The Cabinet Merry Go Round begins

The headline on Drudge is that Attorney General Eric Holder will be stepping down. The odds on favorite according to the Washington Post is Janet Napolitano, the former Governor and Attorney General of Arizona, who would be leaving a tainted Department of Homeland Security.

At State, it seems Hillary Clinton will be leaving post-haste, with either John Kerry (D-MA) or U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice as the favorites. One way or the other, we’re screwed. Kerry has been central to the mess in Afghanistan, which we can expect to blow up in our faces next year while Rice was the President’s prime interlocutor in the Benghazi fiasco.

The rumor is that Timothy Geithner will be replaced by Goldman Sachs (there’s that name again) Suzanne Nora Johnson or Erskine Bowles. Either way, once again we’re in trouble.

Leon Panetta is out of Defense as soon as possible, with juniors Ashton Carter or Michelle Flournoy named as the possible replacements. The knife is out, so the President seems to want a henchman (or woman) more than anything else as he winds up Afghanistan. Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is also in the mix. This would signal an even stronger shift against Israel as Hagel has repeatedly shown his antipathy. Unfortunately the world has become a much more dangerous place, and we will, I think, be sorely tested.

Steven Chu and Lisa Jackson at Energy and the EPA respectively are looking to leave as well. I must assume that their commitment to Green Energy, carbon taxes and the important work of saving the planet has waned mightily.

The stable door is open and the horses are bolting. The names of the replacements do little to assuage the concerns of a very concerned electorate.

One of the problems one has as a poor leader is in attracting the top talent. The Woodward book is damning. Being an outsider in the Obama administration is a form of gelding, and unfortunately the country is the loser. It is going to be a very long four years.

Bush vs. Obama – Disaster Edition

There is another strange disconnect just before this election. As some New Yorkers dumpster dive and many Jerseyites spend another cold night without basic services, the president has been bouncing across the map like a pinball trying to shore up his election chances. What is more strange is how the press have given him a hall pass for doing so.

In 2005 in the aftermath of Katrina, the media made it its mission to blame Bush for every hiccup in the relief efforts. Whether it was the response of the National Guard or the New Orleans Police or FEMA, it was “Bush’s Fault”. On the other side of the Mississippi though, Governor Haley Barbour and his team quietly went about rebuilding his equally damaged state and never was the breakdown in leadership in Louisiana mentioned.

In New Jersey this week non-union power crews were shunned and went to Pennsylvania instead. 1,000,000 homes and businesses are without power in New Jersey. Rescuers are still finding new victims as of this morning.

400,000 homes and businesses on Long Island are without power with temperatures in the 30′s and 30,000+ are homeless in New York City. There are few if any television cameras. The election is sucking up all the air time.

The President on the other hand left the White House this morning for stops today in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Colorado. He will not be back in Washington until Tuesday night. How can he have time to deal with the crisis if he is spending all of his time campaigning?

And the response from the media? crickets……

A new storm is moving in on New York and New Jersey and temperatures are in the icebox. Hundreds of thousands of people need shelter now. Would that the media might hold the President’s actions up to scrutiny, but we can be certain that isn’t going to happen. They have proven themselves completely partisan.

What will it take to force the media to do their job? How many people will have to die before they shine the spotlight on the limited efforts and engagement of our government?

Krugman’s harmonic dissonance on UK economic policy

Paul Krugman today ripped into the British Government’s efforts to get the country’s economy back on track, calling austerity fundamentally mad. As one of the world’s most prominent Keynsians I am not surprised, but as a rational thinker I am deeply disturbed.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has also expressed her reservations regarding deep government cuts. And yet profligate spending policies without corresponding balance have drained government coffers around the world and we are standing on the edge of a deeper crisis than in 2007 based upon exactly the economic policies so strongly advocated by Mr. Krugman. The fundamental rule that at some point governments run out of other peoples money has still not sunk in.

John Maynard Keynes was reacting to the Great Depression when he formulated his policies and they began to be implemented. His work on government stimulus assumed that  structural deficits were acceptable in the short-term but did not address a long-term in some cases running for decades with interest compounding along the way.

The postwar economic boom funded the extension of the social welfare state. Huge and incredibly expensive promises were made that Mr. Keynes would not have comprehended. Keynes argued that nations avoid deflation even at the cost of allowing their currency to depreciate in order to keep internal prices stable.

But now we are faced with core commodity inflation. There simply are not enough resources to go around. There are deep structural changes occurring in the global economy.

Both the ECB and Federal Reserve have been running the printing presses at an accelerating rate which has set off the first salvos of currency wars. Mr. Krugman and respectfully, Ms. Lagarde have also failed to note the results of expansive monetary policy and public spending in their host country. The Yen continued to rise in value from the ¥180/$ level of the early 90′s to ¥78/$ today, making their economy uncompetitive. The massive shift of manufacturing in China partially driven by the currency shift not only in Japan but elsewher has also had a deep impact on the pillars of the global economy.

Since the early 1990′s after the Japanese banking collapse, that government has engaged in a Keynsian stimulus program aimed at reviving the economy. The Great Tohoku Earthquake was in many ways another Keynsian  economic event, but the result has still been deeply damaging economically. Imports are cheap, but there are no jobs and the debt burden of the Japanese government is growing, not shrinking.

Japanese national debt as a percentage of GDP is the highest in the world with the United States and the UK right behind. This is financed primarily by Japanese savings, which mitigates the damage somewhat, but the reality is that the government is still teetering on the edge of its own abyss, but simply owed to its rapidly aging citizens, who are now putting an even greater strain on retirement funds.

The horrific debt of the United States was one of the other primary topics of the IMF meeting.

While Keynes argued for government spending to even out the depths of financial crises, the constant reliance by modern governments on public debt not only creates the environment in which we find ourselves, but sucks the oxygen from private capital markets where the real engines of growth reside.

Krugman has been hectoring world leaders for more stimulus for the past year just as he has ignored the economic realities staring him right in the face. The bill must eventually be settled and government does not create value; it simply redistributes and regulates economic activity.

He has gotten the stimulus he sought in the world’s two largest economies; Europe and America. But he seems to have forgotten the study of history. Massive stimulus is a very limited weapon with unintended consequences.

The news out of this weekend’s Tokyo meeting is not good. There are many brushfires in the global economy and the tinder for a major economic event is very dry. Every night I pray for some answer, for if we do not find new answers, we are doomed to repeat the past.

 

Twitiots threaten riots if Obama loses

The media has begun to pick up stories of thousands of Twitter tweets threatening riots and mayhem should Barack Obama lose the upcoming election. Among them are:

“If obama dont get re-elected & romney wins .. on life every white persons getting pistol whipped and im startin a riot.” (SOURCE)

“If Obama don’t win lets start a riot so Romney know what he’s getting himself into.” (SOURCE)

“You know you ain’t shit if you gotta “MAKE” Mafukas vote for ROMNEY ! …. Mannnn OBAMA better get back in office . Or BLACK FOLKS will riot.” (SOURCE)

“If Romney wins im goin on a rampage.” (SOURCE)

“If Mitt Romney wins the election I think its our duties as Black folks to riot and fuck shit up.” (SOURCE)

“If every action IS met with an equal and opposite reaction ..what should workers do to employers if Romney’s elected? #Riot in the streets!!” (SOURCE)

“If Romney becomes president let’s all start a riot.” (SOURCE)

“I Heard Mitt Romney , Tryna Take Away Food Stamps , If He Do .”IMA START A RIOT , IMA START A RIOT.” (SOURCE)

“If romney wins, imma start a mf’n riot! Rns.” (SOURCE)

If Romney wins I’m Starting a Riot….Who’s WIT ME???”

“I Hope The USA Is Well Aware That If In The Event This Character Romney Wins The Election, The People Will Start A Country Wide Riot! #Power”

“If Romney is elected president, its gon be a riot its gon be a riot.”

“If ROMNEY GETS IN THE WHITE HOUSE …U MIGHT AS WELL KILL ME NOW …..CAUSE ITS GONNA BE A ************ RIOT !!!”

“If Romney became President and took away welfare Downtown Cincinnati would become a riot”

“If Romney takes away food stamps 2 Chainzz in this bit IMMA START A RIOT”

“If Romney wins. (which i highly doubt) THERE WILL BE A RIOT—”

In this age of instant communication there is no mute button for the most inane comment, much less insane. In this age of Homeland Security where a huge surveillance network is now in place and hundreds of millions of rounds of small arms ammunition have been purchased recently by government agencies ranging from Homeland Security to the Weather Service and police departments around the country are better armed than the Belgian Army, it is foolish to say the least to make such comments.

Having experienced Watts first hand and the Rodney King riots from nearby, mob violence is a terrible thing and hurts those communities most which can least afford it.

The only solution is for leaders in the communities affected take to the internet and the media to condemn such action forcefully now.  Such idiocy needs to be nipped in the bud. We are all Americans. We are all Americans together and want the best for our country.

We face difficult times and tough choices, but we can only succeed if we work together in our mutual self interests. The language of division and demagoguery have already taken a toll on civil society. It is time to grow up and get back on track.

 

A Disengaged President

There has been a strange turn in the last few weeks as we have learned more about what gos on in the White House and the political and personal isolation the President has created. In Bob Woodward’s latest book, “The Price of Politics”, the Woodward describes a president antagonistic to his opponents to a toxic degree and who has distanced himself even from his own party leadership. Woodwards describes a “monumental communications gap” between the President and House Majority Leader John Boehner at the critical moment in the 2010 budget negotiations.

Then, the New York Times ran an article regarding the President’s response to the Arab Spring in which he is described as having distanced himself from Arab and Middle eastern rulers and leaders, engaging them through intermediaries and minimal direct contact. This is especially strange in view of his attempt to engage the Islamic world when he spoke at Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2009.

That he did not consult with any of those leaders prior to pulling the rug out from under Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 sent our relations in the Gulf into the freezer.

We were told early on in the Obama Administration that the President had surrounded himself with a highly loyal cadre, and at the same time we have seen an unprecedented number of czars reporting directly to the President and subverting the normal communications channels.

His complete disengagement with the loyal opposition in Congress is also an established fact. But when you are not talking to your own people, that becomes a real problem. This includes his various and sundry Cabinet members and advisers as well. His truancy at national security meetings is legendary.

Last night in the first debate we once again saw a disengaged president. He was ill prepared, disjointed, and quite obviously off of his game. Prior to the debate, the party spinners were out in force reducing expectations, but it is generally agreed that the first debate was a disaster for the President.

The President is more comfortable, it seems, campaigning and schmoozing. Neither requires real engagement and speaking to worshipful audiences roaring their approval is a great salve to the ego.

The country has at different times had a number of presidents who have for reasons of health been unable to completely fulfill their obligations. Wilson after his stroke and Ronald Reagan in the latter half of his second term come to mind. At a critical time in his administration, Wilson was unable to campaign for his greatest program, the League of Nations and for a less onerous treaty with Germany after World War I.

But President Obama is a man in the full flower of life at an age when his achievements could have been herculean. Instead as Mr. Romney pointed out last night he instead placed all of his prestige and wasted his political capital on a highly unpopular health care bill that was one of the most imperfect pieces of legislation in our history.

The one thing a president has is access to the most remarkable set of advisers and data in the history of our planet. And yet with all of these tools at his disposal, he has made a conscious decision to be remote and to go it alone.

Mr. Obama himself argued for the Lincolnian “team of rivals” when he formed his own cabinet and yet has done more end runs around his Cabinet than any of his predecessors.

The Presidency is the loneliest job in the world. It all comes down to one man’s decision. But to isolate oneself as the President has done is to create an echo chamber where decisions are made in a vacuum. As this is a very dangerous thing. Consensus and consent are critical to any major decision, and while the President’s party has marched in lockstep, very little has been accomplished because of the polarization that originates at the top.

It’s not just about policy. It is also about the ability to do the job effectively, and in this, the president has failed.

The Best Post Debate Quotes

“Did the president send out his body double tonight?”  – Time Magazine

“Mitt Romney came in with a chainsaw. ” – James Carville

“If Romney keeps this up…Obama is going to vote for him!” – Michael Moore re-tweet

“This is what happens when u pick John Kerry as your debate coach.” – Michael Moore

“Romney was able to ‘out-Obama’ Obama. On the connection piece, on the authenticity piece, on the being able to tell the story.” – Van Jones

“This is a rolling calamity for Obama. He’s boring, abstract, and less human-seeming than Romney!” – Andrew Sullivan

“He choked. He lost. He may even have lost the election tonight.” – Andrew Sullivan

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter.” – Bill Maher

“When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,”  – Barack Obama

“When you go to 5,000 feet and you only have a few hours to adjust — I don’t know, maybe”… – Al Gore

“But here’s the great news for Republicans: We have a candidate who is going to do extraordinarily well on Wednesday night, the first time he has the opportunity to stand on the same stage as the President of the United States.” – Chris Christie – September 30

“The debate was a wipeout.” – Chris Christie – October 3

“Where did the favourite go?” – Le Figaro

“I don’t think anyone has spoken to him like that in four years. He lost, It was a surprise to us all.”
- David Gergen
“Obama could barely look at Mitt Romney” – Gloria Berger
“Last night, I watched Barack Obama morph into Adlai Stevenson, I had the particular advantage of seeing the debate in a bar in my fair state of Ohio, at a “watch party” organized by the local Democratic Party.  I heard two to three faint cheers during the debate and then silence and private conversations as the hour and half proceeded. Obama lost most of that local audience that he should have energized.” – Kevin Mattson
“We have our knives out! We go after the people and the facts! What was [Obama] doing tonight — he went in there disarmed!” – Chris Matthews
“I personally do not know who won this debate.” This means . . . yeah, Mitt won. He beat the hell out of Obama.” – Rachel Maddow
“OK, so Obama did a terrible job in the debate, and Romney did well” – Paul Krugman

Obama “created a problem for himself on Social Security tonight. He agrees with Mitt Romney.” “I was absolutely stunned tonight.” – Ed Schultz

“Obama came across like a man who would rather have been watching basketball on TV at the White House or even authorizing new drone attacks.” – Der Spiegel

The real meaning of the Camp Bastion attack

On 9/11, the Taliban, in an operation most likely planned and supported by the Pakistani military, executed their own version of a SEAL Team assault of Camp Bastion in the middle of the Afghan desert.

Camp Bastion was placed in a Godforsaken place so that no one could easily assault it. It is a huge, sprawling base with British, American and other ISAF compounds. From a few flights per day 18 months ago, the base now handles 600 missions per day ranging from helicopter assaults to resupplying COP’s to close air support to C-17′s flying in troops and logistics directly in from the UK or States. As Joe Biden would say, it’s a big f’ing deal.

So somehow a Taliban assault team of approximately 17 troops managed to blow a hole in the 30′ high double fencing, drive across the base to the U.S. Marine Harrier squadron’s area of operations, and then blow up most of that same squadron while killing its commanding officer and several others.

It was a one way mission regardless with 17 virgins at the end of the line, but it was textbook planning and execution that set it apart. Our military would have known this 30 minutes after the last shot was fired and people at Eighth & I and Quantico would be encountering severe gastroenterological problems passing large clay objects through their systems.

And yet our president and our media skipped over it like it never happened. No one from the White House met the coffins as they  arrived at Dover. They would just as soon forget it ever happened.

But the fact is that our enemy launched one of their most successful assaults on our forces on the anniversary of 9/11 and it’s like it never happened. Funny how that works with this administration. Orwellian, even.

There is no cry for retribution or even investigation. There has hardly been an acknowledgment from either the White House or the Pentagon. We knew where, generally, the mission was planned within 48 hours and perhaps even who planned it. This kind of operation has fingerprints all over it and the after action reports on our side would have been thorough.

This, combined with the assassination of our ambassador in Libya, was a coordinated effort by the Salafists to regain the initiative and instead we are entertained by commercials on Pakistani networks paid for by our embassy with the President and Secretary of State calling for reason with the crazies.

The enemy has the measure of our leadership and finds it perfectly suited to their agenda.We can expect more, and more daring assaults as the date for withdrawal draws near.  Sun Tzu and Machiavelli are bywords for strategy and tactics, and instead we have the My Little Pony School of Leadership at the highest levels.

The criticism of our nation’s policy in the Middle East is now coming from experts on all sides and yet the President and his sycophants have rather successfully covered up probably the worst week of the Global War on Terror in 10 years.Instead, it seems from his actions in the aftermath that he is pursuing his own global war on our own objectives.

The indecisiveness when General McChrystal begged for more troops for the Surge; the refusal to confront Pakistani complicity and support for the Taliban and their allies; even the almost complete refusal to pursue the narcotics traffic responsible for 95% of the heroin that scourges the West; how much more pathetic can it get?

The Camp Bastion attack is a symptom of what has been wrong with our strategy in Afghanistan for a very long time. From the withdrawal from engagement with the Afghan people to the sprawl and waste to the Pollyanna power point presentations and restrictions on engagement to the refusal to pursue the enemy to their safe havens, this is no way to run a war.

Wars are on or they’re off. There is little or no middle ground. This war has been on autopilot for a very long time and as troops die or come home missing limbs, our leadership has failed both their trust with them and with ourselves completely.