Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Time to 'Kill-It'

I woke up from a unique dream last night on the eve of Barack Obama's Health Care Summit:

Remember the John Grisham novel that spurred the 1996 movie 'A Time to Kill?' And how Samuel L. Jackson portrayed the character Carl Lee Hailey - the man who shot and killed two White Supremacists in the courtroom after they allegedly brutally raped his 10-year-old daughter and left her for dead?

And how Matthew McConaughey played Carl's good friend and lawyer - Jake Tyler Brigance?

Well picture Obama at the HC Summit with the select few invitees sitting around the now-renowned square-shaped table in Blair House. With C-Span cameras rolling, and millions of Americans watching, Obama walks into the center of the arranged tables and asks everyone to please close their eyes. And in his best Obama dead-pan, instructs the cavalry of media: " guys too," pointing to the reporters, "you're all part of this...close your eyes." After some curious looks and some rustling amongst the crowd, Obama presciently and meticulously launches into his best Jake Brigance impersonation and tells the narrative of America, with its broken down health care system.

The president puts a human face on the story. He is able to smash preconceived notions and peel away the many ridiculous partisan innuendo that clouds the narrative. Everyone is listening intently, to his every word. He has a captive audience - a national captive audience at that.

And on cue, the main stream media breaks in from their regular broadcasting schedule for this palpable moment. Obama continues with his story, sounding like Morgan Freeman narrating a Pyrrhic Victory, and explains all that is fundamentally wrong with the system and does it in a way that crashes through the partisan bickering.

Soon thereafter, Congress, sullen from this awakening, promises to have a "come-to-Jesus meeting" and resolves to pass a bipartisan bill that will put the people first.

Fiction and Hollywood, I know, but one can only dream.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Obama on Jobs: 'Health Care, Health Care' and Prince Harry

Back in early February - Tuesday the 2nd, to be exact, President Obama and Air Force One touched down in Nashua, New Hampshire. His White House schedule had him visiting a medium-sized company that engineered and manufactured LED light technology. The headline event for Obama, after earlier visits to Elyria, Ohio and Tampa, Florida, was a Town Hall meeting in one of Nashua's quaint High Schools.

Mr. Obama delivered his, now very honed, post SOTU stump speech to the white and blue-collared New England crowd. He rolled up his sleeves after his ten-minute speech and took questions.

However, the questions were all about health care.

Likewise, today, in Henderson, Nevada, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- NV) alongside, the President basically re-tweeted his New Hampshire and Elyria, Ohio speeches.

Obama was highly criticized after his SOTU speech - especially after the administration showed remarkable tone deafness regarding the Scott Brown 'Mass acre.' Thus, with introspection and trepidation, Mr. Obama subtly swung to the middle. But more importantly, he claimed - chief economic adviser Christine Romer claimed - Press Secretary Robert Gibbs claimed - and David Axelrod claimed that jobs were our number one priority.

Ya think?

Yet, inexplicably and under the guise of subterfuge, Obama boomeranged back to the merits of passing health care. When asked by a lifelong Nevada resident about the loss of jobs in the air line industry, and how she and her co-workers were all laid off from United Airlines, Obama, incredulously, tried to link health care to her plight.

Indeed the upcoming and much-awaited February, 25 (bipartisanship) Health Care Summit is around the corner. Thus, Obama is priming the pump and is strategically herding the Republicans into a corner.

With unemployment in Nevada around 13.5%, and with 1 in 4 homeowners in some fashion of foreclosure, the president continues with his intractable focus on health care reform. According to a Rasmussen poll, 61% of respondents say Congress should scrap the health care bill all together. Likewise, 19% of voters say it is only somewhat likely that the Democrats and Republicans will agree on a bipartisan health care plan this year. More telling is that 80% think it is unlikely to pass at all.

And although month-over-month job losses are shrinking vis-a-vis mid-2009, this is one of the worst jobless recoveries in history. With less people in the workforce, employees are working harder. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal productivity in the U.S. is up 6.2% for the fourth quarter of 2009. However, there are still 14.8 million Americans unemployed as of January, 2010.

More troubling is the rate of unemployment for teens and blacks - 26.4% and 16.5%, respectively. Vice-President Biden and the Obama administration have continually touted job creation at 2 million; all of these 'created' or 'saved' jobs were because of the Stimulus Plan (The Recovery and Reinvestment Act). However, even the White Houses' own Web site shows only 655,00 jobs created.

The job situation is only going to get worse before it gets better - all economic indicators as well as anecdotal evidence point to that conclusion.

Don Peck, of The Atlantic, writes in his March, 2010 article about the effects of joblessness:

"There is unemployment, a brief and relatively routine transitional state that
results from the rise and fall of companies in any economy, and there is unemployment - chronic, all-consuming. The former is a necessary
lubricant in any engine of economic growth. The latter is a pestilence that
slowly eats away
at people, families, and, if it
spreads widely enough, the fabric of society.
Indeed, history suggests
it is perhaps
society's most noxious ill."

Obama and company spent thirteen months pursuing health care reform in Congress - all to the detriment of millions of Americans who are out of work or are underemployed. If you promised that jobs and the economy were your top priority in 2009 and you did not deliver, why are you repeating your mistake and ignoring the people again in 2010?

Besides, does anyone really believe Obama's visit can catapult Harry Reid to victory in November? The president's magic sure didn't help in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

TOP TEN Reasons Why Tiger Woods is Holding a Press Conference Friday:

10. He's been really Pumpin' Iron a lot lately and wants new potential 'babes' to see his Guns.
9. The Golf Channels' ratings are tanking during Olympics.
8. He wants to announce to the world that he is the new de facto leader of the Tea Party.
7. He wants to come clean about his one-night-stand with Rielle Hunter (aka mistress #17).
6. He wants to brag about the $2 million he donated to the Haiti relief fund.
5. Jesper Parnevik dared him to.
4. Wanted to reinforce idea that HE still controls the media.
3. He wants to announce his newest sponsor: Viagra!
2. Elin told him to get the F*#$ out of the house!
1. To announce that he was chosen to be next season's Bachelor!

TOP TEN Jobs Created by Obama's Stimulus Plan:

10. White House hires a Social Media maven to teach Press Secretary Gibbs how to use Twitter.
9. 'Snowmaggeden' brings the most shovel-ready jobs to the east coast since FDR's New Deal.
8. Umar Farouk Mutalleb was 'Mirandized' creating 1 defense attorney and 500 White House PR folk.
7. Allusions to Scott Brown's Chevy pick-up truck spurs hiring of additional shift of employees at GM truck plant.
6. 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' agenda will SAVE US Military 13,478 jobs.
5. Web site cost approximately $18 million to create.
4. Ellen DeGeneres gets hired on 'American Idol,' but keeps her day job.
3. Biden's one idea: Move 'Jersey Shore' from NYC to Miami Beach and give Snookie a makeover.
2. Tea Partiers hold conventions, town hall meetings and marches throughout US - Denny's and Motel 6 Ecstatic!
1. The White House buys GM and Chrysler!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'Writers' on the Storm

Since its inception, the publisher and writer(s) of the political Web site have remained a mystery.

And like all good mysteries, I am going to make a stab at debunking all of the rumors and go: Bernstein and Woodward on finding out the identities of these pol scribes (I dare not use the ridiculous James O'Keefe investigative journalism tactics, however).

I know that they registered their DE2010 site on January 8, 2010 at GoDaddy! I also have a very strong hunch that these Op-Ed guys (or gals) are most likely from downstate - probably Sussex County.

Here are some of my first educated guesses:

Patrick Jackson?
Dave Burris?
Friends of thy Honorable John Carney

More to follow. I still need to cull bits and pieces of clues from their 'comment' posts (e.g., the one recent post from amerada hess asking the administrator on a presumptuous date at Toscana's). Hint: "BTW...Where's Toscana?...I'm not familiar with that place?" tells me you're not from New Castle County.

At any rate, the site is a fun place to go for Delaware politicos. If any readers have any more clues to divulge about the publisher/writers of said Web site, please post them in the comment section below.

Bayh's Damnatory Departure

Perhaps Michael Moore should revisit the old movie classic: "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," and do a sequel: "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington..It Sucked...and Thus Went Back to Indiana."

Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind) knew he would be vilified after his press conference where he announced to a stunned nation that he's had enough of Congress - especially the partisanship and gridlock. This two-time Governor of Indiana knew he would have detractors from all sides, given the gravity - and especially - the timing of his announced departure.

After all, the Democratic Party, as well as the Obama Administration, are barely firing on three cylinders as it is.

And before Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine, along with Obama and his inner circle of strategists can stop the world from spinning for a moment, they will have to develop a real game plan, lest this administration ends up resembling a certain peanut farmer.

Mr. Bayh is following his heart. After all, is there really a good time to quit anything? Political Science professors, colleagues, pundits and bloggers alike are quickly writing their very own narrative. That is the game in Washington. Win. Lose. Or quit. It doesn't matter, someone will tell you why your decision ruined their life or made it grand.

Ultimately, Bayh's real message is the one in which he's been trying to make for a while now: We should be solving problems and we should be civil servants, not fodder for journalists, bloggers and broadcasters. Arrogance and polarization aren't welcome during such trying times.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I'm a Little Teapot...

...Short and stout
Here is my agenda
Here I spew my spout
When I get all pissed off
Hear me shout:

Give me lots of money
So we can vote them out!

While the Washington, D.C. area is being pummeled with what Barack Obama calls Snowmagedden, another storm of sorts has materialized over Tennessee.

But unlike the high winds and piles of snow back east, Nashville, Tennessee is hosting its very own climatic event - the first-ever Tea Party Nation Convention. Grassroots types need not apply, however. And that is one of the characteristics of the storm enveloping the Volunteer state.

You see, the "official" TPN organization is a for-profit operation. Judson Phillips, a little-known Tennessee trial lawyer, along with his wife Sherry Phillips, have clashed over what constitutes the core Tea Party movement, and more importantly, who should guide it and how.

Four of the early organizers of Phillips' TPN event have resigned in protest. Moreover, these grassroots organizers have created their own convention to counter the perceived shift away from the very essence of its being - that of a grassroots movement. Joe Q. Public doesn't care about fancy Surf-n-Turf dinners at a glitzy Opryland hotel, they want a voice.

According to reporting done by Kenneth P. Vogel of the web site Politico:

The coalition recently held its own, less lavish convention at which it
formalized a mission statement drafted by 58 delegates from around the state. It
states "our objective is to restore the United States Constitution to that
direct authority which our Founders, and the Consent of the Governed, originally
intended," and calls it "the duty of the governed to take back the reins of
control, and to remove the shackles forged by our own apathy, that have chained
our Liberty."

The language in that last sentence sounds vaguely familiar. Sounds a lot like a certain pundit on Fox News - the one who "didn't go to college," and the one who claims "I've been really reading a lot of history lately" about our country and its founding.

And the part about "restore the United States Constitution to that direct authority which our Founders, and the Consent of the Governed, originally intended," sounds like the typical straw man argument which people sometimes fall prey to.

It's also instructive to know that, since the so-called Main Stream Media (MSM), has treated this TPN convention with what could only be described as contempt, there are around 40 MSM folk at the convention. In fact, C-Span and Fox News are televising keynote speaker Sarah Palin's speech in its entirety.

And speaking about what most right-leaning bloggers would label the MSM, Andrew Breitbart's, notwithstanding, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has all but bought the pitch forks and torches when talking about the Tea Party movement. His favorite pejorative retort is "Teabaggers," or simply "Baggers," when he is especially incensed.

Politicos' Vogel reported yesterday that Olbermann, opining about the TPN's lead-off convention speaker, Tom Tancredo, a former congressman from Colorado and Republican presidential candidate, declared, American values are under siege from the "cult of multiculturalism," as well as "Islamification," and asserted President Barack Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country."

It's no wonder why the Tea Party grassroots gang is upset now. 1) They aren't the type of folks who pay $539 to attend a grassroots convention; 2) the whole reason for having a grassroots Tea Party is to keep the Washington establishment out; 3) and analogous to another Juggernaut first-ever convention - the Daily Kos convention for bloggers in Las Vegas in 2006, there is a real anger that is sometimes palpable as to the relevancy of today's MSM.

The New Yorker Magazine recently wrote about the Tea Party and who is attempting to co-opt it. It's becoming apparent that maybe the new, Gang of Four, who rejected the movement on the grounds that the MSM is too involved, and views the national Republicans, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann alike, as Carpetbaggers to the movement. A closer look at the Nashville Convention reveals a Fringe Element as well.

Thus, in the second stanza of this famous children's jingle:

I'm a clever Teabagger
Yes it's true
Here let me show you
What I can spew

I can shape my audience
Hear me shout:
I am Glenn Beck
And that's what I'm about!

Toyota's Tumult Requires 'Leadership Moment'

Toyota Motor Corp. was built on two principles: that the customer always comes first; and, a Zen-like passion for excellence, using a systematic approach to manufacturing and production - The Toyota Production System (TPS).

The TPS is now a world-renowned system. It is followed, in varying iterations, across a myriad of sectors of society; it is utilized in hospitals, multi-national sales organizations and even governments cull bits and pieces of this ingenious system that strives for excellence one small fix at a time. 'Continuous Improvement' is the goal - not every week or even every day, but every minute.

From Bombay to Buenos Aires, the TPS has increased productivity, decreased cost and, more importantly, increased quality. Over one-hundred books have been published on the subject.

Japanese engineer Taiichi Ohno is the pioneer who developed the system. And Eiiji Toyoda, the Japanese industrialist who would champion and lead the "Toyota Way,' would encourage such philosophies.

Flash forward to now. Toyota is facing what was once thought of as inconceivable - failure. Failure of quality, failure of safety and failure of one of the most important tenets of the Toyota philosophy - failure to protect the customer because of the lack of problem solving. In fact, Toyota's system of waste elimination, just-in-time delivery, visual management and built-in-quality has always been so good that they rarely have had to deal with such a public relations and management crisis.

4.5 million vehicles have been recalled across the globe. Worse, the original problem of gas pedals sticking because of improperly designed floor mats, has morphed into an actual mechanical problem with the pedal mechanism itself. At times, it seemed as though the grand masters of engineering and problem solving weren't exactly sure what the problem was. And before Toyota's team could get out in front of the story, the problem became what advertisers refer to as going 'virile.'

Now the venerable icon of smart engineering and green technology - the Prius - is having brake problems. Toyota sold 270,000 Prius' last year, but has yet to announce an official recall.

Talk about stop-and-go marketing.

Toyota has been clawing to become the world's No. 1 automaker for over a decade. They tirelessly did everything possible to ascend to the crown which General Motors held for more than half a century. Toyota now sees the torment in what was their unwavering redlining to draft the Chevy's and Pontiac's for so long. Toyota has slingshoted themselves into the lead. But at what cost?

The 'Quiet' Giant Speaks

Toyota President Akio Toyoda finally addressed the media regarding the recalled vehicle crisis. Even the Japanese media and government have voiced their displeasure with Toyota's handling of the problem.

The top Nikkei business daily said in a editorial that "words are not enough." The reporter also said that "The company's crisis management ability is being subjected to severe scrutiny." Another criticism came from the nationwide Asahi newspaper which calls Toyota's delayed reaction to the crisis "Utterly too late." It says, "The entire world is watching how Toyota can humbly learn from its series of recent failures and make safe cars."

Mr. Toyoda promised to beef up its quality control and said he would head a special committee to review quality checks, go over consumer complaints and listen to outside experts to develop a fix. That last comment is unprecedented. Imagine the President of Toyota Motor Corp. asking for 'outside help?' In the annals of engineering and problem solving, for Toyota to have to ask for help is heresy. The Japanese just don't make blunders such as these.

To be sure, this will be a leadership moment for Toyota. They have a unique opportunity to show the world what real leadership is. Remember how Johnson & Johnson dealt with the Tylenol crisis? It was genius - tell the truth, do what's in the best interest of the customer and develop a robust containment plan - a Toyota Commission of sorts - to answer any and all critics. After all, the best defense is a good offense.

Since its founding in the early part of the 20th century, Toyota has been anything but a stalwart company - it has redefined entrepreneurship and innovation. A whole South Korean automobile industry has grown out of Toyota's trailblazing efforts. In fact, Toyota's simple, but disciplined approach to manufacturing and production has changed the world in many ways

Thus, only by keeping the customer first and by learning from a large-scale failure, Toyota will hold true to its overriding principles: 'People' and 'Quality.' Hopefully Mr. Toyoda can live up to this 'Leadership Moment.'

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Hampshire Revisited

President Obama touched down in the bucolic and quaint town that is Nashua, New Hampshire late Tuesday afternoon. He is in campaign mode again, visiting this small, but very influential state in which many see as a microcosm of America.

After visiting a medium-sized company on the outskirts of town, Obama's security detail whisked him to the Nashua High School gymnasium where hundreds of citizens awaited. He was there to espouse his plan for job creation, much like he outlined in Tampa, Florida and Elyria, Ohio earlier.

The thing is, he keeps repeating himself.

Mr. Obama must've had a real affinity for his SOTU speech, because he keeps summarizing the Populist tones from the aforementioned speech over and over again - oftentimes using exact quotes. Of course today was groundhog day, so...

After what looked like another professorial speech that sometimes bordered on lecture, Obama in his new inimical way, was incredulous. He then proceeded to, figuratively and literally, roll up his sleeves before invoking a town hall Q&A session with the 'folks.'

We waited to hear some piercing questions for the president from the crowd. The first question came from a woman from Fairfield, Connecticut no less and it revolved around jobs. The woman had explained how she was a three-time cancer survivor who managed to "be one of the lucky ones" and was able to retire before her illness greatly affected her livelihood.

But she wanted Obama to give her an answer about how to grow jobs. Yet, Obama, after a sentence or two of congratulatory praises, inexorably thrusted himself into a fifteen minute answer as to why health care reform was necessary. It almost seemed as though this woman was a "plant" who was pre-scripted to throw Obama a leading question that would've propelled the president into the direction of HCR.

The president never once answered the substance of the original question.

Obama did not grow up surrounded by wealth and opportunity. And even after graduating from Harvard Law School, Obama was compelled to give back to the 'people.' He was a community organizer and often did pro-bono work for the Legal Aid Society, as well as lending his hand to other socially-minded organizations.

Yet, somehow, Mr. Obama comes off as an Elitist. In fact, he is worse than an Elitist - he's an ineffectual Elitist. Thus, unless he inculcates himself with strong actions and not just bloviate with tired rhetoric, he will continue to lose the adulation of the very electorate that propelled him into the White House. The 'folks' are getting antsy.
President Barack Obama does deserve some latitude given the Katrina-meets-Haiti type of environment he finds himself in.

To be sure, no president, Republican, Democrat or Independent, could've risen from the ashes like a Phoenix and simply "waved his magic wand" for all to marvel at. No, that would've been a ridiculous proclamation to assert otherwise.

Greek tragedies aside, Obama is devoid of the scarcest of all characteristics - leadership.