Thursday, October 23, 2008

With Obama, America Rolls The Nuclear Dice

While America is preoccupied in determining just how much socialism Obama will introduce in its domestic economy, the question of Obama’s foreign policy agenda went largely ignored - until Monday.

I can’t believe that Joe Biden raised the issue of Obama facing an international crisis in the first six months because I've been thinking the same thing. If Obama becomes president he will be severely tested not only because of his inexperience, but also due to his penchant for equivocation (e.g., condemning both Georgia and Russia for Russia’s invasion of Georgia) and his self-proclaimed “progressive” agenda (e.g., holding presidential level negotiations without preconditions). While the media and some Americans choose not to delve into Obama’s weaknesses, you’d better believe that America’s enemies have already compiled a dossier of his vulnerabilities. Like every president he will be tested early and often until he proves he can handle it. But this is not a game: nothing less than world peace and a nuclear holocaust is at stake.

Obama revels in comparisons to JFK and who can blame him? They both have / had charisma and youth in common. However, that’s where the comparison ends. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, “As a democratic youngster I remember John Kennedy, John Kennedy was decorated for heroism while commanding PT-109 (WWII), John Kennedy served six years in the House and seven in the Senate before running for president and John Kennedy asked for your vote instead of telling supporters to get in your face to demand it. Obama, you’re no John Kennedy.”

As much as we all loved John Kennedy, history warns us that even with all his experience, virtues, good intentions and diplomatic connections, events can quickly get out of hand when hostile world leaders perceive you as weak. When John Kennedy failed to provide air support for the Bay Of Pigs Invasion of Cuba (April 17, 1961), Khrushchev saw an opportunity to achieve Soviet dominance.

Construction of The Berlin Wall began in August 1961 and missile sites were constructed in Cuba in 1962. The resultant Cuban Missile Crisis, which peaked in October 1962, brought the world to within seconds of a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia. It was only averted by government officials convincing Khrushchev through backdoor channels that this time John Kennedy will not back down (i.e., if a Russian ship tries to run the blockade, it will be fired upon). If all this chaos wasn’t enough, despite warnings by Charles de Gaulle, JFK committed the U.S. to defend South Vietnam with over 16,000 troops in 1963. Note: Using the Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution, Lyndon Johnson later increased troops strength to 536,100 by the end of 1968 and the rest of this tragic affair is history.

The point of the above is to underscore that no matter how charismatic, smart or beloved the president, the world is a dangerous place and events can quickly spiral out of control. If Obama were given the same circumstances, does anyone (other than Obama himself) think that he could have handled these precarious situations better then John Kennedy? Despite Obama’s self-proclaimed “superior judgment,” it is more likely that he would have pontificated and vacillated until it was too late. One wrong move with the world on the brink and we would have seen mushroom clouds over the U.S. and Russia. I hope and pray we never come that close again.

For those who think that the world is safer now, think again. Are you safer when one person has 1,000 weapons or when 1,000 people have one each? Let’s remember that since the Soviet collapse we've had widespread dissemination of nuclear material and technology. The argument can also be made that during the Cold War disaster was averted because Soviet leaders ultimately decided that a nuclear holocaust was not in their people’s best interests. Can the same be said of terrorist groups, rogue states and militant fanatics today? I think not. Let’s recall that 9/11 was only one event in a long sequence and there’s no reason to believe that it is at an end.

The possible flash points are too numerous to mention: Russia can seek to reestablish a buffer zone to mother Russia (a neo-Soviet Union) by invading or coercing its former partners, China can have Taiwan abrogate its mutual defense treaty with the U.S. and rejoin the mainland, North Korea can use nukes to force reunification with South Korea, Russia can decide to establish a nuclear sub base in Venezuela, etc. And that’s before we get into the notoriously volatile situation in the Middle East: Iran (going nuclear), Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon. The list goes on and on.

Obama fanatics would have us believe that world leaders will be so smitten with him that all self-interest will evaporate. In their eyes, Putin would rather have an Obama tea shirt and a box load of CDs of kids singing Obama songs than have Georgia join a neo-Soviet alliance. And maybe Ahmadinejad will accept an honorary degree from Columbia University and the naming of Farrakhan as U.S. ambassador rather than launch nuclear missiles at Israel. After all, didn’t Obama proclaim that the sun will rise and there will be a new day if he were elected? Let’s just hope (and pray) there are no mushroom clouds on the horizon.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Obama’s Bill To Give $845 Billion To United Nations

I don’t support the recently passed $700 Billion bailout of Wall Street and I strongly believe this country had better be fiscally responsible going forward or we will be swapping a Fannie Mae – Freddie Mac instigated recession for a U.S. initiated global depression.

With fiscal responsibility in mind, it’s time we revisit the bill Barack Obama introduced earlier this year called the "Global Poverty Act" (S.2433) to find out if he intends to push this forward if he becomes president. To quote Accuracy In Media, “The legislation would commit the U.S. to spending 0.7 percent of gross national product on foreign aid, which amounts to a phenomenal 13-year total of $845 billion over and above what the U.S. already spends.” Interestingly, Senator Joe Biden tried to rush it through his Foreign Relations Committee.

Now, I’m all for charity, foreign aid (provided it gets to the people and is not horded by governments), the Peace Corps, Red Cross, et al, but I don’t think the nation should be increasing economic burden at this time. First of all, many people who are not politicians are having trouble making ends meet due to layoffs and high fuel costs. Second, if the U.S. economy goes down, we’ll take the world with us and the hundreds of millions of dollars we already give annually to global charities via government and private donations will be lost.

Since the next presidential debate is on the economy, someone should ask Barack Obama to be specific. In our current economic crisis, will he push this bill forward if he becomes president? At every rally, he insinuates that he would when he says “Americans will have to sacrifice.“ While it’s interesting to note that he doesn’t realize or care to acknowledge that U.S. citizens currently give more charity than all other nations combined, that doesn’t mean more can’t be done. But either way, since he’ll be spending our money and not his, are we to assume his $845 Billion tax is the “sacrifice” he’s referring to or are there others? In a democracy, we deserve to know.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

$700 Billion and a Trust Me

I watched most of the hearings on the bailout and like most people couldn’t believe the contradictions in Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s testimony and the audacity of his proposal. He started out by telling Congress to write a $700 Billion check with no oversight, no guarantees that this bailout will work (more money may be needed), that there can be no restrictions on who can participate (toxic waste from foreign banks will be purchased) and this bailout must be passed immediately or we face Armageddon.

When pressed for the rationale behind this “throw caution to the wind model,” he stated that he’s worked with his counterparts (Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, SEC Chairman Chris Cox and reps. in China, Japan, etc.) on this solution for months and it’s the best model because something really big has to be done, the taxpayer’s already on the hook and there must be no protections because “We need them (CEOs and financial institutions) to participate.”

After pulling myself off the ceiling and wrestling my blood pressure back into a normal range, I realized this was public theater. The blusterous senators with lobbyist money in their pockets raging apoplectic on behalf of the poor taxpayer, the weaseling bureaucratic sacrificial lambs sent (with three scant pages of parchment) to wilt under harsh ruling-class scrutiny was classic Greek drama. Great, but not worth a $700 Billion ticket!

As a former project manager, what I want to know in any emergency situation are three things: 1) What is the problem? 2) Do we know the root cause (to limit damage and identify a temporary or permanent fix)? and 3) What are my options? While heavy on histrionics, the Paulson – Senate Production came up woefully short on providing answers to at least two of these three questions. Here’s my analysis of this emergency bailout.

1) What is the problem?

Despite Congress and the media elite talking down to the people, the problem is simply cash flow, which coincidentally is why most businesses fail (about 75% the last time I took economics). And why do so many businesses have cash flow problems, the answer is good old fashion mismanagement. Enter Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stage left.

2) Do we know the root cause?

While some people would like to spread blame by going all the way back to the Section 8 housing program created in 1974, this is totally bogus. The problem we’re experiencing has its roots in the early 1990s with successive changes to the mission, budget and financing rules governing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In order to achieve an increase in low and mid-income home ownership, Congress (led by Barney Frank – House of Rep. and Chris Dodd – Senate) mandated that Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac increase their purchase of low and medium income mortgages, moved their budget approval to Congress and encouraged them to purchase riskier loans (lower down payments and higher income to debt ratios). But this was only the beginning.

With its budget susceptible to politics rather than established industry standards, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adopted liberalized lending rules championed by the Clinton administration and named former White House Budget Director Franklin Raines Chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae. A $10.6 Billion accounting scandal ensued with the charge of accounting manipulation tied to executive bonuses (1998 – 2004). Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also backed sub-prime mortgage lending, ignored warnings by Federal Reserve Chairman Allen Greenspan (2003) and with the help of Congress blocked reforms called for by the Bush Administration (2004). The government caused this problem by sponsoring and guaranteeing the liquidity of what’s now euphemistically called “toxic waste.”

The root cause then, was government advocacy or regulation that lowered (i.e., circumvented) existing mortgage requirements. While increasing low and mid-income home ownership is laudable, a more responsible way should have been found. Having their two quasi-government agencies purchase, package and trade underfinanced mortgages now threatens the entire U.S.economy.

3) What are our options?

Quantifying the damage and identifying options is hard to do when the same politicians who caused the problem are negotiating the solution. For Dodd, Frank and the powers that be, this is more about covering their bottoms than fixing the problem. Despite the dramatic appeal, a massive $700 Billion taxpayer bailout without guarantees is ridiculous. And having the government beg CEOs and financial institutions to give us their toxic waste so they can maintain profitability is insane.

Instead of a massive taxpayer bailout, I’d prefer a free-market based solution with an insurance pool funded partially by companies looking to participate. Instead of government hacks proposing solutions; I’d welcome proposals from a consortium of affected companies to identify what they need to maintain liquidity. I can assure you that a variety of options that have yet to be considered, will be identified.

Wanton government intervention into financial markets caused this problem, why should we expect the same bureaucratic thinking could fix it? Remember, if they knew what they doing, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. I say enjoy the theater, but pass on the $700 billion ticket.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Obama: Change We Don’t Need

If you won’t vote for a black man or woman for president, read no further. If you intend to vote for Barack Obama because he’s black, please go elsewhere. If you’re a brain dead party hack, leftist, anarchist or union member who will vote the way someone else tells you to, this article is not for you. Hopefully, only open-minded people trying to evaluate Obama on the merits now remain and will read on.

I was one of a majority of people who was very impressed with Obama when he first burst on the national scene as the keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I was also very excited and supportive of his early success in this year’s caucuses and primaries. However, I became disillusioned in the spring when he failed to condemn hate speech and denied ever hearing offensive comments from Reverend Wright despite a twenty year professional and personal association He further disappointed by making disparaging remarks about Pennsylvanians and other Americans who don’t share a privileged lifestyle. And when he made anti-NAFTA remarks to Detroit union workers, while sending an envoy to the Canada government assuring them he intends just the opposite, he became the epitome of a grubby politician; more of the same.

Because his disdain for others and blatant duplicitousness contradicts so starkly with his original public persona (that of an Ivy League educated individual and self-professed liberal declaring a need for change), I decided to investigate further by reading his autobiography and other books (both pro and con). While I strongly encourage everyone to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, I’m now convinced that an Obama presidency would have a significantly negative impact on the lifestyle of the average American because the issues cited by his detractors are largely substantiated by his own gaffes. As is often the case, unguarded moments reflect our truest feelings.

I have no idea how Obama became an extremist or decided to embrace hate. Born to Muslim and Christian parents, schooled in Indonesia and Hawaii in his early years, left with his grandparents in Hawaii while his mother returned to Indonesia to pursue her doctorate, sent to elite private schools in Hawaii, California, New York and Massachusetts he was more fortunate than many. Some have suggested abandonment, racial identity issues and an association with mentors with legitimate grievances, but it’s not for me to judge. What I do know is that many of us were not only born to parents of different religions and experienced the stress of their subsequent divorce, but we also endured abusive step-parents, lived in run-down neighborhoods, moved whenever rents were raised, went to public schools, served our country, worked our way through college, served our community (with no monetary benefit) and hate no one. For we know that no matter how bad you think you have it when you’re a kid, as you mature you learn that many millions of people have it infinitely worse.

Those of us who have endured and are of moderate means know all about responsibilities and charity and we sure don’t need someone fortunate enough to obtain an Ivy League education to mandate sacrifice from a government pedestal. Furthermore, we would never embrace a Reverend Wright, Father Pfleger, William Ayres or Louis Farrakhan and propose an amiable sit down with Ahmadinejad. No matter how you spin it, Obama is either misguided or clueless and is exercising the same poor judgment he exhibited when he exposed his children to hate filled sermons on Sundays. To quote Obama “words have meaning.”

With a lot more maturity, a selfless devotion to work benefiting others in a Mother Teresa–like way (no Resko slumlord issues) and moving beyond hate, Obama may someday be ready to bring us the good sort of change he preaches. But by then, we will probably already have had at least two black male, one female, and one Hispanic president who were elected based on the excellent content of their character. Now that’s really the change we’ve all been waiting for.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Obama Trashes Hockey Moms!

I heard Obama say it and didn’t believe it. So I listened to it a second and third time and lo and behold, he said it. When Obama said of Sarah Palin “that’s not change” and then continued “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig” it was a snide attempt to insult her. But while Obama probably meant to insult only Sarah Palin (which undoubtedly is what he wanted since he slammed McCain with his next remark about wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called "change") he unwittingly insulted all hockey moms. For in her speech, Sarah Palin said the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick (meaning a hockey mom fights for her kids), Obama is saying that you can put lipstick on the mom, “but it’s still a pig.” While his audience of followers knew what he meant and thought it was funny, the decent among us think it was classless, sexist and a new low for the Obama campaign. I only hope the women of American are listening and will be mad enough to say it with votes.

I don’t know if it’s flop sweat, nastiness, dirty politics, lack of class or a deeper problem (like demeaning people who live in small town America), but Obama has demonstrated a very unstable penchant. If this is how he strikes out when under campaign pressure, how will he react when confronted by Putin, Ahmadinejad or other potentially belligerent leaders during heated negotiations? If he were strike out in the same crude and immature manner to the former head of the KGB, Putin would probably have to be physically restrained. And who could blame him? The repercussions of such a scenario are something I hope everyone considers before voting.

What should really happen is Obama should be asked to either remove himself from the Democratic ticket or admit he’s not ready for prime time and swap places with Biden Athough I’ve never cared for Joe Biden’s policies because he engages his mouth before his brain, the chances of him getting us into a war are far less than Obama

Monday, September 8, 2008

Foreign Affair Expertise in Satire and Fact

When Barack Obama was asked to comment on the report that “125 Shot Dead In Chicago Over Summer: Total Is About Double The U.S. Troop Death Toll In Iraq,” he confidently pointed out that the surge didn’t work and peace in Chicago will not be achieved until local politicians learned to compromise. Then, seizing the opportunity to apply his newly acquired post-Russian invasion of Georgia expertise, he conveyed deep regret over the loss of life in Chicago, called for urgent humanitarian and economic assistance, noted the need for increased diplomacy in the region and underscored the need for a United Nations Security Council Resolution for “an immediate end to the violence.” He later retracted the United Nation resolution proposal when a foreign reporter pointed out that the US has veto power on the Security Council and would almost certainly veto any resolution concerning one of its major cities.

People who compare Barack Obama’s lack of experience to Sarah Palin's lack of experience are undermining their own argument. Barack Obama is, of course, running for president at the top of the Democratic ticket and should not be in a head-to-head battle with the subordinate vice-presidential candidate on the Republican ticket. After all, with few exceptions history shows that vice-presidents are often kept out of the inner circle of presidential confidents. Remember, John Nance Garner (Democrat) – 32nd Vice President (first VP under FDR) said the vice-presidency “wasn’t worth a warm bucket of spit” and Truman (FDR’s other VP) didn’t even know the US had developed the atomic bomb. Despite this evidence to the contrary, Democrats continue to insist that the foreign policy experience of supporting cast member Joe Biden will somehow compensate for Barack Obama’s knowledge gap.

Democrats also attempt to justify their concern over Sarah Palin’s lack of foreign affairs experience by pointing out that John McCain turned 72 in August and if something were to happen to him, then Sarah Palin would be president. Oh my God! Using the same logic I suggest the following retort, “Do you realize that Joe Biden will be 66 in November and if something were to happen to him, Barack Obama would be president?” Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to explain this to them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Democrats: You Blew It!

One of the nicest traits of Americans is their sense of fairness; the propensity of Americans to inherently stick up for the little guy and defend the underdog. Well, guess what? In their zeal to undermine Sarah Palin with every dirty trick and smear in the book, Barack Obama, the Democratic political machine and mass media have gone way too far and consequently, rekindled this spirit in me.

We all know that decency in a political campaign is as hard to find as reformers in Washington, tolerance in Reverend Wright’s sermons or experience in Barack Obama’s resume, but this brutal smear campaign against Sarah Palin establishes a new low. From its initial use of sexism, this comprehensive trash campaign subsequently attacked Palin’s husband, their five month old baby with Down Syndrome and their pregnant teenage daughter. Can the family pet be next?

I understand that the goal of this brutal campaign is to destroy Sarah Palin within seven days. It seems Barack Obama has brought his knee-capping dirty politics from the South side of Chicago to the national stage. Remember he eliminated all competitors in his state senate race. It looks like this is the change Barack Obama thinks we’ve all been waiting for.

As a fair minded American, my response to this underhanded tactic is to vote for the McCain – Palin ticket in November. As an independent, I had previously stated that I wasn’t going to support Obama because of his affinity for hate speech (first, failing to condemn it by Rev. Wright and others and subsequently to engage in it [e.g., “white people are bred …,” etc.]), but I wasn’t close to voting for McCain. My alternatives, as always, included third party candidates and write-ins.

But thanks to this latest Democratic tactic, my hand is now forced. Although I will not register as a Republican, I will definitely vote for McCain – Palin and if the Democrats don’t stop the smears, I’ll vote for the entire Republican party line (despite my preference for some Democratic locals). I strongly encourage all Independents to stand up for fairness and do the same. Congratulations Democrats, You Blew It!