“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Michelle Obama, Fit to be First Lady of Cameroon.

It is a beyond cliche to note that one of the sad characteristics of most African leaders is a flaunting display of opulence. The opulence is conversely proportional to poverty and always makes an ugly comparison. Michelle Obama would make a fine and foxy first Lady of Cameroon. She would fit the role as perfectly as she fits her growing inventory of multi-thousand dollar dresses.

I found this little article from Ouest France which highlights a French visit by the president of Cameroon to France in 2009:

Paul Biya, the president of Cameroon, paid an official visit to France on July 24 to meet with Nicolas Sarkozy. He then extended his stay at La Baule (on the Atlantic Coast). Today (August 28) he received the medal of the city from the hands of its mayor, Yves M├ętaireau (photo above). "This is a friend that we welcome" declared the mayor, who was careful not to comment on human rights or on the politics of Cameroon.

During the reception given in his honor, Paul Biya expressed his satisfaction with the trip: "This is the third time we have been to La Baule. We are very fond of it and we will certainly come back."

He then went over his meeting last month with the French president: "It was a success in every way. I respect France for her ability to distinguish herself on questions of democracy, peace, and the development of poor countries. In this climate of crisis, it is necessary for industrialized nations to strengthen international solidarity."

While France reaffirmed her promise of financial aid to Cameroon and confirmed (the 2006) payment of 537 million euro, over a five year period, to help the country get out of debt and to foster development, Paul Biya and his wife enjoy the good life in La Baule.

For two weeks they have been residing at the Royal and Hermitage Hotels, where they have rented 43 rooms at 42,000 euro a night, with thalasso, casino and shopping sprees. Their expenses total in the millions. They are scheduled to return home in early September.

Does it have more than a whiff of familiarity?

Politics Daily

Michelle Obama's Lavish Spain Vacation Sparking Criticism
1 day ago

While first lady Michelle Obama continues sightseeing and shopping in southern Spain with her daughter Sasha and friends as "private" tourists, questions are being raised about the cost to taxpayers and whether a lavish vacation sends the right message during tough economic times in the United States.

Mrs. Obama also has a "public" part of the vacation, but it's hardly heavy lifting and without any formal agenda. On Sunday, Mrs. Obama and 9-year-old Sasha will have lunch with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia at their summer palace on the island of Majorca.

This trip is sparking the first controversy Mrs. Obama has faced since becoming first lady. While Mrs. Obama covers her personal expenses, taxpayers pay for security and support staffers, plus most costs associated with her Air Force plane.

CBS News has run two stories -- on its Thursday evening newscast and on Friday morning -- examining the public costs of Mrs. Obama's travels. ABC did a piece Friday morning about Mrs. Obama and Sasha buying matching sundresses, the ritzy resort they visited and the heavy coverage of the visit by Spanish media. NBC ran a story about the trip as well, and more network coverage is in the works.

Contributing to the developing narrative: a column by Andrea Tantaros in the Thursday New York Daily News headlined, "Material girl Michelle Obama is a modern-day Marie Antoinette on a glitzy Spanish vacation."

"It is very difficult to lead a private life when you are a public figure," Anita McBride, the chief of staff for former first lady Laura Bush, told me. "No one would deny an official the need for a vacation. But the more expensive or lavish the trip, the greater the risk of criticism."

The first lady arrived in the Mediterranean coastal city of Marbella on Wednesday, checking in to the super-posh Villa Padierna, along with her daughter, friends, a small number of staffers -- the East Wing would not say how many -- and a security force. (The Obama's older daughter, Malia, 12, is at overnight camp.)

On Thursday, Mrs. Obama's entourage arrived in the historic city of Granada, also in southern Spain. According to a story in El Pais, before visiting the landmark cathedral in the city, Mrs. Obama's group stopped for ice cream, and didn't mind people snapping pictures on their cell phones. The day also included viewing a flamenco performance and in the evening a visit to the Alhambra palace.

When the trip was first announced, it was billed as "private mother-daughter trip with longtime family friends." On Wednesday in Politics Daily, I wrote that Mrs. Obama may well take some criticism for the Spain vacation. While first ladies always stay at high-class hotels -- security is a big part of the reason -- a five-star resort on Spain's coast creates a potential perception problem. The U.S. jobless rate is still high -- 9.5 percent on Friday. And while Mrs. Obama and President Obama have tried to encourage tourism in Gulf Coast areas not impacted by the BP oil spill, she is highlighting the beauty of Spain's Mediterranean beaches before the first family travels to Florida's Gulf Coast on Aug. 14 for a weekend stay.

During the Wednesday afternoon briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the "appearance" of Mrs. Obama's trip. "The first lady is on a private trip," Gibbs said. "She is a private citizen and is the mother of a daughter on a private trip. And I think I'd leave it at that."

While the White House has emphasized that Mrs. Obama pays her personal costs, as do her friends who flew to Spain on their own, taxpayers pick up a big chunk of the tab.

According to CBS News, the tax dollar part of the vacation include an estimated $146,000 round-trip cost for the U.S. Air Force 757 aircraft, not counting ground time; about $95,000 in hotel costs for an estimated 70 security personnel -- Secret Service and military -- who get a $273-a-day government per diem, plus costs for the dozen or so cars in her motorcade. I'm told that three shifts of agents are needed for a trip of this magnitude.

While the trip may not be "politically smart," said Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus on CBS, "it was not a let them eat cake moment."

The East Wing argues that Mrs. Obama is a private citizen, not an elected official, and she wants to focus on her friends and family. While taking August off, she plans to ramp up her schedule after Labor Day. I'm also told the East Wing is not going to react to these stories about Mrs. Obama's travels.

From Spain, Mrs. Obama did keep tabs on the Senate's passage of child nutrition legislation. On Thursday night, the East Wing told me, she called four senators who played a role in passing a bill that is central to her signature issue of reducing child obesity: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.); Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

I don't think anyone is begrudging Mrs. Obama vacations or sharing with her kids and pals some incredible opportunities she has from her unique perch to see the world. Some of this just has to do with the scale of a trip without some official substance.

While former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled with Chelsea and former first lady Laura Bush took Barbara and Jenna with her on trips, the overseas travel was in connection with "official" business that was more than lunch with royalty at their summer palace. And it's not like Mrs. Obama is lacking a diplomatic agenda. Her April visit to Mexico City was the kick off of her "international agenda" with a focus on developing youth leadership.

Mrs. Bush's true personal trips were hiking vacations in national parks with female pals.

Politics Daily readers who weighed in after my Wednesday piece summed up Mrs. Obama's situation.

"redrage727" wrote, "A little restraint would be appropriate in these tough economic times. It would mean a lot to the American people who pay for all these vacations and outings and would go a long way towards better relations with the people of the U.S. "

Replied "melonart," "I believe I detect a bit of envy and jealously in the comments I am reading. I am of the opinion that a public person can't win regardless of his or her choices in their private life..they are dammed if they do and dammed if they don't. Let a mother show her daughter a bit of the world."


  1. PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain — U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha are having lunch with Spain's king and queen at the royal family's holiday retreat on the resort island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean.
    Mrs. Obama and her daughter arrived at Marivent palace shortly before 1 p.m. Sunday and were greeted at the front door of the residence by King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and Princess Letizia.

    The king, a keen yachtsman, has for decades spent August vacations at the palace with its dramatic cliff-top views of the sea on the Balearic island's southwestern coast near Palma de Mallorca.

    The lunch meeting marks the end of a five-day private visit to Spain by Mrs. Obama, who toured beauty spots in the southern region of Andalusia including Marbella, Ronda and the Alhambra palace in Granada.

  2. I don't think there's anything wrong with Michelle Obama vacationing in Spain; they have the money, so why not? But I agree with Doug Mataconis that, while there's nothing actually wrong with it, it's really quite unbelievably politically stupid. When we're in the middle of the worst recession in living memory, it's not a good idea to take a luxury vacation that most of your countrymen could never possibly afford in the best of times, at considerable taxpayer expense for the security, in a foreign country. Whether or not people should resent it, they will, and his party's already in big enough trouble without reinforcing the Red State sense that this administration is full of out-of-touch elites. I'm astonished that Obama's advisors gave this trip the green light.

    the Atlantic

  3. FLOTUS, the gift that keeps on keepin on.

    Damn, I wish she would extend it for just one more week. Please send FLOTUS shopping for a couple more days.

  4. She may be kinda a witch, in fact I'm sure she is, but she is, at least I think so, a nice looking woman.

    But I learned a long time ago, looks aren't everything. In fact, they can be a big drawback.

    Sometimes they can lead to over weening pride and self righteousness.

  5. The sunglasses are too big and thick, too.

  6. Near Death Experiences

    Cardiologist Dr. Pim van Lommel was shocked by the number of his patients who claimed to have near-death experiences. He concludes that these are authentic experiences cannot be attributed to imagination. Ian Punnett hosts.

    Coast to Coast tonight

    This program would be worth listening to, he is, among other things, a good writer.

    There is an ongoing research project in some hospitals around the world, to see if the near deathers are able to correctly identify numbers and pictograms that they would not ordinarily be able to see, from their position on a hospital bed. Results won't be in for two or three years.

  7. SEOUL Aug 8 (Reuters) - A South Korean fishing vessel with seven people aboard is being held by North Korea after sailing into the North's exclusive economic waters off the east coast, the South Korean coast guard said on Sunday.

    Simmering tensions between the two Koreas have risen a notch in recent days with the staging of military drills by the South off the west coast, infuriating Pyongyang which threatened "physical retaliation" for the exercise.

    "We have found out that our fishing vessel is being investigated by North Korean officials in the presumed North Korea exclusive economic waters in northern East Sea," the South Korean coast guard said in a statement.

    "The South Korean government, according to international law, wants the swift resolution to the matter and the safe return of its vessel and its fisherman."

  8. Simean. The only discription that comes to mind.

  9. Any bets that the US will borrow a couple of billion more from Charlie Chi-com, to help out our allies in Pakistan?

    ISLAMABAD — It will cost billions of dollars for Pakistan to recover from massive floods that have devastated the country, further straining a government already dependent on foreign aid to prop up its economy and back its war against Islamist militants, the U.N. said Sunday.

    The warning came as authorities rushed to evacuate thousands of people in southern Sindh province, where floodwaters pouring down from the northwest submerged villages and destroyed thousands of homes. The new devastation added to the 13 million people the government estimates have been affected by the floods.

    The government has struggled to cope with the scale of the disaster, which has killed 1,500 people, prompting the international community to help by donating tens of millions of dollars and providing relief supplies.

    But the U.N. special envoy for the disaster, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said the need for foreign aid would be much greater going forward and could be difficult to procure given the ongoing financial crisis around the world.

    The U.N. is still calculating specific figures, but Ripert said in an interview with The Associated Press that "the emergency phase will require hundreds of millions of dollars and the recovery and reconstruction part will require billions of dollars."

  10. Silly question, really

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said Pakistan can count on long-term U.S. support as it deals with the consequences of the worst flooding in decades.

    The United States has already made several aid announcements and statements of sympathy to Pakistan concerning the flooding, but Clinton's televised appearance in the State Department treaty room gave a higher profile to U.S. efforts.

    "I want to convey the condolences of the American people to the Pakistani people on behalf of everything they are confronting. I've been to Pakistan, as you know, a number of times and I have seen firsthand the strength and resilience of the people of Pakistan. They have the capacity to come through this challenge and swiftly rebuild," Clinton said. "And as they do, they can look to the United States for support."

    Clinton said the commitment thus far of $10 million in aid funds, military helicopters, food, water purification units and temporary bridges "represents just the start" of U.S. assistance efforts.

  11. The US does have its' priorities, you know.

    Supporting NATO troops in combat, or not.

    The Pentagon said Wednesday that six U.S. Army helicopters, diverted from service in Afghanistan, have arrived at the Ghazi Airbase in Pakistan,

  12. She may be no Jackie Kennedy but she beats Rosalyn Carter, at least for looks. I place her somewhere between Mrs Reagan and Lady Bird Johnson, just talking looks. She isn't half bad. Her ass could use some reducing, and her taste in clothes in much less than top notch. And that's from a guy that wears mostly jeans. I could spiff her up a bit, and I'd offset the black skin with whiter clothing. That's from a farmer who knows nothing about style. Osh Kosh BagoshOshKosh B'gosh

  13. While you fellas fret about how Michelle dresses on her "Jackie O" style field trip.

    Funny stuff, beyond comical.

  14. No one here is fretting, Rat. I could care less what the Obamas do. We all know you are a big fan.

    Personally I find them dispicable, narcisistic, and very bigoted, and they will get no quarter from me.

    The fact they are elected as President and First Lady is what is beyond comical.

    The fact that you support them, you and Ash (two peas in a pod), is beyond absurdity.

  15. I guess that the point of this is that Deuce is now comparing the US economy to that of Cameroon.

    Using the inverse opulence to poverty ratio.

    No argument that she should be in Fort Myers, Islamorada or Destin, Florida on vacation, rather than the Spanish Riviera, but really you're focusing on the side show, again.

    Searching for that visceral political pleasure.

  16. I support the United State of America, and whomever represents it, especially when we are across the pond.

    That is why there are elections, here in the United States. So the people of this great land can decide who those representatives are going to be.

  17. Michelle Obama made her role as FLOTUS a political role before she ever became same. She ran for the office of FLOTUS with active public support of her husband and that is just fine with me.

    However, when you act as a politician in a political arena you become a politician. FLOTUS Michelle Obama is a political animal in every sense of the word, and politics is about image and appearance as it is about ideas and power.

    The Obamas got where they are today with showmanship, political theater and photo ops. Their appearance on the political scene has been dramatic and of consequence.

    There is nothing comical about their reign. That they get sloppy and lose their edge in the war of perception is a gift for those that are opposed to them.

    Theater yes, comedy no.

  18. Exactly right, Deuce.

    And when the representatives of the United States are over seas, they deserve our support, not derision.

    Whether they are politicos or military men and women.

  19. The proper political complaint is that she is vacationing in Europe and not on the Gulf Coast.

    Certainly not about the dress that she may buy from an English stylist.

  20. Although some seem to think the Obamas can do no wrong, they find themselves in a smaller and smaller minority.

    I don't care how, when or where Mrs Obama goes on holiday. She and her husband earned, one way or another, their money and she can spend it as she sees fit. I'm not wild about the tax- payer borne costs but apparently neither are other taxpayers. Even the MSM has raised an eyebrow.

    Politically tonedeaf, imperious, hubristic. Don't know for sure for it's brassy. And given these tough economic times, it may be costly.

  21. Exactly, whit.

    She should be on the beach, in Fort Walton. Not Spain.

    But to fixate for days on her wardrobe, not on her choice of beaches, that is comical.

    That the White House was taken aback by the public interest in her going to Spain for vacation, that does confirm your point about them being tone deaf.

  22. There is no comparison of the economy of Cameroon to that of the US. I am not sure how you read the post and came to that conclusion.

    I could not find a comparison for Michelle with past first ladies or other first world wives of leaders. Africa is replete with them. Look at the map.

    Maybe it's an African thing.

    Am I being derisive observing and commenting on the obvious? Derision is only plausible when the actions of the target are public. Her actions are, whether she is in Spain after returning from Maine, or on her way to Martha's Vineyard.

  23. The opulence is conversely proportional to poverty and always makes an ugly comparison. Michelle Obama would make a fine and foxy first Lady of Cameroon. She would fit the role as perfectly as she fits her growing inventory of multi-thousand dollar dresses.

    There is the comparison, first paragraph of the thread.

  24. I don't think they are tone deaf. They have too many people whispering in their collective ears, too many people in the inter circle giving advice.

    I don't think they care. I think it is an "in your face" attitude. We can't fire them and they know it. They will ride this pony until it falls dead.

    They will be taking up the fiddle before long. You watch.

  25. The First Lady of the United States is dressing to fine, for the state of our economy.

    That what I read.

  26. " Just like they do in Cameroon."

    Now you are getting it.

  27. While I don't find the First Lady particularly attractive or glamourous, I have no problem with her desire for a nice wardrobe or her choice of vacation destination. She is doing what most successful people of her generation do. Enjoying the fruits of their labors.

    I do have a problem with the way they came to power. The Chicago organizer, Rev Wright church thing is looking more and more suspicious. More fabricated. The concealed history of Barack Obama is looking more interesting by the day.

  28. I suppose it is too much to wish for to hope to see some videos of Obama wind surfing in Martha's Vineyard.

  29. ditto what Gag said about riding the pony.

    Go for the gusto. While you can.

  30. BTW - The Obamas will be vacationing on the US gulf coast in the next couple of weeks. Someone near Panama City, Florida.

    Apparently, they like long weekend getaways. Most US families do.

  31. Some are more equal than others. We must pay particular attention to the feelings of VIPs, even when they are has beens.


  32. From 1993

    HILTON HEAD, S.C., Dec. 29, 1993— For the third time since he took office, President Clinton and his family are spending a holiday at a luxurious resort in a vacation home borrowed from an absentee host whom they hardly know.

    Their host is Paul Bob Burge, a West Virginia businessman who also lent his rose-colored Palmetto Dunes beach-front home to the Clintons a year ago, before the President's inauguration.

    Last summer the Clintons spent four nights in Vail, Colo., at a deluxe condominium borrowed from Leonard Firestone, the tire magnate, then 10 nights on Martha's Vineyard off Massachussetts in a sprawling house volunteered by Robert S. McNamara, the former Defense Secretary.

    Unlike their predecessors, the Clintons have no home or vacation retreat of their own. The President's aides say the Clintons have little choice but to rely on the kindness of near-strangers if they are to escape the confines of the White House. Vague on Gifts in Kind

    White House officials would not say why Mr. Clinton did not simply rent a home. Nor has he yet made public an estimate of the value of the gifts, which at current real estate rates would surely be many thousands of dollars.

  33. This Solar installation is being used to clean up the groundwater at a Superfund Site.

    The interesting thing (to me) is that it's bringing peak-time electricity in for around $0.20 kwhr. In Southern California.

    That is not only cheaper, I think, than the going rate, at some point when the panels are paid for it will be essentially free. They brought this one in for about $3.30/watt. (uh, wait, that probably has some subsidies in it; anyway, it's getting there.)

  34. Saw an article in today's paper indicating that local dealers were planning on charging up to a $20,000 premium over the already inflated price of the Chevy Volt.

    They quote supply and demand.

    I don't really get it.

    However, if you are someone like Jay Leno, you may want to get one of the first one's for your collection.

    If you have 20 to 30 years to wait, I guess you might make out getting one of the first ones whether they become a classic or a dud.

    Since my living another 30 years is at a minimum being optimistic, I will probably pass.


  35. GM is making some "interesting" pricing decisions, to say the least.

  36. Of course, you were referring to a dealer's response to market.

  37. I don't know how "battery" cars will work out in the long run. I don't think anyone does. I wouldn't buy one, right now. I want to "wait and see." I want to know:

    1) How long the batteries last

    2) What happens when they go dead

    3) What will be the "value" of a "used" battery car

    I'll let the "avante garde" sort it out for me.

  38. However, Ethanol is powering about 400 Billion Vehicle Miles/Yr, NOW.

    Gotta love That.

  39. Re: Chevy Volt

    While I would not swear to it, memory whispers that some sort of tax credit may be involved (really not paying much more attention to GM than I did to Soviet auto production). Should that be the case, bean counting leads to the conclusion that politics is the driving force behind the Volt, as was the case with its Russian relative.

    Yeah, I know our little pricness will not like the Noonan tag, but the opinion says a great deal worth thinking about before betting the farm on anything

  40. 3) What will be the "value" of a "used" battery car

    or worse yet the "cost" of a used battery

  41. Although I find some of his opinion doctrinaire and "naive", there is no question about the general debilitating trend.

    The end of responsibility
    From homeowners to government, the buck stops nowhere

  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

  43. A gasoline-only car like mine costs about $0.11/mi to drive in the upper midwest.

    My car costs about $0.09/mi to drive in the upper midwest.

    My car with the new engine coming out in the Buick Regal would cost about $0.07/mi to drive in the upper midwest.

    The same type engine "sized" for my car's weight would probably give about $0.06/mi in the upper midwest.

    Once you throw in the added cost of the battery I don't think the battery car will ever be able to compete with the new "Flexfuel" engines.

  44. Allen, I will do a post on that probably sometime when I am supposed to be asleep. There is a far more reasonable solution. It should be done in bankruptcy court with a cramdown. The borrower would have to prove he is in trouble and cannot pay the entire mortgage at the present time.

    Assume the borrower owed $500,000 and the loan was $600,000. The court could reset the mortgage to $500,000 and declare the $100,000 balance was an unsecured non interest bearing note, due in part or in whole when the owner sells the property if in excess of the $500,000 mortgage.

  45. Deuce,

    Doesn't it strike you as somewhat odd that a Federal judge thinks nothing about striking down a law resulting from referrendum, but the bankruptcy courts have yet to take a stand on fair market value of real estate?

    At this writing, lenders have an enormous inventory of both short and REO property in the pipeline (think 6,000,000, easily). These properties are sitting on the books because the lenders and the Fed do not want them marked to fair market value. Once government pressure is reduced or the damn bursts, the market is going to take a hit of Biblical proportions (consider another 20-30% drop in value, nationwide.

    It is my humble opinion that a good deal of these none performing assets could be taken off the books by something as simple as accelerated depreciation in combination with, say, a $15,000 credit to ANY buyer.

    Get'er done!

  46. Little know mark noted on Hannity tday. 90% of stock market rises take place when Congress is out of session, 10% when they are in session. And congress's apporoval rating isenn jet sets off to Ururope.

  47. Deuce,

    The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports today that 800 additional distressed condos are coming to market in September. Despite the fact that previously sold, distressed condos sold at a 1/3 reduction in price, "experts" do not expect this new batch to have any effect.


    Why was Michelle Obama spreading "stimulus" money in Spain? Do you suppose Barack Hussein Obama told her he can't get re-elected without the votes of Hispanics who aren't American citizens and she thought he meant the non-American Hispanics living in Spain?
    At least those foreigners are much better than "voters" in American cemeteries!
    BTW, in 1928 Herbert Hoover's campaign promised that if he were elected there would be "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."
    Well, Obama has come up with a Hoover twist and says that if he's re-elected there will be "a chick in every car and some pot in every garage"!
    For some insights into Obamessiah and his think-alikes, Google "Obama Avoids Bible Verses," "Obama Supports Public Depravity," "Government-Approved Illegals," and "Imam Bloomberg's Sharia Mosque."

    (saw above on the net - Rebecca)