Monday, December 14, 2009

Gold, the Dollar and Obama

Last year gold went over $1,200 an ounce. Barton Biggs once described gold as a "barbarous relic." While pleasing to the eye, Biggs was essentially right about gold in a monetary sense. Gold as money comes from a time before the Enlightenment when cheating in the coin of the realm was common. Only the look and feel of a proper gold coin conveyed security and trust in a transaction. Paper money came when a government could back it with gold. In other words that relatively worthless paper was backed by something someone would buy no matter what happened. Through disaster of nature or man, gold endured as a store of value. My favorite story about this vein of thought doesn't directly concern gold.

During the 900 day siege of Leningrad by the Nazis in World War II, a woman was confronted with a choice. The city was in a state collapse barely holding off the Nazis, but bereft of food. Over a million Russians would die during the stygian siege. None would ever be mourned individually as their bodies were dumped in mass graves. Death assumed many guises. Sometimes it appeared instantly through bullets or bombs. Other deaths rose slowly from freezing cold or starvation. The story of a single Russian woman revolves around a dilemma. Should she trade her diamond engagement ring for a sack of potatoes or starve?

Of course, she traded that treasured item. Even on the brink of societal dissolution, this ornament with little or no industrial use had value. Gold is much the same. Admittedly, this is an extreme example, but it shows the persistence of value in something that by all rights shouldn't have any value. In the present day with technologic wizardry making value even more quantifiable in everything, gold should have even less value, shouldn't it?

Unfortunately, one thing has not changed from that battle in the Soviet Union many years ago. Human beings are inherently competitive. When this rises to a national level,you have wars. Put it on a cultural level, you have a clash of civilizations lasting decades. The West has been experiencing this with radical Islam since the 1970's. This instability with the threat to mushroom (pun intended) means a persistent store of value remains desirable.

With regard to world monetary policy, gold is experiencing a tailwind as well. Japan recently announced a stimulus program i.e. a money print. China had a huge one last year. The United States leads the pack by having a ballooning debt and printing more money on top of that for scads of new government programs and bailouts. Recently Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac government ponzi schemes that they are, lined up for, wait for it,. . . ."unlimited funds" to stay afloat. Some say the true amount could be $400 billion or more. Who knows? Anyway, that's more than half the size of Obama's much trumpeted stimulus plan. At this point we don't even know how much the health care boondoggle will cost, but Harry Reid during debate let it slip that it was in $2 trillion dollar range. It's a wonder the U.S. dollar has any value at all.

Perhaps the dollar has taken all the bad news of crazy spending and finally stabilized, but that would assume the spending spree is over. Also, the dollar used to represent more the U.S. economy than the U.S. government, but as the latter encroaches more and more on the former, the dollar will increasingly be representative of Uncle Sam, not Microsoft, Walmart et al. So if the dollar is now a proxy for the government, does the low value of the greenback represent an opinion of the government and those who lead it. If that's the case, do any of the current leaders inspire trust in the "full faith and credit" of Uncle Sam to pay his bills?

Ben Bernake seems competent enough, but since he's lowered rates to zero, there is only one way for rates to move. His course is set and his options limited. Raising rates will hammer an extremely tepid recovery.

Does Harry Reid inspire confidence? Does his slimy buy off Sen. Ben Nelson exempting Nebraska from paying for medicare constitute effective leadership? Does forking over $300 million to purchase the Senator from Bourbon Street Mary Landrieu highlight a skill all leaders should possess?

Does Nancy Pelosi inspire confidence? Last year she called the CIA a bunch of liars. Last week, seven of those "liars" perished in suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan defending her right to continue to make vile, moronic statements in pursuit of the crowning prize: dingbat of the decade. She make me want to ralph.

And what of our president? The self confessed movie "buff" took in the latest James Cameron movie while on vacation in Hawaii. Doesn't a buff require lots of time be devoted to your area buff-dom, in this case movies? Don't you have a day job, Mr President? Oh well, I'd rather catch a double feature than deal with Harry Reid as well. I'm with you on that one, Mr. President.

Still, wasn't this the man that promised "not to rest until everyone who wants a job can get one". With the Hawaiian vacation, I guess that means the 10 percent unemployed don't really want to work? Why should they work anyway? With unemployment and Cobra being extended virtually indefinitely and health care in the pipe why bother? Unlike Obama, we don't want to push ourselves too hard, do we?

According to the AP, Obama was briefed two hours after the Al Qaeda Christmas attack. The briefing lasted fifteen minutes and then Obama skipped off to the gym. You wonder if he even inquired if there were signs of any more attacks. Does this devotion to duty inspire confidence?

The usual lapdog press said nothing. Hey would you jeopardize your Hawaiian vacation by pointing out the emperor has no work ethic? Can you imagine what the press would have said if George W. Bush had gone mountain biking when they nabbed the shoe bomber? With an inexperienced, indolent, p.c. dilettante holding the reins of power, the U.S. is in for a rough ride for the next three years. I hope the dollar gets better and the economy recovers, but I'm not counting on anything from this guy. As Ben Franklin said "He that lives upon hope dies fasting."

After an unprecedented time in U.S. history, individuals may want the security of something not associated with individuals who are intent on reviving Marxist-Leninist thought. Gold or any other commodity is one avenue. This doesn't mean value will be exactly preserved. Commodities are EXTREMELY volatile, emphasis on extremely again.

Democrats in the past have understood that commodities can be a haven for value and have tried to tax or confiscate such forms of value. FDR ordered the confiscation of gold. Carter slapped a "windfall profits"tax on U.S. oil and gas operations making them even less competitive with the Arabs. Obama is trying something similar. Cap and trade is a stealth way to get utilities to collect taxes for Uncle Sam. For now, there is little to stop him, but 2010 is an election year. Should gold remain high or soar, and the dollar remain moribund, these will be shorthand signs people do not trust this President and the errant fiscal course he has vowed to keep.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Can a PC nation defend itself?

In the United States, we have been living with political correctness for decades. As an outgrowth of Affirmative Action, it was seen as the logical extension for leveling the the racial playing field. The legally mandated inclusion of certain minority groups would be backed up by a psychological component of enforced group think. While Affirmative Action very starkly chose winners and losers for education, business and government, political correctness was suppose to force inclusion in a social sense. Those failing to toe this racial line of behavior were supposed to be ostracized. While this may have cowed the bigots and fostered a nascent inclusion, some else started to happen.

Tolerance and inclusion became deference. Instead of a level playing field, new justifications arose so that minorities should be placed in a superior position to others in school, business or government. Since to be called a racist publicy has become the 21st century equivalent of a scarlet letter, people would do any number of contortions mental or otherwise to avoid being labeled as such. While many have recognized this incredible distortion of a noble effort, the bill is here from this twisting of the American instinct for fairness. While many are unhappy with the fact that affirmative action has become a legacy for minorities, the cousin of Affirmative Action, political correctness has been revealed as threat much more damaging than some warping of the admissions process or government contract selection. We now bend over backwards to accommodate those who wish to destroy America and all she stands for. This has become crystal clear after the Ft. Hood shooting.

When Major Nidal Hassan, an Army psychiatrist massacred servicemen and women at Ft. Hood, it was a culmination of events in a chain of obvious signs of Jihadism, Terrorism and Anti-American feeling that had been going on for years. Political correctness or Minority favoritism, allowed this open sore of a person to not only work, but to advance in the military. Soliciting worshippers for Islam among patients, touting horrid punishments for non-believers and proclaiming sharia law over the U.S. Constitution were just some of the outward signs pooh poohed by those interested in avoiding being labelled a bigot, the now highest crime in America.
Is this an exaggeration?

Not according to General George Casey Jr. who said of the massacre "This terrible event would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty." So over this slaughter rises the saving grace that we are still marching forward under the banner of political correctness. In other words, all personnel should continue to allow any proto-jihadist full support as they climb the career Army ladder. Imagine if another extroverted jihadist mole assumes command of a nuclear bomber or sub. Can this only be fantasy?

Well, the guy sitting in the White House had no problem being on seminar panels with Bill Ayers, American Terrorist. That guy in the White House had no problem going to church with a guy like Reverend Wright saying essentially America got what it deserved on 9/11. Barack Obama had no problem with Van Jones, an adherent to the 9/11 "truthers" If I were head of the Al Qaeda propaganda department , I doubt I could come up with a better, more divisive fiction than the one that the U. S. government was complicit in 9/11. If Barrack Obama had no problem with these figures actively working to break down America, would appointing some openly jihadist mole to a position of power in the name of political correctness be so much of a stretch?

On the more mundane level, Barrack Obama himself was recipient are tremendous recipient of the PC largess. How many people voted for Obama simply to prove they weren't a racist? Obama cleverly played the race card using surrogates in the primary and when McCain wouldn't stoop to the level of using racism, Obama played the race card himself. And it worked. After Obama was inaugurated, how many critics of the president were labeled "racist"? The administration and their parasites slapped every single dissent with that label. We can expect this label to appear again in 2010 and 2012.

If PC games were only confined to who runs the country, this land might be able to survive, but when it directly affects how we stop our enemies, the life of the republic is in jeopardy. Ponder this: did the immense growth through technology of asymmetrical threats exist even twenty years ago? Did the ubiquity and power of computer involved personal technologies exist even fifteen years ago? Did the ease of logistical coordination between disparate and far flung actors exist even a decade ago? We cannot afford any blind spots due to self-censorship, submissiveness or capitulation to ideas that threaten liberty or life. Individuals have a myriad of ways to attack slow Nation-state actors with enormous, cumbersome and docile bureaucracies. All it takes is the will, the increasingly portable technology and a handful of fanatics, sometimes only one.

The jihadist Major Hassan was conversing via email with an Al Qaeda imam in Yemen, but according to the gun shy PC Department of Defense investigators this was "research" One of Hassan's classmates at Uniformed Services University summed up the motivation. "The issue here is that there's a political correctness climate in the military. They don't want to say anything because it would be considered questioning somebody religious beliefs, or they're afraid of an equal opportunity lawsuit." So said Lt. Col. Val Finnell. So the PC enablers have to make up reason, plausible sounding ones, why Major Hassan got to remain in the Army. According to the AP sources at Walter Reed hospital " . . . some doctors and staff were concerned their unfamiliarity with the Muslim faith would lead them to unfairly single out Hassan's behaviour." In other words, they felt themselves to be insensitive bigots when it came to Islam. Better to dodge this guy, and hope you don't get sued for asking him if he'd like a baloney sandwich from the deli.

Even when the term fanatic seemed just around the corner, Hassan's coworkers could not bring themselves to call him the name. As one unnamed staffer at Walter Reed said " . . . he embraced his religion with such intensity that one wondered whether he could have suffered from a form of 'delusion.' " Whoever this dope was, he has been so PC programmed, he wouldn't realize Hassan or any other jihadist was a threat until the round is in the chamber and the trigger is being squeezed. Then again this was in a story in the Washington Post entitled "Army sought ways to channel Hassan's absorption with Islam." Amazing as the embrace of this therapeutic psychobabble is, what's more shocking now is that this psycho drivel is widely accepted at the highest levels of our society.

We can now assume the beltway crowd is completely inert when it comes to spotting the enemies here. The Army high command (Casey), the bureaucracy (Walter Reed, DOD) and the press (Washington Post) are all smugly ensconced in the PC blind spot. Speaking of blind spots, the White House has asked that Congress to slow down investigating Hassan and his attack. Why bother trying to track down possible co-conspirators or government blunders? After all, Major Hassan's Al Qeada imam in Yemen said he acted alone. He seems PC enough.

To have others investigating not firmly under the thumb of the Executive branch might muss things up. And the President is now an experienced foot dragger, so why not push this out until there's some other event to distract attention. Why bother committing all the resources of the government to investigating the first Jihadist attack on America since 9/11? After all, we had the FBI said this was not being looked at as terrorism, right after the attack. The attacker opens fire screaming the jihadist war cry "Allu Akbar!" and it's not Islamic terrorism? Please ignore that man screaming "God is Great" unless he blows your head off. Then we're off to mourning mode replete with more odes to political correctness like "our diversity is our strength." In this instance, our "strength" was a police officer pumping multiple rounds into a still-firing fanatic. Sanctimonious homilies are a tissue thin shield against terrorists.

The enemies of America are not stupid. There are very capable of learning lessons and applying them. The attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 failed, but the lessons of that failure paved the way to the horrendous massacre that was 9/11. They are watching and learning. Whether planned directly by Al Qaeada or not, this Ft. Hood slaughter enabled by a PC blind spot will be understood and filed away. Perhaps, it will give action to another plot immediately. Maybe it will give rise to another long term plot just as deadly as 9/11. Either way, a new weakness has been shown. They know it now, but the question is: do we know it? Will we ever know it?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Embrace the Powell Doctrine

After returning from his minor flop of a trip to Asia, Barrack Obama has convened yet another strategy meeting on Afghanistan. Of course, part of the politics of this empty trip seems to have been to delay supporting the troops again. Perhaps, Rham Emannuel counseled that sending reinforcements now would undermine Democratic nerve on the health care bill. Who knows? One thing we do know the the Chinese pulling the plug on the Obama's nationwide town hall was an embarrassment plain and simple. And what trip would be complete without a bow or two. The bow to the Japanese emperor proves one thing is improving in the Obama Administration. The presidents' bowing is getting much better. He really has the bend down pat. Though in the interest of variety, next time the president might curtsy, just to show he's versed in other ways of showing submission before a king or dictator.

Moving from the vapid Asia trip onto an issue the President should have addressed four months ago, Afghanistan continues to fester. Honest Americans can debate this war in all of its aspects, but the Taliban are still there, Pakistan is still tottering and Bin Laden is still on the lam. From this point of view, the question is not whether, but how many troops should go. Concurrently, the President should seriously enlarge the Army. Obama promised to do so already, but there is scant evidence he is following through on this pledge. More troops are needed in Afghanistan and a larger Army is needed so that troops don't have to spread thin throughout the world and redeployed over and over again in combat theaters. No question these are hard decisions. However, when American troops need reinforcements, the job of the President is to call for those troops, not sight see on the great Wall of China. The mixed up priorities of this novice executive had better straighten out and fast.

Apart from the blundering manner this decision is being reached, the leaked number seems completely inadequate. Multiple news reports place the number of troops being committed in the 30,000 to 40,000 range. While nobody here is a general, we can draw some basic conclusions. Land wars in Asia are expensive in every way. Going in with few troops or a light footprint is a recipe for losing, as Iraq certainly proved. With regard to Afghanistan vis a vis Iraq, it is much larger, much more mountainous and has almost no government outside of Kabul. Iraq required 150,000 troops. Afghanistan looks like it needs 250,000 to 300,000 troops, allies included. If Obama looks to go with a lighter surge than requested, say around 40,000, he'll still be about 150,000 short. Our NATO allies perhaps could bump up to 50,000, but to expect more than 20,000 or 30,000 capable Afghani troops seems a stretch, at least for a year or two. Do the math. We're still short 75,000 to 100,000 troops. With highly porous borders with Pakistan and Iran, even 300,000 may be too small a force.

Obviously, we, and even the generals, can only make educated guesses as to the size of the force truly needed. We can however have an approach that seeks total victory. What would comprise total victory? First criteria would be a stable democratic central government. Next, would be secure control of the border and interior of the country. Vanquishment of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. would be necessary for victory as well. At this stage, all these pose serious challenges, but first secure control of the country must be established before any democratic or governmental progress can occur. While General McCrystal seems to have an idea as to what to do on the ground, the U.S. government needs an overall strategy. As it happens there is one that might give some insight and direction to a policy that seems confused.

Here's one. The strategy is called overwhelming force. Who, you ask, is credited with such an idea? The man would be Obama supporter, Colin Powell. Overwhelming force or the Powell Doctrine at war might be summarized asking you to think of the size of the force you need, then double or better triple it. This constitutes overwhelming force. This is our modern version of the Von Clausewitz idea of using more force than your enemy. However, this is not some lab theory. The Powell Doctrine was a large part of the United States winning the first Gulf War. The surge in Iraq was another success in a very similar vein. In this case, that means Obama should commit at least 80,000 to 120,000 troops to overwhelm the enemy. This provides the Karzai regime time and security to plug the holes in leaky Afghan nation state. Since Colin Powell publicly endorsed Barrack Obama during the campaign, he should be happy fill in this rather uncertain, shallow president on the merits of such a strategy.

As said before, this is a President that promised us a larger army. Now that we need it, we've started to hear unnamed officials say the military can't provide more than 30,000 additional troops at this time. This is war. The president should not permit lolly gagging in logistics or anywhere else. This piecemeal approach is what doomed us in Vietnam and almost lost Iraq. We need a heavy footprint or none at all. It does little good to let understrength troops get shot at so we can crow at some news conference we are doing something. Obama needs to embrace the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force, so we can win this war in the shortest time possible and go home. Overwhelming force is the surest, quickest route to victory, if that is actually our goal.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Of Children and Politics

Recently, our constantly campaigning President found time in between Democratic party fundraisers to squeeze in some time to visit New Orleans, Louisiana, one the places devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Having copiously used that disaster as a rhetorical cudgel against Republicans, Obama now decided to bask in a some glorious Not-Bush love. If there was one place on earth that was truly justified to loathe George W. Bush, it is the New Orleans. Joining him in a plethora of egregious blunders during the storm, happened to be the Democratic governor and the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans. (who was reelected after Katrina) In spite of this, history looks to ordain this a Republican disaster and a weakened Obama, currently struggling in the polls looked for a friendly audience. At the usual stage managed "town hall" at UNO, he got his warm reception.

The headline of the day was the a question asked by one Terence Scott. After the fourth grader, was ushered onto the stage, he asked his rather obviously planted question "Why do people hate you? They're supposed to love you." before saying something about God. The President answered with disjointed banalities that ranged "I'm tough" to" I was elected" to "that's politics." Then being clever enough to embrace the old showbiz adage never follow animals or children, Obama quickly ended the affair right there on the child induced high and split. The whistle blows and another day at the propaganda factory is over, right? Not quite.

I couldn't get over the second part of the question. "They supposed to love you" Leaving aside the child mentioning God, (haven't we dealt with the Messiah complex and this President enough?) this is really starting to be a very disturbing trend. First, children in a New Jersey school singing an ode to "Barack Hussein Obama" Next it was Obama, the glorious leader speaking nationwide to school children and attempting to get them to write essays on how to "help" him. Then, it was CNN, the network of those who fact check jokes, having schoolkids on to do a song and dance number pushing for the creative destruction know as the Obama health care plan.

Obama and his web of Democratic operatives have targeted children in a way that is unprecedented, scary and absolutely vile. The slavish devotion that is being foisted on these children is beyond reprehensible. Have other presidents used children as props? Remember Bill Clinton and his constant mantra about doing it "for the children?" With this president, though, it is truly breathtaking to see the swiftness, breadth and the cold cynicism grasping so many young lives for squalid poltical gain.

A long time ago, now, there was something called childhood. It was truly a special place devoid of most if not all of the sins of adulthood. In one of the most benevolent, wisest and far sighted decisions, Western Civilization or the Enlightenment created this special time before the heavy burdens of life must be shouldered. Children would be educated, not worked. They would play amongst themselves and not be part of the adult entrainment world, as was frequently the case before the Enlightenment. They would be treated tenderly, not cheated as if they were stupid adults. And simple special events, like a childs' birthdays, would be celebrated as they were not before. Children were no longer little adults, who were thrust into the adult world as soon as they could speak. They would gradually be taught things about the world, not shoved into the glare of a ribald, vicious day. They would be shielded from the depravity and duplicity of life until they had formed a protective mental membrane or as much as they would ever have in this life and then, only then, would the world with all it's joys and sorrows be opened to them.

Obviously this was the ideal or goal and couldn't be achieved with all children. Life would intervene in its' random fashion as it does in all lives. However, for most, it worked. As children of the Enlightenment, we know it is one of the the greatest achievements our civilization. Now, we are bent on destroying it. The book referenced here "The Disappearance of Childhood" makes this abundantly clear. We can argue about degree, but only the willfully blind ignore this trend.

Like much of his Presidency, Barrack Obama is simply exacerbating this already bad problem. You want more onerous government debt for nothing? You've got it. You want more vacillation on the wars? Can do. You want more government run boondoggles? Give me a high five. You want more empty talk? Just feel the love. Problem here is this propaganda push uses in a very visceral manner the most innocent among us for highly dubious political activities. These are not adults willfully participating in the discourse of the nation. You can't involve children in this without stripping them of some of their innocence. Sure, Obama and his crew are simply the latest bunch of exploiters to work this angle, but does this make it right?

Using children for various political tasks or more is nothing new in the recent past. In Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, children were excellent spies and informers. Of course, near end of the war, the Hitler Youth were given rockets and machine guns and sent into battle. They did their task and if they ran, well, they were children, anyway, weren't they? During the Rustification Plan, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge used many children to help drive thousands of Cambodians out of the cities into the infamous Killing Fields. Today, in central Africa, the Lords Resistance Army fights it's guerrilla war largely with child soldiers, kidnapped from their families. In the depraved regimes of the 20th century and in the third world today, children are simply one more tool in an arsenal for use. In fact, they are preferred due to their malleable nature. Their special nature is all but ignored.

When we ignore this special nature, as heirs to one of the greatest gifts of the world, we have to ask ourselves, what are we doing? We betray ourselves as intellectual heirs to one of the sanest inventions in human history and we betray those who depend on us and love us. Obama seems all about the means justifying the ends. However, here, the means in this case are not only our future, the "better angels of our nature" walking around in the present. Gandi used to say you can judge a society by how it treats it's animals. I would say the same about children as well.

When we try to warp them for political gain, we show not only coldness in executing a political plan with innocents, there is something else. We exhibit a sadism to take something we know is beneficial from those who cannot stop us. This political exploitation of children speaks volumes about the people who do it. Only a bully goes after the weak or children as he or she looks for easy prey. Perhaps the bully himself is a rather weak figure who was exploited himself and now turns the trick on others. The United States used to stand against this coldly cynical exploitation of those who can never understand until it's too late. Now it's all part of a days work in a world stripped of another innocent beacon of hope by our cynical commander in chief. All hail the glorious leader and please cue the singing children.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dithering at the fork

Yogi Berra once said "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." After the rank absurdity of transforming two options into one passes, the road and the split suggest something about the inevitability of events in life. We must choose a road and go forward. Time permits no other option. We can try to go back the way we came, but since we have already travelled this road, the view can't help but be different however similar we may think it is or wish it to be.

Like the road and the fork in it, we like to think nothing is certain in life, but death and taxes, inuring ourselves to the constant fragile flux that compromises human existence. However, there are a good many other things that present themselves as inevitable. We like to think that we have free will, self -determination and such, but channels of thought and conditioning run long and deep.

Take the current situation with the Iranian Nuclear standoff and Barrack Obamas' response to it. Even with the Iranian government lying about its' nuclear program, the President wants a relationship based on "mutual respect." Why anyone would want to respect such a bunch of flagrant deceivers seems rather mysteriously masochistic. You are just asking for more abuse. Unfortunately, this diplomatic dance with Iran is nothing novel as a return to the Presidency of James Earl Carter shows.

Let us return to those dejected days of the Carter Presidency. In the midst of the Iranian hostage crisis, President Carter said to the Iranians "The people of the United States desire to have relations with Iran based on equality, mutual respect, and friendship." [italics mine] Then Carter "approved of the the establishment of a UN commission to investigate American iniquities against Iran. Of course, the Iranians flung that back in his face. In fact, this actually was Carter meeting a demand of the kidnappers. Earlier, "[kidnappers] insisted that the president apologize for a long list American crimes against the Iranian people, beginning with the overthrow of Mossadegh."

Wait. Didn't Barrack Obama just apologize for U.S. involvement in overthrowing Mossadegh in his recent Cairo speech? Apologizing to Iran today is just as ineffective as it was in 1979. Barrack seems to believe that craven banter with this same regime will bear some kind of diplomatic fruit. This man rooted in the "fierce urgency of now" seems completely oblivious to the past history of relations with Iran.

Also, the rather limp wristed condemnation of Iran at the G-20 in Pittsburgh, highlights a leader with seemingly little cooperation with his allies. When chastising Iran, the French and British leaders both had much stronger words than Obama. Perhaps this mousy public performance was inadvertent. Whatever the intention, the effect is unmistakable. Obama seems wholly reticent about confronting Iran. In this episode, Obama bears all the hallmarks of a weak and inexperienced leader dithering before making a big decision.

Barrack Obama, man of deadlines, (health care, Gitmo, though now ditched) seems to have none when it comes to stopping Iran get nuclear weapons. It also appears the Iranians see this fickle trait in Obama. The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Ali Akbar Salehi said of the U.S. /European denouncing Iran secret plant, "Their embarrassing reaction and their unbalanced response has shocked us." This faux outrage is part of the familiar U.S./Iran diplomatic dance. After the Iranians hoodwink the U.S. at the upcoming negotiations in Geneva, Obama will either crow about some toothless agreement the Iranians have signed or try to push sanctions the Europeans probably won't back. Either way Tehran wins by gaining more time to work on the bomb.

So what did Jimmy do? As talks endlessly dragged on, Carter had reached a critical point in the negotiations with hostage takers. The Iranians were completely uncooperative. Since an offer of admission of American "crimes" didn't bring about the desired result, Carter finally acted. "He severed ties with Tehran, froze its American assets and prohibited the import of Iranian oil into the United States. Proposals for imposing a broader boycott on Iran failed to gain international support, however, even from the Europeans." We know that these actions also had no effect on the radical Muslim government in Iran, which led to the disastrous rescue attempt code named Operation Eagle Claw.

In a parallel way today, Obama and the Europeans simply have no leverage of a threatening nature with Iran . And without a stick, a carrot is simply a morsel to be stolen without further care by the thief. Even at this late date the carrot is still available for the taking. As the Washington Post reports (Iran pressured over new plant) "As an inducement for cooperation, the United States and other powers have offered economic and diplomatic incentives if Iran reins in its nuclear ambitions." So Obama is reduced to the role of an almost comic salesman begging the Iranians to take the deal for cash, clout or maybe even a NEW CAR!!! (GM of course)

This bribe strategy is familiar too. Remember the framework agreement negotiated with North Korea in 1992 to get rid of their budding nuclear weapons program. That payoff that failed was negotiated by none other than Jimmy Carter. North Korea got two light water reactors and 500,000 tons of oil per year all free, courtesy of Uncle Sam. That really worked didn't it? And now North Korea is a nuclear parts supplier to Iran.

This really shows one rather blatant theme of Democratic foreign policy: the bribe. At one point during difficult negotiations during the Vietnam War, LBJ turned to an aide said "Can't we just buy Ho Chi Minh a dam or something?" The habits of machine politics run deep, even into the arena of foreign policy. Unfortunately, these methods don't translate well abroad because these recipients of cash, unlike domestic money grubbers never vote and can't do much for those who do. After all, the cash or favor leaves the United States and contact with the recipient after this usually revolves around one sentence: send more money.

The nuclear standoff with Iran will follow the same path. After much posturing, Obama will try the payoff as well. He'll dress it up as artful, very slow diplomacy in an attempt to forestall an Israeli attack. If the Iranians test a bomb before the talks have ended, then the military option may be off the table entirely and it's hello nuclear blackmail. If they are still some way off to a bomb, the Iranians may even take the cash and fabulous parting gifts and all sides are happy. The Iranians continue work on the bomb, Obama nominates himself for the Nobel Peace Prize and Israel is left facing the nuts working on nukes. Like the Czechs in 1938, Israel faces the threat directly and is being treated as little more than a bargaining chip by Obama doing his best Neville Chamberlain imitation. At the fork, Obama will choose baksheesh over force and it probably won't even slow down the Iranians quest for a bomb.

But what would Jimmy do? Let go back one last time. It is the end of the Carter Presidency. The hostage crisis has effectively brought down a president. Defeated in the election of 1980 by a gaping margin of 440 electoral votes, Carter had one duty left: the payoff. Thus, " he offered to pay the modern form of tribute by unfreezing Iranian bank accounts in the United States and indemnifying Iran from future lawsuits by the prisoners. Temporarily pacified, the Iranians ended their captives' 444-day incarceration . . ."

The payoff is coming. So watch for it. I think another Yogiism is due here. "It's like deja vu all over again."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A fear of our own

At his first (of four!) inaugurations Franklin Roosevelt said " The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." This phrase has become trite, it has been used so many times. Today we have "No fear!" T-Shirts and such as a modern distillation of this idea. Personally, I much prefer the way H.L. Mencken captured the paralysis of fear. For he said "People don't do things because they are either lazy or afraid." Wisdom or intelligence don't enter the inaction equation for him.

On the other hand, fear can be a great motivator. It can be a psychic canary in the mental coal mine squawking and therefore spurring an immediate response. Part of why I am typing this is fear of something I haven't ever seen before in America. As John Adams stated in such succinct fashion "America is a nation of laws, not men." So the arbitrary nature of party, sect, religion or other condition should play no role in how justice is found. The fear I have today is that those who charged with upholding the law are under constant open and subtle attack by those hold political office.

The Attorney General has decided to launch an investigation into the CIA and their treatment of guerrilla soldiers, like Khalid Shiek Mohammed. That people at the CIA will now have to fight a legal battle as well as catch and kill terrorists seems unimportant to this insipid individual. But then this is a man who called America "A nation of cowards" If the dead could rise from Bunker Hill, Antietam, Omaha Beach, the Chosin Reservoir, or Hue, I shudder to think what would happen to Eric Holder. At the very least, they would teach him to gaze into the mirror if he wished to see a coward.

Perhaps if he would like a living example he could look up the author of the book cited here and ask him how someone from "a nation of cowards" gets to be a Navy Seal; how someone from "a nation of cowards" does his duty in the face of harsh terrain, an utterly fanatical enemy and with loved ones so very far away; and how someone from "a nation of cowards" fights for people who traffic in lies and willingly lays down life so those same people have the right to despise him.

I doubt the Attorney General will venture outside the rarefied circles of the anointed liberal elite, but as the crowds of the events of 9/12 have shown, the "nation of cowards" seems more than willing to come to Washington D.C. to engage him and his master. Why? Because they have a fear that America is irreversibly turning into a cesspool of lies, corruption and, yes, cowardice. The lies of a health care takeover that is full of "details that are to be ironed out later" when no one is looking. The corruption of elected officials serving for life and if they do happen to leave before death, pocketing millions in campaign cash contributions on the way out the door. The cowardice of a president too afraid to even specifically name the Muslim murderers in an op-ed piece on the 9/11 massacre. He referred to it once as an attack and twice as a tragedy, and nothing more. Then he called for a "day of service . . . .on this day and every day." What does a horrific massacre have to do with picking up trash?

This weasel maneuver to dumb down 9/11 is loathsome as it is clever. It weakens the spirit of America by diluting the memory of our sacred dead. "Never forget" is a slogan seen in regards to 9/11, but the President would have us ditch a piece of ourselves for some recycling project. Talk about your green jobs. Is it any wonder Van Jones, the former green jobs czar signed a petition to twist 9/11 into some insanely foul inside job?

While those who perished on 9/11 by the hands of jihadist killers and those who took up arms to avenge them, occupy the most cherished place in the heart of America, for all those heroes, there are the silent or almost hidden ones as well. They are the men and women who don't have to be called to serve "every day" because they have already chosen to do so by enforcing the laws of this land.

Sadly, even these people are sandbagged by this administration. President Obama chastised a Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer for "acting stupidly" in the arrest of a Harvard professor, who verbally harangued the officer. The charges were mysteriously dropped. Now a national commission has been set up to investigate this incident and, of course, the police officer involved. This attempt to provide, one more race card for Obama is all the more disgusting, since it trashes the reputation of a man that by all accounts (save the arrested Harvard professor) is a fine police officer. One thing about Barrack Obama solidly on display is his ambition, It is absolutely ruthless. Trashing the men and women who serve and support the laws of this country proves it.

For a president and his minions to attack, the CIA, local police and then call everyone else in the country gutless shows where we're headed. This president of ours is young and quite used to getting his own way. His rigid attitude may have worked as a state senator, but such an attitude at this lofty post will cripple him. The attacks on this group or that are to be expected on a man weaned on identity politics. Even the moronic decision to spark a trade war with China by slapping tariffs on tires can be seen as pleasing to some union and quite predictable. Attack someone to please someone else. Of course, the people made to suffer will be other businesses like poultry or cars that feel the wrath of Chinese retaliatory tariffs.

When you attack Americans keeping the peace here and around the globe, you've made a colossal political blunder. You may have pleased Bill Ayes, Rev. Wright or Van Jones, but that just shows a president pandering to the fringe. Such pandering on this level is an invitation to a world of political hurt as most Americans are obviously not radical revolutionaries. To be fair, attack is the usual mode of operation for any radical revolutionary and part of our president seems to yearn immaturely for this tough guy mode. Others are watching and learning the patterns of this young and inexperienced leader.

To the world, the lesson is indisputable. an American President who will attack his own is a fool and will suffer a fools fate. Allies back away and enemies are emboldened. This is my fear. It comprises a fear that this President is undermining the laws of this country. It all starts by attacking our own.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dems fighting words

Now that Van Jones, the so-called Green Jobs Czar has resigned, one might say the cost of fighting words has risen. While he signed onto the cause that 9-11 was an inside job by the Bush Administration, the amazing foul mouth line against Republicans says something about the hubris of the Democratic power elite. Evidently, there is an assumption that thoroughly rotten behavior is forgiven if one is a Democrat and in power. Others feel that this kind of lunacy and profanity are now par for the course in our national dialogue. Perhaps that's why Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarret, close advisor to the President, according to, heaped praise on Van Jones rather recently. Perhaps only Republicans are accountable for wretched speech or insane conspiracy theories.

That words now count differently for some who lead rather than others comprises a fundamental distortion in our national discourse. It also exposes the craven. If say, a Republican now votes for Obamacare after Democrats have called them "Un-American" (Pelosi/Reid) racist (Patterson, Rangel) or "Asshole" (Van Jones), that person is a punk. If someone called you these to your face, you'd dispute it to say the least, if not take a swipe at them. These are fighting words. Do nothing and you deserve the abuse you will receive. Anyone who's vaguely aware of how people interact know there are certain words and phrases that are certain to inflame a conversation. It's that attempt by someone to make general attacks personal that is so evil. To sink a phrase hook into someones consciousness, is to try to intimidate someone on an intellectual plane.

Unless one replies in kind, the verbal smear artist has achieved a hold over the target.
However, this verbal intimidation has not worked, so far. Barrack Hussein Obamas big speech to Congress can do little fix things. As Walter Ong wrote, once something is uttered, all else afterword is simply patchwork on the previous oral expression. Obama's soothing words can do little to stop the rancor that has engulfed the national conversation this summer. Sure' we'll get a speech of the grand visions and the individual sob stories, but for most, the system works. Look, once someone has called you a vile name, no amount of sweet words can change your opinion.

Obama cannot persuade with facts because they are completely against him. Of the 50 million newly insured in Obamacare, less than 10 million are actually indigent U.S. citizens who lack means for coverage. So we're paying over one trillion so as to insure less than 3% of the population? We're cutting Medicare to insure illegals? Will doctors want to practice in a profession that will pay them less and make them take more patients? We're taking a hatchet to one sixth of our economy when we're in the worst economic slump since the Great Depression? If this weren't so close to becoming law, it would be laughable, it's so bad. The program as it stands described now is an absolute farce.

In spite of this obvious contradiction between between facts and words, language is the way out for Obama now. Obama will, as one Congressman advocated as a course of action in Vietnam, "declare victory and get out". Obamacare is doomed in its' present form. This means the administration will pass some weasel bill supported by Democrats and a few punk Republicans probably costing a "mere" 200 or 300 billion dollars. This "victory" declared by his hoard of media toads will allow Obama to segway into another issue, probably energy. However, he is damaged goods. The vicious vile language of the health care debate will haunt him.

On the other hand, maybe it's best to take a different tack. Let's go along with the smear job in one specific instance and see if it leads somewhere. Perhaps we should assume Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Brian Baird are right and the Republicans opposing this really are "Nazis" Absurd? sure, but allow this to play out.

We know know from history the Nazis were murderous scum, but how driven were they really? Assuming Obama believes his own teams' propaganda, what is he up against? How determined are these Republican/Nazis. If history is a guide, here is an example from North Africa, 1942. It highlights the observations of one captured American officer watching the workings of a German military airfield from a holding pen.

"At El Aouina airport, whence the captives were to be flown to prison in Italy, the Americans watched as Allied bombers briefly pummelled the field and flew away. At the all clear signal, German soldiers heaved grappling hooks into a burning Junkers transport plane bombed moments after landing from Italy. Bulldozers dragged the wreckage off the runway. Landings resumed instantly, and Wehrmacht troops clattered down the aircraft ramps before the propellers stopped spinning. Only then did an ambulance pull up to the burning Junkers, and German rescue workers in asbestos suits begin pulling injured men from the wreckage.

Another captured officer turned to Frelinghuysen. "People who fight a war like that," he said, "will be hard to beat."

I'm not sure those "people" have that much in common with Republicans, so let's put them in the role that they might actually fit in, that of Americans in the same place and same time. However, let's be fair to Pelosi and use a Nazi description of them. Attributed to Erwin Rommel after he saw them fight in North Africa, this assessment of the American troops could perhaps apply to Republicans. He supposedly said of American soldiers, he had never seen worse soldiers in their first battle, nor ones who had learned so much by their second.

Republicans were drubbed in their first electoral encounter with Obama, but his youth and inexperience is showing and they seem to be learning fast. We'll find out how much they've learned next year, 2010.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Here's my vote, Mr. President, take it

Recently, President Barrack Obama has started to slide in the U.S. national opinion polls. His health care overhaul is sagging under a shadow of a more than one trillion dollar price tag. The U.S. economy continues to stagger along shedding more and more workers. His own Secretary of the Treasury said unemployment will peak in the second half of next year. His rhetorical about face on the Iranian Election turmoil made him no friends, save the despots in Tehran who needed the time granted by his shilly-shalling to crush the protesters. . His insistence on being a lapdog for Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers during the still developing Honduran Presidential crisis has exhibited his swooning for all things dictatorial. Still, I have to admit, he is the most cheerful Marxist I know. He's much more chipper than dour Daniel Ortega, more lively than the moribund Castro brothers, and more suave than loopy Hugo Chavez.

So I must say I was a bit shocked by his rhetorical hit job on the Cambridge police during the Gates fracas. Why was he so harsh when the President admitted he didn't know what was going on? Some have suggested that he needs to hit the reset button on his Presidency- to start over. Perhaps this now trumped up racial incident was just this - an attempt to reset a Presidency that is gradually sliding from a showy burst of optimism to turgid mediocrity or worse.

The President has declared this media event a "teachable" moment. Well, what does this teach us about Barrack Obama? When does Obama talk of race? He spoke about it in the campaign when things seemed to get bumpy or when he needed a lift. When Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire in the Democratic primary, she and hubby Bill were blasted as racists over remarks that could only be construed as racist if you had some network news pundit tell you they were. This helped Obama big time as Hillary Clinton could never shed the label of a racist throughout the rest of the campaign. It hung around like a bad smell.

In the second race card play, Obama himself played pundit by explaining what the McCain camp strategy would be. According to candidate Obama, they would simply mention he's black and thereby make his race an issue. This ludicrously simple take on the opposing strategy allowed Obama to introduce race himself and drape himself as the righteous victim when no insult had occurred. This smear helped Obama open up space before the Democratic convention and fill a void in news that his media servants dutifully exploited.

So now fast forward to an Obama Presidency that is clearly struggling despite tremendous advantages. The old cheery Obama seems less so. Governing is tough. So what to do? A minor police incident is blown up to national scale. Racial profiling is solemnly invoked though by all accounts except the arrested Harvard professor, nothing of the sort ever occurred. Obama clearly knew he was raising a red herring, but this is not the campaign anymore. Obama now runs the show. A ruler must be more careful and constructive. This sloppy play of the race card seems out of character for the formerly suave, cheery Marxist. The race card can only played one way lest it boomerang. Most of us know, after almost 50 years of affirmative action, how the game is played.

In any discussion of race in America, there are sadly essentially two paths on which these things track. One involves invoking bland platitudes to skirt the issue until the proverbial commercial break. The other is a vicious verbal blood sport meant smear the other side as racist as quickly as possible. These smears can be as blatant as the Harvard professor screaming about race at the police. They can be slightly more subtle as Obama implying that someone white isn't smart enough to carry out the arrest of a black man. An even more brassy smear would be Sonia Sotomayor saying that her group, Latinas is smarter than another group, white men.

Now the interesting part is these people know the importance of what their saying, but are rolling the dice that they can bulldoze folks with their supposedly enlightened point of view. However, when challenged, they back down because they recognize that the larger society realizes their opinion foul and hateful. The Harvard professor had contemplated a lawsuit, but now wants to "move on." Judge Sotomayor now says her comment was "bad" After accusing the police which was one white officer on the scene, of "acting stupidly" President Obama retreated to a slightly more humble attitude of recalibration which was wise since he said himself he didn't know all the facts. Bud light anyone?

Why haven't I mentioned any white racists? Think about this one. Don Imus, radio show host made a scummy racist remark about a women's' college basketball team. When he's called out for it, he's fired as he should have been. Sonia Sotomayor is about to become a Supreme Court Justice. Barrack Obama is lauded for raising the issue of race relations in this country. And certainly no one is calling for the firing or even censure of the Harvard professor. It's easy to see which side benefits by raising the race card. Race relations are severely lopsided in this country and affirmative action is to blame. You can't create a privileged group without that privilege eventually skewing the way that group thinks about itself and other groups.

Racism was a widespread evil in the United States, but it is gradually fading. How do I know this? Because over time, the races in a heterogeneous country mix. People don't fear or hate those to whom they are related. So you get a Mariah Carey, a Derek Jeter and yes, a Barrack Obama. In time, Affirmative Action will seems rather ludicrous as everyone will say they are part this or that, but the real duty we can do now is to ignore race and focus on ones thoughts, words and deeds. Sure poor American-Africans and others need help. I would not be against means testing for jobs or education, but a blanket category of race seems insipid in this day and age. After all, you have black CEO's, black Secretaries of State (two of them) and now a black President. Affirmative action worked. As the Harvard professor would say it's time to move on.

Obviously, playing this card still works to a degree and encourages people to think of themselves as only a racial entity. However, as stated this country is becoming more mixed and those that continue to cry racism at the drop of a hat will be seen as crying wolf. Once someone is tagged as a whiner or a punk, especially a leader or prince then they have little real power. Machiavelli warns a prince must never been seen as odious. Crying wolf about racism or anything else is a big step in that direction. Lest this whole essay be seen as whiny itself, let's give the President a suggested course of action.

Want higher poll numbers Mr. President? Take a bold decisive path with actions not just words. Show that your an individual that sees what America will be like and aid her getting there. End Affirmative Action in your term. This would square nicely with your post racial billing. Eventually, it will be superfluous anyway. Why not get ahead of the historical curve? You've said you want "parity." Why not remove this last government sanctioned distortion of racism in American life once and for all?

I'm not a one issue voter, but if you do this, I will vote for your reelection. Many will toss verbal slings and arrows. Among the American-African aristocracy, I'm sure there'll be howls. However, you know this is the right way: a completely equal America before the law, in academia and in the market place. Ironically, because of your race, you may be the only one in the foreseeable future who can do this. As has been said "Only Nixon could go to China."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Iran, "the magic key" and the Samson Option

Now that the Iranian demonstrators are almost ground under the heel of the Revolutionary Guard, we, simple spectators in the West can take stock of the situation and reflect on where the Middle East is headed now. While the protests for electoral integrity are heartening to most democrats, the flame that sprung to life seems now spent. Though the catalyst of this expression was state sponsored event, unlike Tianemmen Square, the end result seems much the same. While there was much hue and cry via new media, on the dominant state media the song of hate remains the same. Strangely, for one, this whole episode might seem a welcome respite.

If you're President Obama, you have to be happy. The electoral protest has bought Obama needed time to try to browbeat Israel some more or to offer more sweet words to Iran in hopes of a some face saving "peace in our time" agreement. Some have felt that the reticent and self-critical reaction offered by Obama initially was a ploy. By hanging back rhetorically, Obama gave the odious Iranian regime p.r. breathing space to crush the protesters. This theory continues that Obama wanted to create a p.r. debt so that the Mullahs essentially owe him one. Having given them something the President now has a chit in the Iranian favor bank.

I don't quite buy this notion. I don't doubt for a moment that Obama would leave the brave protesters in the lurch. After all, this was a man who denied the Iraqi surge after it succeeded. If he would play politics when the lives of American soldiers are at risk, why wouldn't he cynically use foreign protesters?

The real stumbling block in this theory is that it assumes Obama is naive enough to believe he could extract some sort of viable deal from Iran. Woodrow Wilson was duped into believing the he could get the concessions he wanted in the Versailles Peace Treaty, but that was by his allies not his enemies. To believe Obama would strike a deal with the America-hating nuclear jihadists seems a stretch since any deal would be violated instantly. The fallout from such a deal gone sour could cost Obama his second term. That is his one overriding priority. This doesn't mean the Arabs won't try to sell the snake oil of a phony deal anyway.

Many deals seem to be floating around the Middle East these days. Saudi Arabia was recently trying to push a deal when Obama was in the Kingdom recently. (for the second time in less than six months) According to Saudi media, King Abdullah ordered Obama "to solve the Palestinian issue and impose a solution if necessary." You can bet Obama promptly bowed and scurried from the room. Still, he'll have a tough time finding the so called "magic key." This "key" is what some Arabs believe will solve all the problems of the Middle East. It encompasses the favorable settlement of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

What is favorable to most Arab governments just happens to be not so favorable to Israel. Some Arabs favor the instant destruction of Israel (Iran, Syria, Yemen) or the slow dismemberment of the Jewish state through repatriation. (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt) Unfortunately, Benjamin Netanyahu has no interest in any deal that allows the Arabs to ship any number of Palestinians real or ersatz into Israel. Unlike the United States, Israel built a wall. That solved the people problem, but not the rocket barrages. However, the small conventional rockets are nothing compared, the nuclear jobs Iran has in mind, but here too Netanyahu has a defense of sorts. It's called the Samson Option.

You see, though the U.S. press (perhaps still obsessed with all things Obama) never mentions it Israel is a nuclear nation. How many bombs and what kind are obviously a closely guarded secret. We do know however that they work. In the 1980s, Israel tested a nuclear device off South Africa, courtesy of the then racist Apartheid government.

The most important aspect of the Samson Option is the saying "never again" Having suffered mass slaughter at the hands of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s, the resolution that the nation of Israel was founded on is explicit. Any threat of a new Holocaust would be stopped with all due swiftness and certainty by whatever means possible. The Jews, themselves, would die as a race fighting rather than be killed via the manner of the Nazis. Samson was killed when he tore the building down, but all his enemies were destroyed as well. In nuclear terms, this means Israel would obliterate all countries that pose a threat if Israel were attacked with nuclear weapons. Paralleling the biblical story, though she would perish, Israel would destroy the entire Middle East if attacked.

I guess Iraq and Afghanistan might get a pass due to U.S. forces present, but all other countries would get flattened. Harsh? Absolutely, but this is part of what has allowed Israel to survive all these years, not "tough negotiation." Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD has kept the peace, until the rise of a fanatical Iran. Now, today, we have in Iran, people desperately trying to change course. If they succeed, the Middle East may take a path away from nuclear holocaust. If not, then there is only one deal left. It is the Samson Option.

Monday, May 11, 2009

President Barack Buchanan?

Well, there I was innocently reading a bio of our 15th president, listening to Jesus Christ Superstar when I came across a phrase that seemed familiar. "My God, are calamities never to come singly!" That whiny phrase uttered by President James Buchanan rang a bell. Ah yes now I know where I heard it. At his last news conference, current President Barack Obama said he wished crisis' came one at a time and that the average president usually didn't have so much on his plate. This woe-is-me sympathy routine was rather transparent, but I wondered who the "average" president or presidency is? Van Buren? Fillmore? Harding? You got me. That Obama should wish to channel the mediocre of presidential history seemed rather odd.

But wait, what if Barack Obama really wanted to summon the aura of another president with his one at a time comment. What if he wanted to refer to a president who was elected to heal a vicious partisan divide? What if he wanted to refer to a Democratic president that worked hand in glove with a Democratic House and Senate? What if he wanted to cite a president who was a "well intentioned public figure?" What if he wanted to shoulder the cloak of a past president who had unique personal characteristics never before seen in the White House? If so, then let's grant Obama his wish and draw the curtain back on President James Buchanan, the worst president in U.S. history.

OK, I'll own up. What little I remembered from my high school history class concerning this "abysmal failure" was that Buchanan dithered and the Union promptly broke apart liked dropped china. That hazy recollection is not only untrue, but rather charitable to Old Fuss and Feathers. Barack Obama likes to stress the importance of action over inaction. "Influenced by two strong chief executives-Jackson and Polk-"James Buchanan would have heartily agreed with Barack Obama. While Buchanan saw the presidency as limited or constrained by the Constitution, this thin veneer often covered a plan of action that deemed certain ends or action actions justified by extreme means. In this case, with the preservation of the Union as the end, the means would be the defacto adoption of slavery throughout the land.

In a risky move, he would violate the Constitution to save the country. Mere days into his term, his secret arm twisting of some on the Supreme Court resulted in a solid majority in the the vile Dred Scott decision. Prior to the decision Buchanan said he would "cheerfully" abide by the decision. This weasel job is typical of a slick lawyer. Only ask a question that you already have the answer for, goes the old lawyer saw. In this case Buchanan already knew the outcome so he feigned subservience. This have gave Buchanan the short term political gain for additional long term pain for the nation.

In his young presidency, Obama has quite openly engaged in arm twisting for political gain while sticking the nation with the pain. The auto makers and the banks are a perfect example. Obama has advanced his own political agenda by strengthening his union allies with power and cash at the expense of the legitimate creditors and taxpayers. The long term pain will be felt as tax money via the unions goes to buying elections, the banks are slower to loan and taxes inevitably rise to cover the cost of yet another government boondoggle. Nothing rises or more accurately falls to the morally repugnant depth of slavery, but Obama's blatant interference will have serious, massive and long term negative economic consequences. However, economy isn't the only area where Obama is practicing extreme means.

As said, nothing rises to slavery, though bowing to the Saudi tyrant, who keeps half his population as serfs is a step in that direction. Obama also seems to have a stubbornness, like Buchanan, of doing things, he knows will insult people. De facto branding Harry Truman a war criminal, chatting up gangster Chavez, sucking up to Iran; these acts work well if his only goal is to irritate. For Barack Obama, the cynical play at schmoozing the world allows him solace to push his agenda at little cost or so he thinks.

For Buchanan, if slavery had to be expanded to save the union, that was a price he deemed affordable. If northerners didn't like it, then they were "disloyal."To extend slavery in the territories, Buchanan had to ram through Congress recognition of the pro-slave state government in Kansas. Buchanan offered favors and threats to push the bogus plan through Congress. Obama, like other, shall we say "average" presidents, did much the same with the stimulus bill. While he had both houses of Congress on his side, like Obama, Buchanan got most of what he wanted.

However, in the election of 1858, things started to slip. The pro-slave government in Kansas appeared as such an obvious farce, that a backlash developed against Buchanan's rigged maneuver. Congressional Democrats paid the price for Buchanans pro-south attitude as Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and gained seats in the Senate. And an Illinois lawyer named Lincoln began to use Buchanan's name as a political club against his senate race opponent Stephen Douglas. Buchanan did little to help himself by ignoring the recession of 1857 and obsessively trying to buy Cuba, which northerners rightly saw as another slave state in the offing.

Only if you're Nostradamus, can you know how Obama will affect the midterm elections of 2010. Most "average" presidents lose seats in Congress. Obama may too, but it is really too early to tell. Perhaps, he'll play the race card to smear his opponents. It worked well against the Clintons and John McCain. Unfortunately for him, James Buchanan could not use his unique characteristic of being a bachelor for political advantage. While he was quite possibly gay, this trait was not a plus either when it came to politics in the 1850s. When he became president in 1857, his niece burned all correspondences with a certain southern "dandy" Said dandy's niece also torched letters received from Buchanan. In the end, Buchanan was and Obama will be, measured by actions not skin color or sexual preference.

As the secessions crisis built, Buchanan sealed his fate by negotiating with southern secessionist (talking with our enemies anyone?) which by the way is treason, flip flopping on sending supplies to Ft. Sumter (interrogation photos anyone?) and allowing southerners within his administration unchecked power until the last days of his administration (relying on mendicant Nancy Pelosi and Dumkopf Harry Reid serves a close though not identical parallel). Directly contrary to the interests of the nation, Buchanan's secretary of war was sending supplies to the south at a speedy pace. On the eve of war, Secretary of War Floyd was sending heavy canon south. When the war began, he duly resigned and picked his commission as a Confederate general.

As mentioned, the parallels aren't exact. Obviously, Nancy Pelosi isn't about to join the Taliban, though that might actually help us to have such an accomplished bungler join their side. One thing is sure: Pelosi's savaging the CIA as liars can only hinder the our war effort and aid Bin Laden. This is also why the Bush bashing is getting moronic. If we believe Pelosi and the CIA lied then perhaps they lied about weapons of mass destruction with Bush, hoodwinking him into attacking Iraq. Off the wall? certainly, but thoroughly plausible in the kooky mendacious universe of Nancy Pelosi. Obama may have confidence in himself, but the minions leave much to be desired.

Like Obama, Buchanan had much confidence in himself. Buchanans' confidence was born of being a member of the House of Representatives, a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, Ambassador to Great Britain and being offered a seat on the Supreme Court not once ,but twice. Obama is confident because . . . well . . . he's Obama. Rhetorically Obama is probably leagues above Buchanan, but then Buchanan knew the risks of rhetoric. He had been cautioned by his father "that success was often followed by misery." For Obama, electoral success has given way to the turgid pace of governing. Still, Obama rushes to cram through as many things as possible. This invites disaster. The train of events in any number of areas could fly off the track taking Obama with it because he is unable to devote proper attention to them. Once one goes down a road on an issue, there reaches a point where you cannot go back.

Buchanan never realized this and continued in folly even after leaving the presidency. He didn't support the Emancipation Proclamation and blamed all but himself for the Civil War. This wretch can serve an important lesson for neophyte Obama. Action, however well intentioned, can lead to catastrophe, not easily mended. Or as Vietnam era Democrat McGeorge Bundy "Once you get on the tiger, you don't get to choose where to get off." There are no "average" presidencies, only average presidents. With the approach he's taking, Barack Obama will be lucky if he's one of them.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Barack Obama, Warlord

Didn't think that Winston Churchill and Barack Obama had anything in common? Well, you'd be wrong there. As it happens, for both men, their first military command of troops comes very close to the same spot on our troubled globe.

Obama has committed some 22,000 new soldiers to southern Afghanistan making it his first deployment of troops as commander in chief. For Obama, Afghanistan is the "right" war, not the "distraction" that Iraq is. I doubt this distinction makes much difference to the U.S. soldiers deployed there or Al Quaeda in Iraq trying to kill them, but I digress. This new commitment of troops is supposed to stabilize a shaky regime in Kabul and give them time to organize an army, a police force, judicial system etc . . . The broad scope and large numbers of troops are much different from the deployment of a brash young Lieutenant W.L.S. Churchill. While Obama is understandably much more cautious about continuing a war by a man his followers revile, Churchill was rushing to meet his ambition. The revolt of the Mullah of Swat in, yes, the recently turbulent Swat Valley, signaled a golden opportunity for young Churchill or so he thought. War in Pakistan was a means to a very personal end: a political career.

For Obama, ambition is also extremely important. War has been a very profitable means to an end for him. His opposition to the Iraq War aided greatly his drive for the Democratic nomination. While Churchill's youthful glory seeking made obvious the downside to his ambition, the dark side of Obama's is rather more complex. Having now tied himself to this war, will he see it through? Or will he cut and run for political gain just before the election in 2012? The answer is not clear.

This is a man who denied the success of the surge in Iraq and then admitting it's success still held it was the wrong thing to do in the first place. Obama's implied message that it is better to lose a war than win it is chilling. That an officer, general or commander in chief would rather lose a conflict than win it shows a massive cynical canyon between the leader and those who must follow orders. The grunts who serve become nothing more than push pins on a map somewhere. One hopes Obama could grow to understand what is necessary in war, so lives aren't thrown away recklessly. Obama has bragged about his perseverance. That is about to be tested. As Alexander Hamilton stated, "War, like most other things is a science to be acquired and perfected by diligence, by perseverance, by time, and by practice." The advantage here is that the force Obama will command has had much practice, as Hamilton would call it, in the last six years. The troops are tested as their commander in chief is not, much like Churchill arriving at the hot dusty HQ in the Malakand Pass.

Churchill left his unit in India to join the Malakand Field Force commanded by Sir Bindon Blood. This action during the summer of 1897 consisted of a British force of "about two thousand men, mostly Indian army troops commanded by white officers, matched against some twelve thousand Pathans." The goal of relieving forts in jeopardy and dispatching any hostiles was to lead to restoration of control by the British.

This assertion of control in Malakand started uneventfully, but duly escalated into a nineteenth century version of search and destroy. As Churchill wrote, "we proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation." Not too surprisingly, the fiercely independent tribesman (a description that applies today) struck back. As Churchill's unit became spread out over a large valley floor, a roiling Pathan assault issued from the hills. Forced to retreat and to abandon their wounded, which the Pathans promptly hacked to pieces, Churchill's unit found a defensible position to repel the attack. Churchill himself used a rifle and wrote " . . . I think I hit 4 men. At any rate they fell."

The glory seeker had a new perspective to view armed struggle. It's doubtful Barack Obama will get this view. However, with the modern communications revolution, the savagery of war may not be as far away as it once was for those who command from afar. Churchill sensed this gap in perception between those who fought and those far from the killing. Writing to his grandmother, he reflected " I wonder if people in England have any idea of the warfare that is being carried on here . . . no quarter is ever asked or given. The tribesmen torture the wounded & mutilate the dead. The troops never spare a man who falls into their hands-whether he be wounded or not . . . I wish I could come to the conclusion that all this barbarity-all these loses-all this expenditure-had resulted in a permanent settlement being obtained, I do not think however that anything has been done-that will not have to be done again."

In this light, what is the path to victory in Afghanistan? Notice how victory is not mentioned in this war. If no victory, then what is the timetable for withdrawal? What are the benchmarks of success, Mr. President?

Afghanistan is barely mentioned. You'd think with neighboring nuclear Pakistan teetering on the brink of disintegration and the deployment of 22,000 troops next door, a major speech by the President would be in the offing, to set goals, chart a course and bolster a flagging ally, but none seems forthcoming. When it comes to war, Barack Obama seems to prefer to lead in silence. He can fly to Iraq and bask in glow of security largely provide by his predecessor, Bush, but he seems to have little to offer when it comes to Afghanistan. Whether he's experienced or not, the warlord Obama must make his case or else "all these loses" will serve no purpose and may in fact have to be "done again."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Bridge Too Slow

"Is this a shovel-ready project?" Mr. Biden asked Scott Christie, the state transportation official charged with deploying economic-stimulus money.

"It's ready to go," Mr. Christie answered. "I literally have the plans in the car right now."

It turns out, though, that shovel-readiness is in the eye of the beholder. Soon after his visit, Mr. Biden found out that his model stimulus project wouldn't see a shovel for almost four more months, possibly longer, knowing how such timetables slip. In North Middleton, [Pennsylvania] a White House eager for action had run up against locals eager to avoid disruption. The locals won."

So begins a piece by the Wall Street Journals' Michael Phillips on a flubbed photo op at a decaying bridge in Pennsylvania. While the Obama administration was eager to put a quick muscular public relations shine on the stimulus bill, the mundane reality of filling potholes means a much slower and much more pedestrian approach. While Obama was depending on the public works aspect to provide a burst of cash coursing through the economy, the reality is that these projects will take more time, therefore, have less economic impact. The town featured in the article wanted to put off the bridge project because the construction would disrupt a school bus route. So they did. The reality on the ground trumped the airy Washington propaganda needs.

In fact, the stimulus itself is a bit of a fraud. Most of the $787 billion goes to the states to prop up increasingly onerous state entitlement programs. When this amount of cash runs dry in two years, then what will the states do? Oh rats, I forgot the Obama group think line. It goes like this: In two years the economy will be better and state coffers will runneth over with plentiful tax receipts. Never mind, that some like Obama supporter and Depression-Era Investor, Seth Glickenhaus (he's 94) believes this economic swoon will last five years. Of course, if the imagined recovery doesn't take place, yet another stimulus bill will be required. Billions more will be thrown around. For what effect, we can't be certain. This is looks to be another spot for sunny rhetoric to fall to the hard ground of reality.

Near me, the stimulus money is repaving a stretch of road. While there are many such spots around here, the obvious need is two ancient massive nearby bridges nearby. While tossing a few thousand on a road to make the local news, works for some transitory positive spin, the greater needs are unmet. Building two huge bridges would take years. By the time, they're built Obama might not even be in office. No short term propaganda gain to be made there.

And this is the real problem with much of what is attempted by Barrack Obama. Talking and PR to create group think can work wonderfully on the campaign. By creating an illusion of experience, one can fool others into pulling that vote lever. When it comes to governing , it's different. Talk can facilitate action, but it can't substitute for it. Governing requires more than just spin. Spin only affects those within the group think orbit. Sometimes, those in that orbit cannot tell the limits of group think. This can lead to tragic consequences.

Take the book referenced here, A Bridge Too Far . This airborne operation by the Allies during WWII was supposed to end the war in four months, but the Germans were not subscribers to this sunny group think mindset. All doubts harbored by the soldiers involved were shunted aside in pursuit of a goal that in reality was the operational equivalent of a deadly lottery ticket. Dissenters were quickly dispatched. A young intelligence officer, who spotted two SS tank divisions in the landing zones near the Arnhem bridge was quickly forced onto sick leave. To their credit, the Allied soldiers fought with incredible vigor, but the plan was flawed from the start. The last bridge over the lower Rhine could not be taken, no matter what spin was applied. Allied casualties were more than double D-Day, including the almost total annihilation of a British airborne division. Such are the bitter rewards when group think meets reality.

In the present day, we are in an economic debacle. At some point, though, people want actions that lead to improvement in their economic lives. Obama can spin all he wants, but the tangible fruits of jobs, healthy companies and increased cash are the only things that matter. The group think mindset can still dominate if the experience and expectations are in sync. However, as the experience replaces the expectations, the chance of stumbling increases, especially if these two states become unlinked. Obama can rectify this, but he must embrace reality. In a word, he must change. As someone who has been quite adept at fashioning reality to his own needs, this may be all but impossible. Barrack Obama may end up one bridge short of his goal. Not because he couldn't change the reality, but that he couldn't change himself in that reality. Such are the perils of those who live in the bubble of group think.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting Smoked

Amid all the hoopla of Obama's World Tour '09, the initial act of the Obama tax raising saga took place back home. Who felt the bite first? Was it the ultra-rich, like Obama pal Warren Buffet? Nah. Was it those shady real estate types, like Tony Rezko, who profited handsomely from the housing bubble? Nope. Was it Rev. Wright and his profitable political operation masquerading as a church? Not a chance. However, it was another group who happen to have been almost as enthusiastic about Obama as the three I just mentioned.

And the unlucky winners are . . . cigarette smokers. They got the first puff on the Obama tax smoke and it was a harsh one. Obama signed a law that raises federal cigarette taxes by more than 150% to $1.01 a pack. Yeow!! Insert hacking cough here. Now most of the people smoking are: you guessed it, poor. In a recent Gallup survey, 34% of people making $6,000 to $12,000 smoked. For those making more than $100,000 in the survey, only a little more than 10% smoked. Since Obama got 60% of the votes of those making $50,000 or less, it would seem these Obama lovers got duped. Perhaps, they fully expected and wanted to be taxed more. According to Joe Biden logic, they are all more patriotic than the rest of us. However, all these mental meanderings are rendered mute by the O-man himself.

In his speech at the Democratic convention in Denver, Obama said ". .. the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class." I would call less than $100,000 middle class, though maybe to Obama these folks are working poor and therefore, raising their taxes first doesn't qualify as breaking a campaign promise to the middle class. If if we allow Obama this lawyerly puff of smoke, there is still another problem, that dratted $250,000 pledge. In Dover, NH on September 12th, 2008, the smokestack in chief said "I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 will see any form of tax increase." Having ditched this promise with only a lone AP news story as a witness, we all know why those families will never "see" this tax increase until it hits them. With legions of media sycophants, any substantive story about Obama is quickly drowned out with puff pieces about the First Dog or Michelle's lip gloss. For the vast majority of the news media, I feel exactly the same way LBJ did about Time magazine's Hugh Sidey, accusing him of being a "goddamn whore" for the other party.

Returning to the smoke room, here's another thought. This tax is supposedly being done to bestow health care for four million children. Funny thing though, with Obama care on the way (price tag $1 to $3 trillion!!) why was this needed at all. If you going to overhaul the whole system, why bother raising taxes for a program soon to be swallowed in the sea change of health care reform?

I'm guessing Obama care is going to cost way more than planned, though not a soul on god's green earth really knows what it will end up costing. The "placeholder" or first installment is around $600 to $700 billion. So that's just for starters. Odds are President Smoke Screen is going to need every single dime he can squeeze from everybody and anybody. As a constantly reviled group, smokers are the low hanging fruit. Or maybe, as a smoker himself Obama wanted to clock them as some kind of way for him to stop puffing.

In psychological terms, substitution works sometimes. The man who wrote Cigarettes are Sublime, supposedly substituted writing about cigarettes rather than smoking them as a way to kick the habit. One things for sure, there's no substitute for the voracious maw of government when it comes to increasing taxes for colossal undefined programs. Also, there's no alternative way to deal with lying grandstanding politicians. When they lie, it's best to just depart or tell them you're going out for a smoke and don't come back.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Investment: This Word Must Die

When words die, so to speak, because of overuse or misuse, this can provide an important view into what we feel and think. When I hear someone of advanced years, say something is "cool" a harsh wrong note is struck. At some point, certain words must be dispatched for sanity's sake. Otherwise, the whole individual demeanor becomes pathetic. Moving on can be tough, but one must. Language moves on too.

When I see politicians, Barrack Obama is simply the latest, spouting the joys of "investment" in education, health care etc . . . I feel that "investment" is the latest candidate for euthanasia. It must die.

Ponder this, investing is putting your money in a financial instrument and getting your money back plus some sort of return or profit. If I buy a stock, it appreciates (hopefully) and I sell it, get my money back and a profit on top of that. Bonds do it differently, but the result is the same. (again hopefully) I'll forgo the list of investments like real estate, art, gold, baseball cards etc . . . because the concept is rather obvious. However, now, politicians of all stripes extol the virtues of "investment". You'd think after the Internet Bubble, this term would have been ditched. Enron, World Com, Global Crossing should have damaged this one, but words die slowly.

We interrupt this blog for a disclosure announcement.

Yes, I once did own Enron. No, I didn't lose everything. I lost 10 percent. The thing that saved me was something I read in this book, The Battle for Investment Survival by Gerald Loeb It's called the ever-liquid account. I won't explain it here because if you are interested, I want you to read the book and learn. What's so special about this book? I could say Barton Biggs loves it, but then I'd have to admit I'm just using his name cause I like the sound of it. (like something from Dickens) The real reason is because this book lays out exactly what we do when we "invest." We are speculating. Our money may vanish in a flash. This is risk. Like the ocean, speculation holds no mercy in her. You adapt to her, ride her or suffer the consequences.

If this were exactly 10 years ago. I might have gotten a lot of hearty laughs. In 1999 stocks simply went up, they didn't go down and they certainly didn't disappear, presto-chango. Now, sounding like the AP, some of America's most trusted companies are gone or on the rocks. Still, the word "investment" endures.

For years, politicians have been borrowing words from other occupations, they feel engender trust. The use of the word "investment" could follow this path. Or it could be that many of the pols have been hanging (can we get rid of this word too?) with the financial companies that use this word everyday in the course of business like AIG.

How would I know who "hangs" with AIG? Well, I only know who got money from AIG. In 2008 alone, Senator Chris Dodd got $103,000, President Barack Obama got $101,000, Senator John McCain got $59,000, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton got $36,000 and Senator Max Baucus got $25,000. That's only the top five AIG beneficiaries.

So when some pol talks about "investment" in education in failing schools or "investment" in an unproven health care system or "investment" in uneconomic energy, reflect on it. Think about what investment really is. It's speculation pure and simple. Or as Barney Frank would say "it's a roll of the dice." Unless, of course, you're being paid like the aforementioned pols to speculate, I mean, "invest" with other peoples' money. That's not risk. That's a layup and I think we can still use that word. Let that one live.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The More Times Change . . .

Last Friday at the Brookings Institution, Lawrence Summers, an Obama economic advisor repeated the phrase "in the coming weeks." Both times it referred to struggling Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, rolling out new plans for an economic resurrection. The usual stalling by Team Obama with their economic recovery plan was spiced with a dash of cheer. With little detail as to how banks and the financial system would be fixed, Summers tried push the glass half-full picture of the economy. In time, things will get better.

This shift of tone by Summers and others comes as El Presidentes' poll numbers have started to slide. The honeymoon is clearly over and Bush bashing carries little weight now. Decades ago, the slower news cycle might have given Obama six months or a year of breathing space. The instantaneous news cycle that worked to his advantage during the campaign, now demands not just actions, but results. The feel good offensive attempts to get the spending train rolling so the economy picks up, so Obama can pass stimulus 2.0, health care ( a meager $600 billion down payment ), more money for Detroit, more money for banks etc . . .

However, time is not an ally of Obama. Unemployment in the U.S. has already hit the level the Obama folks felt it would hit at the end of the year. Clearly, things are getting worse faster than the pr folks can plug the holes in the propaganda dike. The Bush Recession is fast becoming the Obama Depression. More spending must be rammed through fast and taxes must be raised now, before people start digging in their heels. The health care plan is now seen as needing more funds. Obama minion Peter Orzag has floated the idea of taxing private health benefits, something Candidate Obama skewered John McCain for proposing.

It's also necessary to buy some time by attacking the critics. Mouth off any doubts about Obama economics or a plummeting stock market and you might wind up in front of jokester Jon Stewart and his video editing steamroller. Since his chief prop W has departed, Stewart has to make ends meet by staging a Soviet-style show trial complete with a remorseful stooge. And he's rather good at it. As the volume goes up on the criticism of Obama and the flaccid economy, look for this comedic Robespierre to swing into action again all in the name of the public good, of course.

Speaking of jokes, Lawrence Summers had one in his speech. With a subdued wistfulness, he recounted how in 2000, at the end of the Clinton Administration, he had joked with colleagues about how the government would issue debt since the government was running a surplus. The laughter quickly evaporated as each audience member grasped the real punchline. We will be living with deficits and massive debt for our lives and generations to come. The Obama spending behemoth guarantees that fact. Additionally, the liberal playbook states taxes must be raised and raised again. The result will be slower growth, a longer recovery and a lower standard of living for all.

Liberals made the same mistakes in the Great Depression. Funny thing is they were copying Republicans initially and then wanted to outdo them. Required reading for today must include Amity Shlaes now eerily prescient history of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man. Here, you find a fascinating parallel between that depression and this one. Under Hoover as the Depression set in, Republicans raised taxes and funded massive new public works projects, like Hoover Dam to stimulate the economy. This time around Bush pumped out billions in checks last spring and then followed with TARP and the Detroit bailout in the fall. Substituting this time for a tax increase was a rocketing up of the price of oil during the summer of 2008. The wealth sapping effect effect was very similar.

FDR arrived and not only continued the massive spending of Hoover, but he cranked it up and raised taxes some more. Obama has outdone imitation here. He's seriously ratcheting up spending to a level well in excess of FDR and he's raising taxes. We can't really say the parallel works with Smoot-Hawley tariff act because Bush was mostly for free trade. However, Obama seems more inclined to go the protectionist route and made noises to that effect during the campaign.

The chilling big difference between then and now: the government then wasn't running a huge deficit and fighting two wars. Another difference is the role of the states. States in the 30's didn't provide near the number of programs they fund now, so they didn't mightily tax the way the do now. Big states like California and New York are planning massive tax increases along with smaller fry like Utah, New Hampshire and, of course, Massachusetts. As an example, the Bay State is planning to raise the gas tax 19 cents, raise the sales tax by 20%, raise the meals tax, and my favorite put a tax on candy. How these guys missed taxing a constituency (children) that can't vote all these years is beyond me. Obama can brag all he wants about not raising taxes on 95% of Americans, but the states will do the job for him and then some. And when the stimulus runs out in two years, the states will have to raise taxes again to fund their programs once again.

And one last parallel, between the Great Depression and today's the Roosevelt Administration was very active in pursuing a list of enemies. Whether they were people from the Hoover Administration or those who could frustrate their current plans, people like Andrew Mellon and Sam Insull were attacked via the media and the courts. The Obama crew hasn't gotten to the court just yet, but the media take downs are just beginning. As the pie shrinks, the divisions in America are about to get nasty. No amount of cheerleading or pr hit jobs can stop that. Let's just hope somebody else besides comedic inquisitor Jon Stewart and Obama, with the inevitable multimillion dollar book deal waiting, prosper in the next three years. Or else the obvious question of 2012 will be, are you better off than you were four years ago?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Look no further

Sometimes, I shudder when I see the economic news these days. The wrenching monetary disaster has shattered lives, dumped dreams and tied a lead weight to so many other tasks great and small. It seems everywhere. As Neill Young sang "There's a shadow running though my life, like a beggar goin' door to door." And this doesn't look to be over any time soon. Like the Depression or Japan's Lost Decade, this could go on indeed ten years. For most, it's so hard and heartbreaking because as Bill Clinton used to patronizingly intone, they played by the rules. The powerful few, whether in business or government, who have abused the system, have added massive insult to the massive injury. We have been collectively kicked in the teeth. We may get new teeth, but that promises to be a long arduous process for the national body.

So, now we get Obama and his new carping campaign. The State of the Union, the Budget and the surrogates all decry how "irresponsible" we've all been. More than 90% of people with mortgages pay them on time. Yet, now, 10% renege on their payments and we're all to blame? Obama insisted on wagging his finger during the State of the Union as if the nation were some wayward child, not someone in need of, dare I say, hope. We all know full well the honesty and fairness of the last famous finger wagger. The phrase "I did not have sex with that woman . . ." accompanied by the pointing index finger was effective . . . for a time. In time, though, it became a joke. The words and attitude were found not match reality. A product of the sixties, the credibility gap had arisen and the Clinton presidency was effectively over.

Now that we're hurting, we get David Axelrod, Obama minion, doling out the healing salve of tough talk because "sternness is appropriate." What absolute rot. Like a cheesy ad for Ronco, there's more. In pushing the budget, Axelrod says the budget is "a candid call to return to ethics and responsibility." If this isn't the usual cheap cynical play, I've got a good place to start this return movement for ethics. Let's look no further than Barrack Obama's old Senate seat. Why not flush the liar holding Obama's seat? Roland Burris said he had no contact with the Blago camp, but he did. His son got a job from Blago. His consulting company (a politician with a consulting company-now there's a licence to steal literally) got state contracts. This guy couldn't get any dirtier.

Everyday that crook occupies Obama's old seat is a day the Obama administration has zero credibility calling anyone on ethics or responsibility. If you want to return to something, why not make it what actually has worked in this country, like say, the Constitution. John Adams said "A government of laws, not men." When the laws do not apply to leaders like Roland Burris because he's a buddy of Obama, there's no incentive for the people to follow the rules. Forget about the economic turmoil, the fabric of the democracy is now threatened.

Obama seems determined to flirt with the infamous credibility gap. Besides William Clinton, that trap caught and destroyed one of the most able politicians in U.S. history: LBJ. Obama and his lackeys would be wise to avoid that trap, but, as with LBJ, hubris may prevent such action.

Who knows? Maybe the application of laws to some of the openly crooked in our political class like Roland Burris, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd etc . . . might spur a return to confidence in government. Perhaps, this might even buck up the sagging confidence in the economy. Perhaps, this could happen, but then, I've always been far too much of a dreamer.