Friday, January 29, 2010

Dylan's Deductive Dichotomy

Dylan Ratigan, former CNBC pundit, has his own show on MSNBC from 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm. I hyperlinked this must-see clip (instead of posting the actual point-and-click video) because MSNBC makes you watch a 30-second advertisement before watching the clip.

This hyperlink bypasses the forced commercial ad. The clip is great because it's a summary of the Financial Meltdown; Ratigan is superb at explaining complicated issues in layman's terms.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SOTU Reaction and Review

My wish did not come true.

Perhaps I did not have the 'audacity' to hope.

President Barack Obama began his speech with his requisite historical references about former statesmen of our great Republic as well as some of the pointed accomplishments of the 20th century. As a student of history, I always appreciate such historiography's. However it did not take long before Mr. Obama started with his ubiquitous, and often misleading, finger pointing.

Barack Obama cited all of the excessive spending from George W. Bush's administration and finished with "and this was all before I walked in the door," referring to the large deficit he inherited. Obama must not look in the rearview mirror. As John F. Kennedy once said:

"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democrat's answer, but the right
answer. Let us not seek to fix blame for the past. Let us accept our own
responsibility for the future."

Continuous blame of the previous administration wears thin after you hear it for twelve months or more. No, my wish was for the president to sprinkle in a lot more contrition regarding his own failures as a leader. Indeed, George W. Bush was never contrite about the wrongheadedness of the Iraq war - especially the embarrassment after Hans Blix and company could not find any evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

Why would Obama want to juxtapose his credibility alongside W's? When you are wrong, you are wrong - it's that simple. And the people get that.

And besides, the fact that Obama came out swinging right away about the need to create jobs only solidifies his mismanagement of the previous year. During his inauguration speech in January, 2009, Obama reminded us that his unwavering "priority" was that of the economy and job creation. To now say "it is my number one priority for 2010," rings hollow. This commitment is woefully late.

President Obama did manage to articulate a few nice surprises, however. For example, his allusion to building nuclear plants and raising the specter of off-shore oil drilling was definitely a surprise. Likewise, Obama's position on capital gains tax relief for small business and other tax cuts will surely stimulate the job engine that is small business.

However, the most egregious comment of the night was when he politicized the recent Supreme Court ruling [Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission] that was only a week or so old. With Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr and the balance of the Supreme Court facing Obama in the first row of the congressional chamber, he all but threatened to quickly reverse the de-facto nature of the ruling by professing he would create legislation to counter the effects of the court's ruling.

To be sure, there is absolutely nothing wrong with debating or commenting negatively about Supreme Court cases; however, the SOTU address was not the time and place.

The President here-to-fore needs to posit a mea culpa and apologize to the Supreme Court forthwith.

Mr. Obama's tone seemed to wander back and forth, appeasing the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and then blaming the very same Dems for not putting the country before their own interests.

The President of The United States had a difficult task tonight. He had to find a way to close the credibility gap that he's created over the last twelve months. His task was daunting. He's damned if he addresses Wall Street and bankers in a pejorative tone; and, he's damned if he doesn't realize the overall importance of big banks for the good of the nation's economy.

Sadly, he resorted to too much finger pointing, excuses and a continued insistence of polarization between the two parties. One-party rule begets legislation that is bad for the Republic.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The 'Plouffe' Stops Here

Less than a week after the Massachusetts 'Mass acre,' President Barack Obama has finally invoked 'Transparency' into his presidency.

No, he will not be pulling out his BlackBerry and ringing C-Span's Brian Lamb and inviting him into the hallowed, but generally, secretive halls of Congress. Instead, Mr. Obama has dispatched himself aboard Air Force One; and his flight-plan led to the very epicenter of the Rust Belt.

It couldn't of been too soon, either. And while his plane still idled at a nearby Ohio airport, President Obama visited a few blue-collar factories and met with some ordinary folk.

He talked with students at the Loraine County Community College and even made an impromptu stop at a local diner.

He got a little angry too. Obama invoked the word "fight" at least twenty times during his speech to the job-stricken townspeople of Elyria, Ohio. I "will never stop fighting," said Obama.

The 'Transparency' was - well, obvious.

Senator-Elect Scott Brown had only four days earlier, put the Democratic Party, and Obama specifically, on notice. Obama quickly understood, even before Martha Coakley conceded to Brown, that Massachusetts did not buy his message.

Instead of the 'Audacity of Hope,' Obama had the audacity to pejoratively diss Scott Brown's pick-up truck.

Obama should of learned a lesson from some of the 'other' Rust Belt types. The same way Wagoner, Nardelli and Mulally surely learned their valuable lesson after being questioned during Congressional hearings on their respective management styles. Imagine Obama driving an old Ford F-150 into town - with 'SEIU' and 'Yes We Can' stickers emblazoned on the rear cabin glass.

Fox News and the rest of the media would have eaten him alive for such a stunt. Of course, save for the 'rest of the media,' Fox News already eats Obama alive.

No, the Obama Administration's "It's the Economy, Stupid," and "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs," came out of their anemic political playbook. A playbook that looks about as good as the Washington Redskins' playbook looked this season. The fans knew that Jim Zorn's strategy was way off after the first few games of the season. Similarly, the voters knew, especially those without employment, that Obamacare would never lead them to the Super Bowl - or at least away from the local unemployment line.

Now, Mr Obama is enlisting his Brett Favre back onto the field. Axelrod, Emanuel and Jarrett have been temporarily benched - or at least put on injured reserve. David Plouffe, his former campaign manager, will be taking the snaps from center now.

And that is where the administration will be headed - to the center - much like former President Clinton had to do early in his first term. Obama will spare no expense for Mr. Plouffe. The Obama team may even get creative and align themselves with the 'netroots' crowd and other anti-Washington types.

After all, President Obama and his administration will have to worry about a lot more than filibusters and cloture votes. They will have to worry about a 1994 mid-term election repeat. And David Plouffe will be Obama's main don't-want-a-'94-repeat-strategist-in-chief while he works the politics behind the scenes of the Democratic National Committee.

It is yet to be seen if Plouffe and his team can indoctrinate the DNC with Rovian magic, or if Obama himself will force some of his closest advisers out of his inner circle.

One thing is for sure. He should listen to the people outside of Washington for advice. And he should finally acknowledge the 800-pound gorilla that's been camping out in the Oval Office over the last twelve months.

He need not retrench himself back into the very partisan dogma for which he has here-to-fore perfunctorily dismissed earlier in his presidency.

Contrition goes a long way, in fact.

In 2008, the electorate voted for the anti-Bush candidate, to pull troops out of Iraq and to bring a new leadership back into Washington. Health care reform was never a mandate - it was a long-held personal ideological goal that Obama had and thus pushed upon Congress, the media and the citizenry. Obama, Congress and the left-leaning media pushed so hard that Populists, Independents and the Tea Party gang shook their collective heads and forged a grass-roots coalition against what they felt was a kamikaze-like arrogance that Team Obama had perpetrated.

In his Jan. 24, 2010 Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post, Plouffe's main point failed the smell test. He claims that the health care reform bill will bring jobs. "We own the bill and the health-care votes," says Plouffe. He also calls it "a good plan that's become a demonized caricature."

More problematic for Plouffe and Obama is that a Nor'easter that developed along the Virginia coast and turned into Hurricane Mitch, sweeping unapologetically through New Jersey and making landfall in the Bay State. The political winds had shifted and the administration seems tone deaf to political reality.

David Plouffe needs the political will to confront White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel if he is to avoid a Pyrrhic victory. Plouffe must stop the ridiculousness of the administration's current trajectory and reorient his bosses' strategy if they are to end the harbinger that awaits in the 2010 mid-terms in November.

Plouffe's task is way more than "getting back on message," or refocusing the president's talking points. Obama must come clean with the American people, streamline his rhetoric about the denizens of Wall Street and avoid platitudes, arguments ad-metum and his ubiquitous populistic approach for which he is headed.

Someone needs to tell the president to put down his pitchfork and invite the Republicans to a seat at the table.

Because his current offense desperately needs some first downs before it can make its way to the playoffs.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Auto Bailout and 'Free' Advertising

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I propose a tax on all 'Cadillac' health insurance plans.

Toyota, Honda, Porsche and even Volkswagen are none too happy. Barack Obama, Congress and countless other pundits are quick to mention or quip about the so-called "Cadillac' health care plans that many citizens have, notwithstanding Congress and Unions alike.

Why not call them 'Lexus' plans...'Acura' plans...or 'Porsche' plans. Heck, even Hyundai has a segment-winning luxury car named 'Genesis.' Why not Hyundai?

So, for all of the UAW, SEIU and other labor-loving groups out there - you're getting some darn good free advertising.

I think the 'Cadillac' moniker was a political gift from the earlier pro 'Card-Check' gang for giving up on some of the possible benefits from the Employee Free Choice Act bill - H.R. 1409 and S. 560.

The Oracle of Yemen

There once was a quiet and reserved young man of Muslim faith. He was born, ironically, in the United States, less than 300 miles away from where some of the infamous Manhattan Project scientists helped develop the world's first atomic bomb.

His parents hail from Yemen.
He was born in Las Cruces, N.M. in 1971. His father, a highly educated scholar who studied in the United States, later went on to become the president of a Yemeni University.

His name is Anwar al-Awlaki. He has a B.S. in civil engineering from Colorado State University, an M.A. in Educational Leadership from San Diego State University and was pursuing post graduate studies in Education and Human Development from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. before he decided to pursue 'other' endeavors.

His looks are deceiving. He is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs a mere 160 pounds. He wears Harry Potter glasses and, like hundreds-of-millions of other religious men, he sports the ubiquitous muslim beard. Awlaki has taught in holy Mosques in San Diego, Northern Virginia, Colorado and London. He's also very smart - he uses FaceBook, e-mail, videos and other social media tools to foment radical Islamic fundamentalism - exclusively directed to the western world - specifically - the US.

He's also been a close compatriot of "the blind sheik," Omar Abdel Rahman, who is in prison for the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. He has been a practicing Imam in at least four Muslim Mosques known for radical fundamentalism.

He has basically written the Islamic fundamentalist's book for 'lone-wolf-terrorists.' He reaches out seductively online through web sites and other media. He espouses 'higher-jihad.' And makes those lost or confused in their Islamic faith think about their true mission for Allah. He becomes their spiritual leader (aka - terrorist advisor).

Two 9/11 hijackers prayed and privately met with Awlaki in San Diego and Virginia prior to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Additionally, Awlaki had meaningful e-mail communications with Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan. Finally, Awlaki has been implicated to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - who is blamed for the 2009 Christmas Day terrorist attempt on Northwest Airlines flight 253 to Detroit, Mich.

Why hasn't these connections resulted in Awlaki being arrested, hunted down or killed?

In October of 2002, the FBI had an arrest warrant out for Awlaki for a low-level passport fraud. He'd already been linked to numerous web sites as a serious Al-Qaeda recruiter. He's highly educated in both engineering, theory and education; moreover, he's fluent in English and he uses his religious speeches as a recruiting tool for any wannabe Jihadist.

Yet, his 2002 arrest warrant was dropped by the FBI on a "technicality."

Awlaki has also been very influential in the United Kingdom within radicalized sects of young Muslims. He has been banned from the UK since around 2004 after having numerous ties to al-Qaeda and other radicals.

He is currently in Yemen and believed to have survived a recent attack from US-backed Yemeni forces. If he indeed survived, what better place than Yemen to continue his focus on recruitment and even operational terrorism.

Yemen has been dealing with political unrest and civil war for over a decade now. It is a very poor nation - a nation where approximately 60 percent of its population is under the age of twenty. Talk about a recruitment bonanza!

Yemen's government, like many portions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, lacks control of portions of its nation. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Cabinet are trying to unite this religiously polarized nation - a nation that has been ripe for terrorist activities since before the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

Yemen is afraid of too much US involvement, especially any military presence. The leadership fears the US military will enliven al-Qaeda and other radical fundamentalist groups. Yet the Yemeni government needs outside help.

Like many Middle Eastern countries that are poor and struggle to control its population, Yemen needs assistance. The country's geography is rough, much like Afghanistan's. They need helicopters to be able to traverse the mountainous terrain to track terrorist training camps that are in at least two southern provinces.

 Yemen is one of a handful of places around the globe that has become fertile ground for continued hatred and terror for the US and other western countries where, according to fundamentalist propaganda, 'infidels' rein.

More troubling is the fact that he's become the de-facto leader on the Arabian Peninsula where he has reinvigorated the terrorist group 'Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula' - or AQAP. This new terrorist training outpost has become a magnet for non-middle eastern youth.  These sometimes disaffected youth come to learn the Arabic language and study the Koran, but end up being pawns in an ever-growing chessboard of strategic jihad.

Awlaki must be stopped. He should be categorized as the No. 3 target of al-Qaeda for the CIA.