligations to shareholders.

You do wonder whether any of these politicians understand that stock price reflects expected cash flow — including dividends. Are they trying to crash BP’s stock? Surely investors will start dumping the stock if the dividend is taken away.

The larger point, however, is this: what gives lawmakers the right to boss around a private company (one that never took a bailout) and pull the rug out from shareholders, who are entitled to and may be financial dependent on dividend checks? It’s not as if there were any economic justification for nixing the dividend:

Today, analysts say there is no reason from a business standpoint for the company to cut the dividend, as few people are questioning BP’s financial strength despite the crisis brought on by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “If they do something with the dividend, they’re not doing it for financial reasons … it’s because of the political battle of wills,” said [former BP CEO Bob] Morton.

It is one more instance of liberals attempting  to blur the distinction between the public and private and to force businesses to make economic decisions based on political considerations. Politicians with little economic expertise and no respect for the rule of law are systematically distorting business decisions and thereby forcing executives to become political operatives and lobbying gurus rather than expert wealth creators. It is what comes from electing people with zero experience in or respect for profiting-making ventures.

Obama and congressional Democrats have become accustomed to badgering, bullying, and berating business. They see nothing wrong with suing and excoriating Goldman Sachs for shorting the housing market. They thought it was fine to force AIG to take away bonuses from executives who were contractually entitled to receive them. And now this:

BP faced demands Tuesday that it withhold its first-quarter dividend, which it committed to pay in April, in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon crisis. A confirmation of the payment date Tuesday drew a letter of condemnation from 32 members of Congress. … The dilemma comes as BP faces tremendous heat over the issue. Last week, President Barack Obama warned the company against “nickel and diming” people affected by the spill and said BP had “moral and legal obligations” to Gulf Coast residents that may supersede its obligations to shareholders.

You do wonder whether any of these politicians understand that stock price reflects expected cash flow — including dividends. Are they trying to crash BP’s stock? Surely investors will start dumping the stock if the dividend is taken away.

The larger point, however, is this: what gives lawmakers the right to boss around a private company (one that never took a bailout) and pull the rug out from shareholders, who are entitled to and may be financial dependent on dividend checks? It’s not as if there were any economic justification for nixing the dividend:

Today, analysts say there is no reason from a business standpoint for the company to cut the dividend, as few people are questioning BP’s financial strength despite the crisis brought on by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “If they do something with the dividend, they’re not doing it for financial reasons … it’s because of the political battle of wills,” said [former BP CEO Bob] Morton.

It is one more instance of liberals attempting  to blur the distinction between the public and private and to force businesses to make economic decisions based on political considerations. Politicians with little economic expertise and no respect for the rule of law are systematically distorting business decisions and thereby forcing executives to become political operatives and lobbying gurus rather than expert wealth creators. It is what comes from electing people with zero experience in or respect for profiting-making ventures.

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Obama Escapes From His Offshore-Drilling Promise

So much for the Obami’s willingness to pursue domestic energy exploration and drilling:

There will be no new domestic offshore oil drilling pending a review of the rig disaster and massive oil spill along the Gulf Coast, the White House said Friday morning. Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” senior adviser David Axelrod said “no additional [offshore] drilling has been authorized, and none will until we find out what happened and whether there was something unique and preventable here. … No domestic drilling in new areas is going to go forward until there is an adequate review of what’s happened here and of what is being proposed elsewhere.” The administration recently announced that it would open new coastal areas to oil exploration, including regions off Virginia’s coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, ending a long moratorium on new drilling.

Well, in essence, this gets the administration off the hook with enraged environmental lobbyists who went berserk when Obama suggested that we might open up offshore drilling. But then there was always less than met the eye when it came to Obama’s commitment to domestic energy development: “Any new drilling was years away anyway under the administration’s new drilling policy, which was interpreted as an attempt to show bipartisanship in energy policy and get greater support in the process for climate legislation.” So now even the fig leaf of bipartisanship is gone. And that “review,” one can bet, will be just as slow as the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell review. In short, the Obami aren’t about to move any quicker on offshore drilling than they are on gays in the military.

So much for the Obami’s willingness to pursue domestic energy exploration and drilling:

There will be no new domestic offshore oil drilling pending a review of the rig disaster and massive oil spill along the Gulf Coast, the White House said Friday morning. Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” senior adviser David Axelrod said “no additional [offshore] drilling has been authorized, and none will until we find out what happened and whether there was something unique and preventable here. … No domestic drilling in new areas is going to go forward until there is an adequate review of what’s happened here and of what is being proposed elsewhere.” The administration recently announced that it would open new coastal areas to oil exploration, including regions off Virginia’s coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, ending a long moratorium on new drilling.

Well, in essence, this gets the administration off the hook with enraged environmental lobbyists who went berserk when Obama suggested that we might open up offshore drilling. But then there was always less than met the eye when it came to Obama’s commitment to domestic energy development: “Any new drilling was years away anyway under the administration’s new drilling policy, which was interpreted as an attempt to show bipartisanship in energy policy and get greater support in the process for climate legislation.” So now even the fig leaf of bipartisanship is gone. And that “review,” one can bet, will be just as slow as the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell review. In short, the Obami aren’t about to move any quicker on offshore drilling than they are on gays in the military.

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Forget the Democracy, They Have a Planet to Save

Diane Ravitch of NYU and Brookings writes that she is bothered by “the idea that President Obama has pledged to join the other advanced nations in paying billions to corrupt and despotic regimes to help them become green. Will he borrow billions from China so we can afford to pay China to become green? Will we finance the kleptocrats in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and other regimes? How much of the billions will go for greenness and how much for Mercedes, BMWs, and other baubles for the despots?”

Well, that’s unfortunately what the Green agenda looks like — a racket for the third world, which now uses questionable science to advance its money-grabbing schemes. And with the $100 billion in funding the Obama team was willing to pony up in Copenhagen, it seems as though they have a friend in the White House amenable to this sort of thing. It also is likely to further turn off the American public, which already was not too keen on the hysterical Green agenda.

But watch out: the Green racket is about to get serious. The trial lawyers are now moving in to get their share of the scam. No, really. This is no joke:

Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that’s not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under “nuisance” laws. A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

At least the states’ lawyers are candidly revealing that they are in the hold-up game, seeking to “compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature.” Just in case you thought that important policy decisions had to be passed by elected leaders. (“The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.”)

All of this is refreshing, in a sense, to those who have been skeptical all along as to the motives and tactics of the environmental busybodies. Cold hard cash seems to be a big objective here — moving it from the private to public sector and from developed to third-world countries. And as the public’s resistance mounts, those peddling the agenda are showing their true, quite anti-democratic tendencies. International deals (which the president hoped would box in the U.S. Congress), an EPA edict on carbon emissions, and a barrage of lawsuits all aim to one degree or another to evade the normal process of lawmaking and the sticky business of gaining popular consent for radical policy initiatives. Makes one miss the days when the Green hysterics felt compelled to scare the public into supporting their agenda.

Diane Ravitch of NYU and Brookings writes that she is bothered by “the idea that President Obama has pledged to join the other advanced nations in paying billions to corrupt and despotic regimes to help them become green. Will he borrow billions from China so we can afford to pay China to become green? Will we finance the kleptocrats in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and other regimes? How much of the billions will go for greenness and how much for Mercedes, BMWs, and other baubles for the despots?”

Well, that’s unfortunately what the Green agenda looks like — a racket for the third world, which now uses questionable science to advance its money-grabbing schemes. And with the $100 billion in funding the Obama team was willing to pony up in Copenhagen, it seems as though they have a friend in the White House amenable to this sort of thing. It also is likely to further turn off the American public, which already was not too keen on the hysterical Green agenda.

But watch out: the Green racket is about to get serious. The trial lawyers are now moving in to get their share of the scam. No, really. This is no joke:

Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that’s not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under “nuisance” laws. A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

At least the states’ lawyers are candidly revealing that they are in the hold-up game, seeking to “compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature.” Just in case you thought that important policy decisions had to be passed by elected leaders. (“The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.”)

All of this is refreshing, in a sense, to those who have been skeptical all along as to the motives and tactics of the environmental busybodies. Cold hard cash seems to be a big objective here — moving it from the private to public sector and from developed to third-world countries. And as the public’s resistance mounts, those peddling the agenda are showing their true, quite anti-democratic tendencies. International deals (which the president hoped would box in the U.S. Congress), an EPA edict on carbon emissions, and a barrage of lawsuits all aim to one degree or another to evade the normal process of lawmaking and the sticky business of gaining popular consent for radical policy initiatives. Makes one miss the days when the Green hysterics felt compelled to scare the public into supporting their agenda.

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The Middle East Needs Dubai

There is a large element of Schadenfreude in the media coverage of Dubai’s financial mess. The Gulf emirate has suspended payment on the debt of its flagship holding company, Dubai World, causing financial jitters around the world and raising suspicions that its balance sheet is a lot worse than it has been letting on. For years Dubai has been on a spending binge, which includes building the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski slope, and a series of artificial islands in “an artificial archipelago that would reconfigure the Persian Gulf coast into a thicket of trees, a map of the world, a whirling galaxy, a scythe and a sun that looks like a spider.”

It is easy to look down one’s nose at the excesses of this global parvenu, which is trying to become the Hong Kong or Singapore of the Middle East, thereby usurping Beirut’s traditional position as the place where Arabs unwind. When I visited Dubai a couple of years ago with a group of foreign-policy analysts, we were all amazed by the frenetic pace of construction. A sizable proportion of the world’s building cranes had been arrayed in this city-state and they were putting up too many skyscrapers to count. It was pretty obvious that the good times wouldn’t last forever, and they haven’t. The result of a building boom, we all know, is a glut of new structures, a lack of tenants, and a crash. That’s what has happened in the U.S. with residential homes in the past few years and now it appears to be happening with commercial real estate in Dubai.

So much, so familiar. But still for all of Dubai’s excesses it is a wonder that it has gotten this far. It deserves not ill-disguised glee at its misfortunes but a degree of respect for its willingness to flout traditional Arab taboos. It is, for example, a place where Emiratis in white robes rub shoulders with Russian hookers in mini-skirts — a place where it’s perfectly possible to get a nice cocktail (and not a “mocktail,” as in Kuwait) in a public bar, and to do so in the middle of Ramadan if you’re feeling parched at that point. No doubt some of Dubai’s competitors, the likes of Doha and Kuwait City and its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, are licking their chops at the prospect of benefitting from Dubai’s downturn but they will be hard put to it to match its dynamism because they remain much more in thrall to traditional Arab/Muslim pieties: a combination of religious and tribal traditions that have made the Middle East a laggard in many dimensions of development. Dubai has been a leader in the Arab world with respect to embracing modernity — which has repercussions both good and bad but in general is a force for positive change. We should all hope that it will get on its feet again soon. The Middle East needs Dubai.

There is a large element of Schadenfreude in the media coverage of Dubai’s financial mess. The Gulf emirate has suspended payment on the debt of its flagship holding company, Dubai World, causing financial jitters around the world and raising suspicions that its balance sheet is a lot worse than it has been letting on. For years Dubai has been on a spending binge, which includes building the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski slope, and a series of artificial islands in “an artificial archipelago that would reconfigure the Persian Gulf coast into a thicket of trees, a map of the world, a whirling galaxy, a scythe and a sun that looks like a spider.”

It is easy to look down one’s nose at the excesses of this global parvenu, which is trying to become the Hong Kong or Singapore of the Middle East, thereby usurping Beirut’s traditional position as the place where Arabs unwind. When I visited Dubai a couple of years ago with a group of foreign-policy analysts, we were all amazed by the frenetic pace of construction. A sizable proportion of the world’s building cranes had been arrayed in this city-state and they were putting up too many skyscrapers to count. It was pretty obvious that the good times wouldn’t last forever, and they haven’t. The result of a building boom, we all know, is a glut of new structures, a lack of tenants, and a crash. That’s what has happened in the U.S. with residential homes in the past few years and now it appears to be happening with commercial real estate in Dubai.

So much, so familiar. But still for all of Dubai’s excesses it is a wonder that it has gotten this far. It deserves not ill-disguised glee at its misfortunes but a degree of respect for its willingness to flout traditional Arab taboos. It is, for example, a place where Emiratis in white robes rub shoulders with Russian hookers in mini-skirts — a place where it’s perfectly possible to get a nice cocktail (and not a “mocktail,” as in Kuwait) in a public bar, and to do so in the middle of Ramadan if you’re feeling parched at that point. No doubt some of Dubai’s competitors, the likes of Doha and Kuwait City and its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, are licking their chops at the prospect of benefitting from Dubai’s downturn but they will be hard put to it to match its dynamism because they remain much more in thrall to traditional Arab/Muslim pieties: a combination of religious and tribal traditions that have made the Middle East a laggard in many dimensions of development. Dubai has been a leader in the Arab world with respect to embracing modernity — which has repercussions both good and bad but in general is a force for positive change. We should all hope that it will get on its feet again soon. The Middle East needs Dubai.

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Primary Fun in the Sun

In Florida, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are in a virtual tie heading into the January 29th winner take-all GOP primary. But I would have never known that from talking to people during my trip to Florida last week. That’s because my ambit extended no further than Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton along the Atlantic coast, an area that’s heavily settled by pro-Rudy people from the New York Metropolitan area. Giuliani will do very well in this heavily Jewish area as there are even Democrats who have switched their registration to the GOP to support him. And he has support further south where refugees from Castro and other Latin American thugs are drawn to both Giuliani and McCain. But it’s not clear how well he will do in the other Floridas, such as the central Florida farming areas, the Tampa-Orlando tourism and high-tech corridor, and the northern tier with close ties to the military that stretches from Jacksonville on the Atlantic to Pensacola snuggled up against Alabama on the Gulf Coast. McCain has ties to this northern tier. He trained in Pensacola and his family spent his years of captivity in Jacksonville. Huckabee has a strong network of Christian support on the Florida Panhandle and Romney has a natural affinity with the Republican business community.

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In Florida, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are in a virtual tie heading into the January 29th winner take-all GOP primary. But I would have never known that from talking to people during my trip to Florida last week. That’s because my ambit extended no further than Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton along the Atlantic coast, an area that’s heavily settled by pro-Rudy people from the New York Metropolitan area. Giuliani will do very well in this heavily Jewish area as there are even Democrats who have switched their registration to the GOP to support him. And he has support further south where refugees from Castro and other Latin American thugs are drawn to both Giuliani and McCain. But it’s not clear how well he will do in the other Floridas, such as the central Florida farming areas, the Tampa-Orlando tourism and high-tech corridor, and the northern tier with close ties to the military that stretches from Jacksonville on the Atlantic to Pensacola snuggled up against Alabama on the Gulf Coast. McCain has ties to this northern tier. He trained in Pensacola and his family spent his years of captivity in Jacksonville. Huckabee has a strong network of Christian support on the Florida Panhandle and Romney has a natural affinity with the Republican business community.

Romney has sometimes been written off regarding Florida despite the support of Jeb Bush. But in a multi-polar state with 10 major media markets, Romney’s money gives him an important advantage in an election where marked support for four strong candidates means that it’s possible to take all of Florida’s bounty of delegates which as little as 30 percent of the vote. And that’s where the Giuliani strategies come in. Absentee mail balloting began two weeks ago and by some estimates, almost half of all votes will have been cast by primary day. First and foremost Giuliani who, first began contacting voters here in the summer of 2007, has been working Florida at the cost of his national poll standing, is counting on winning the absentee balloting. He concludes every appearance, every rally, every speech with the cry of “let’s go vote.” Another part of his strategy is to target specific issues that appeal to the non-New Yorkers. Besides talking tough on Castro, he’s detailed plans for 1) a national disaster fund, a concept that appeals to a state that’s been so hard hit by hurricanes and 2) an expansion of the space program.

But for all that the election might well come down to the economy. Overall Florida is teetering on the edge of recession. Home sales fell about 20 percent nationally in 2007, but 30 percent in Florida where home prices decline by 10 percent compared to the three percent nationally. Retails sales, a proxy for consumer spending dropped 5 percent in the state last year and even more sharply in some areas. In Pompano, where I was staying and even in tony Boca, there are numerous empty stores. In one, previously very successful Pompano mall, 30 percent of the retail space is now unoccupied with, I’m told scant prospect of being rented out during this cycle. Housing wise, the local brokers have their heads in their hands as the inventory of condos that can’t be moved pile up and prices sink further.

The former Massachusetts Governor and New Yorker mayor are the two who have spoken with the most authority and depth on the economy. Romney who won Michigan with pie in the sky rhetoric finally has an issue with the economy where he comes off as genuine. Giuliani has outlined a well thought out tax-cutting agenda for dealing with Global competition. But from my conversations, and what I read and saw neither has been able to speak to the effects of the bursting the mortgage asset bubble which in turn has sharply reduced consumption. It’s reasonably likely, unforeseen events aside, that the candidate best able to speak to that issue over the next nine days will win Florida and the momentum need to go on to Super Tuesday.

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