Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday's Top Ten (31Jan2012)

10) Enjoyed the debut of HBO’s new series Luck last night. Though I needed to see it twice to make sure I caught everything.  Great cast, great acting, but I just can’t by Rain Man as a mobster; especially with Dennis Farina playing his driver.
9) Hope our boy Gronk is close to 100% for Sunday.  If not, Pats will need to come up with Plan B.  Things to watch for: turnovers, 3rd down conversion rate on defense, field position.
8) Romney’s negative numbers continue to worsen as he runs a negative campaign.  Recovering from bad negatives is a lot harder than carpet bombing a nomination rival.  He will find out how difficult it is when the real campaign begins.
7) Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas has every right to say what is on his mind.  But when he turned an honorary visit to the White House into a political statement he made the story about him and not the team.  That’s not what a team player does.  Further, if you are so opposed to the policies of this nation, perhaps you should return your 2010 silver medal to the USOC.
6) With the pathetic performance by Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation last Sunday during the heinous attack by RNC chairman Reince Priebus on President Obama, I am now down to This Week and Fareed Zakaria GPS as the only Sunday Talk Shows I will watch regularly. 
5) How bad a candidate is New Gingrich?  His moon colony isn’t his worst idea.
4) The Susan G. Komen Foundation has lost a significant amount funding, goodwill, and love from its supporters as a result of this politically motivated decision to drop its grant to Planned Parenthood.   Last year Planned Parenthood received $680,000 from SGKF, I believe that public donations from ordinary citizens will offset that loss.
3) Latest Rasmussen Presidential Approval Poll showed 51% approval rating versus 48% disapproval for the President.   This is remarkable considering the numbers were 43%/56% on December 1st.
2) Mitt Romney is afraid of releasing other tax returns because it will show that he may have paid close to 0% in taxes during the down years in 2001 and 2008.
1) I do not believe there is a cooler character on TV than Raylan Givens portrayed by Timothy Olyphant on FX’s Justified.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Diggapedia Recap: A Baker’s Dozen

1)      Today on CBS’ Face the Nation Reince Priebus called President Obama Captain Schettino on multiple occasions and then laughed.  The utter lack of respect from the head of the RNC is appalling.
2)      The Tennessee Tea Party wants to revise textbooks and curricula because of criticism of the Founding Fathers.  Yes apparently it is improper to teach “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the Founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites.”  In other words, Palin-Bachmann revisionist history.
3)      Newt Gingrich alleged that Mitt Romney lies.  Still no stunned silence from the people in response to the allegation.
4)      Jan Brewer took the heat off fellow Governors Barbour, Christie, Walker, and Scott thanks to her finger pointing at President Obama.  Ugly and mean as a Javelina.
5)      The GOP continued is poorly veiled attempt to sway voters by suggesting Marco Rubio (Senate-FL) or Susana Martinez (Gov-NM) as potential VP choices.  Pandering and denigrating all in one.
6)      Shocking news that bank executives were warning this week again of dire consequences to the global economy as a result to new global regulations on proprietary trading new reserve requirements.  Yeah, tough to take these guys serious after 2008-2009.
7)      Paula Deen took a lot of grief after disclosing she has type II diabetes.  But is that any worse than Ralph Alvarez is retired president and chief operating officer of McDonald's Corporation sitting on Eli Lilly’s board?
8)      According to the Economist, the richest 25 hedge fund investors earned over $25Billion in 2009.  They paid taxes at a 15% marginal rate.  Buffett Rule Now.
9)      Mitch Daniels was George W. Bush’s Budget Director from 2001 – 2003.  During that tenure, tenure with a GOP controlled Congress, a projected $236Billion surplus became a $400Billlion deficit.  And this guy was criticizing President Obama and Democratic spending?
10)   Newt Gingrich has amassed some pretty significant endorsements: Rick Perry, Todd & Sara Palin, and Herman Cain to name a few.  By significant, I mean “yeah these mental midgets will really help you get the nomination”.
11)   Newt says he is a leader because he has vision.  That’s part of it, but leadership requires inspiring a shared vision.  Newt’s vision doesn’t inspire as much as it induces mocking.
12)   Seal Time Six was on the scoreboard again during a hostage rescue in Somalia.  Yeah, they’re that good.
13)   Two more GOP debates brought President Obama closer to re-election.

My Letter to Face The Nation 29Jan2012

To Whom It May Concern,
I have been a faithful viewer of your program for a number of years and have always commended host and moderator Bob Schieffer for his performance.  I also realize that news stories and current events will dictate the show’s guests in any given week.  So while I was disappointed to see no coverage or analysis of the President’s State of the Union address, I did understand the need to cover the crazy and wild rollercoaster that the GOP primary season has become.
That being said, I find it inexcusable that your guest, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, was allowed to call President Obama ‘Captain Schettino’ on multiple occasions without a single rebuke from Mr. Schieffer.  Worse, Mr. Priebus seemed to enjoy the moment as he laughed at the notion of the comparison.  I do not need to explain to you the overt allegation made by Mr. Priebus, but what I expect from you is condemnation and apology for allowing a political operative to accuse our President of cowardice and dereliction of duty.
On the week you debuted the 60 minute broadcast, you may have gained 30 minutes, but you lost this viewer.  I venture I am not the only one.

Regards,
Eric Resnick
Scottsdale, AZ.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sunni and Shia: So who are the bad guys again?

Baby faces vs. heals?  Cowboys vs Indians?  Good guy always where the white hat.  “Dig is he a good guy or bad guy?”  Bad guys always, looked, well, bad. You’re either with us or you’re against us.  Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are the axis of evil.
Americans, for the most part, have a pretty simple outlook on conflict: just tell us who the bad guys are and we’ll know who to root against.  We tend to lump similar races and peoples into larger buckets, mostly due to the media’s inclination to treat us like potential Jeff Foxworthy competitors.  But the world is anything but simple and as I have written previously, the Middle East is as confusing and confounding place as you can find.  During the Iran and Iraq war of the 1980’s most Americans took the position that “…as long as they kill each other, I’m good.”  When civil war ravaged Afghanistan, we joined the side of the Mujahedeen because they were fighting the Soviets and the Soviets were our archenemy, a position they occupied since the end of World War II.  When the U.S. led coalition threw Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invaders out of Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm, most Americans did not appreciate, and neither did some of our leaders, the centuries old schism that was again reaching boiling point within Islam.  This Shia versus Sunni conflict has been prevalent in Islamic society pitting Muslim against Muslim for centuries, and we stepped right into it.
The 9/11 attacks thrust America right into a world we didn’t understand.  Americans are better equipped to dealing with conflict on the national stag:  Japan, Germany, Soviet Union, etc.  We don’t do so well with tribal, ethnic, and religious nuances.  On September 15th, 2001 Mesa, Arizona gas station owner Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh from India, was fatally gun downed by Frank Silva Roque in retaliation to the 9/11 attacks.  This was one of many retaliatory attacks against Americans or residents due to ignorance, racism, and stupidity.  I am not condemning America, it remains the greatest nation on earth, but we are ignorant of the world around us; a tragic flaw in the hyper connected globalized world we live in today.
We live in a world of nuance that we view through a black and white lens.  This is why the Arab Spring, an awful name, is so confusing to us and why our leaders may seem slow to react to events on the ground.  
Let’s start with the political lightning rod: Israel. Full disclosure, I am a staunch supporter of the Israeli people and the state of Israel, but an open critic of the Netanyahu government.  The majority Americans see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something I have written about extensively, as a matter of the Jewish Israelis against the Islamic Palestinians.  Jew versus Muslim.  Israeli versus Arab.  But it’s not that simple.  Legally and morally the two-state solution is the right thing to do, but politics and religion will not allow that to happen, and having previously analyzed Israeli politics I will focus on Palestinian politics and Islam.  The more moderate secular Fatah runs the West Bank while the Islamist Hamas runs Gaza the status quo since the 2006 elections that led to the expulsion of Fatah from Gaza.  Within Gaza, there are a number of other Islamist and Salafist factions that have no interest in a two state solution, because they don’t recognize national autonomy, only religious dominance.  This divide amongst the Sunni Palestinians remains a roadblock to a peace treaty with Israel, a fact that is neither lost on nor remains unexploited by the Netanyahu government. Fatah, receives funding from the U.S. and other western governments as reward for seeking a peaceful solution.  Hamas is funded, supported and supplied via the resurging Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and from its benefactors in Shia Iran.  Wait, hold on.  Shia Iran supports Sunni Palestinians?  But I thought they hated each other?  Iran’s goal was always to feed the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran is not an Arab country another common misunderstanding, as a distraction to its greater goal of regional domination over its major Sunni adversaries in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, and the other oil-rich Arab gulf nations.  But the Iranian influence on Hamas is waning due in part to the Muslim Brotherhood emergence in post-Mubarak Egypt, Hamas has always viewed itself as the child of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the decline of the Hamas presence in Syria due to the implosion happening under the al-Assad butchery of his own people(more on that later).  Iran has even reached out to Islamic Jihad, a rival to Hamas in Gaza, to possibly usurp the usurpers and allow Tehran to regain influence.  So far those advances have not materialized because of the power struggle now occurring within Hamas.  Hamas’s political leadership is located in exile in Syria and is led by Khaled Mishal and it’s Mishal that has made overtures to Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas about reconciliation.  Meanwhile in Gaza, Hamas’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is now looking to reconcile with Islamic Jihad to continue the conflict with Israel.  Syria is becoming a noxious effect within the Palestinian rivals and as a reuslt Iran is losing influence.  How bad has it become for Iran in Gaza?  25 Shia’s living in Gaza were beaten by Hamas security forces for gathering to mark the 40 day mourning period of Hussein, the Muhammad’s grandson and heir apparent murdered in 680AD.  Yes events that occurred over 1,300 years ago still dominate this Muslim on Muslim conflict.
Meanwhile in Syria, an opposite effect is occurring.  The Sunni majority is rising up against the Alawite, a Shia offshoot, minority power base of Bashar al-Assad.   Iran has supported the al-Assad regime and between the two Shia dominated states, they have peddled influence in Lebanon through Hezbollah and, as previously stated, in Gaza via Hamas.  But that could all unravel when al-Assad’s regime meets its inevitable end.  The problem will be what fills the vacuum?  Months after the demise of Gadhafi in Libya, his supporters still fight on and the infighting between different rebel factions continues.  Stability is still a long way off.  As bad as the Libya situation is, it pales in comparison to what could happen in Syria.  Between Shias, Alawites, Sunnis, Christians, Kurds, and Druze plus the nationalistic objectives of Iran and Turkey plus the security concerns of Lebanon and Israel we are facing a cauldron of strife, death, instability.  It is not a reach to say that an imploding Syria will likely take Lebanon with it as the powerful Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah could find itself battling resurging Sunni and Christian blocs, each with similar proportion of the population. 
Take all of the above and throw in a nuclear aspiring Iran and you can see why the region grows significantly unsettled.  The rift between Shia and Sunni is as violent as ever.  On December 5th Sunni bombs killed 30 Shias in Iraq and 55 more in Kabul.  During one week in January, 19 more Shias were killed in Iraq, 21 were killed in Pakistan, and 53 Shias were killed in Basra, Iraq.  In Egypt the resurging Sunni powered Islamists have been persecuting Coptic Christians and Shia minorities, and in faraway Java, Indonesia, Sunnis torched Shia property.  Mix in the ongoing unrest in Bahrain and Yemen and suddenly you realize what have we walked or stumbled into with our forays into Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. 
Do you want to know how crazy it really is?  Shia websites in Pakistan are now claiming that Sunni Al-Qaeda forces are collaborating with U.S. Armed Forces to destabilize Iran and Syria.  Al-Qaeda?
Ok, so who are the bad guys again?

Friday, January 27, 2012

The GOP needs a bigger clown car

So Gingrich likes to call the President the ‘Food Stamp President’.  I am not going to comment on the veiled racist tone of this charge, but instead look at the facts.  Yes facts, more people were put on food stamps during the Bush administration.  By the way Newt, when an economic disaster happens due in part to the policies you now espouse driving more people into poverty, yes that does result in more people going on food stamps.  And quit making food stamps into this vile and detestable program.  When failed millionaires like Donald Trump can frequently file for bankruptcy protection thanks in part to this nation’s safety net program it is troubling that a candidate for President would deny a similar safety net to regular Americans.  Newt is bad for America.
Jan Brewer succeeded in getting back to the majors.  Her behavior during President Obama’s visit to Arizona proved once again that this cabal of Republican politicians wants to deny the President’s legitimacy.  A sad day indeed for Arizona and America.  Nonetheless, I am enthusiastic about our State Senator Kyrsten Sinema who now seeks to represent the newly created ninth congressional district in DC.
After another debate and the President’s recent successes, I am more confident in my 310-228 prediction this November. 
Do the GOP candidates realize how silly they sound when they attack President Obama’s foreign policy achievements?  Not since FDR has a President accomplished more on the global stage.
Any chance Arianna Huffington and Michael Moore will self-deport?
Newt Gingrich got punished like the Stay Puft Marshmallow guy at the end of Ghostbusters.  Mitt’s new debate coach clearly had his new student ready.  Yeah, Newt got Gronked.
Finally, President Obama took a lot of heat over the stimulus; it worked, because the proposed employment gains that were touted by his economic team were not realized in full.   This forced the President’s team to take the position that things would have been worse without the Stimulus.  Unfortunately, proving the negative as a campaign slogan is not a sunning formula.  But, now we see the GOP, especially Romney, are dangerously close to falling into the same trap.  Yes, the Republicans are now claiming that President Obama has hampered the recovery.  So, the GOP now has to admit that things are turning around, but find themselves trying to prove the negative that it could be better if we didn’t President Obama. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

If I were writing the State of the Union Address

The President will be delivering the State of the Union Address on Tuesday night.  Here is some unsolicited advice of areas to focus on.

Affordable Care Act
The President should reinforce to the public the benefits of the Affordable Care Act already implemented such as:
·         Medicare is expanded to small, rural hospitals and facilities
·         Insurers are prohibited from dropping policyholders when they get sick
·         Insurers are prohibited from excluding pre-existing medical conditions (except in grandfathered individual health insurance plans) for children under the age of 19.
·         Dependents (children) will be permitted to remain on their parents' insurance plan until their 26th birthday and regulations implemented under the Act include dependents that no longer live with their parents, are not a dependent on a parent’s tax return, are no longer a student, or are married
·         Insurers will be required to spend 85% of large-group and 80% of small-group and individual plan premiums (with certain adjustments) on healthcare or to improve healthcare quality, or return the difference to the customer as a rebate
Iranian Containment
The President should share his success with containing Iran through the groundbreaking comprehensive sanctions package he is seen through including Iranian oil embargo by Europe and Japan and the sanctions against central banks that conduct business with the Iranian counterparts.  This use of international diplomacy and the show of might by our Navy’s Fifth Fleet when it passes through the Strait of Hormuz is the proper right-left combination of projecting power.  As long as Russia and China resist the international community, the greater the chances they will also find themselves isolated.  Yes, neocons, this is what you call a coalition and with it the flow of oil and goods continues to occur through the Strait of Hormuz.

GM Rebound and US Domestic Vehicle Demand
The President should note that the decision to save General Motors and Chrysler not only saved millions of jobs, but also saved Ford as all suppliers of critical and complex components would have gone out of business too.  They payback is already happening as GM regained the top spot in global sales, but the true payback is yet to come.  The average age of the US automobile is 10.8 years and the projected sales in 2015 will top 17million vehicles.  Doesn’t it make sense to have these cars built my US companies and US workers?

Employment Trends
While we have a long way to go, in 2011 the private sector added 1.9million jobs, many in the quality-jobs sectors of healthcare and manufacturing.  This is in stark contrast to when the Republicans ran the White House and we were losing 700k jobs/month.  Do you want to go back to those dog days of 2008? 

Combating China
Once again, the US without having to launch a war or overtly threaten a sovereign nation, has built a coalition in the Pacific amongst Australia, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, and other nations to combat Chinese expansionism.  The best part, the US reaffirmation as a Pacific nation looks like it was the idea of the countries of Southeast Asian and Australia.  That is brilliant diplomacy that keeps the Chinese in check and on the defensive while keeping shipping unfettered.

Size of Government
The President should isolate and embarrass the GOP controlled House by stating how he has asked Congress for the powers to consolidate several federal departments and save the country $Billions.  He should note that while the GOP worries about going after Planned Parenthood and PBS, real tax savings for Americans and government spending reduction is being held up by partisan politics.

I would also suggest the President reinforce his commitment to the Middle Class, Woman’s Health, Free trade agreements, infrastructure, and tax reform.  Tax reform that eliminates the advantages the super-rich were experiencing under the Bush rules while preserving the purchasing power of the Middle Class.

That’s just my opinion, I might be…..right?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mythology

Myth: Charter schools are the answer to our education system woes.
Myth: Tenure means we have the best teachers
Fact: Public schools that reward the best teachers will yield long term results

Myth: President Obama is a socialist
Myth: Government determines what cars GM will make
Fact: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler all experienced double digit sales increases in 2011

Myth: Stimulus of 2009 failed
Myth: No tax cuts were included
Fact: Stimulus worked and we averted a depression

Myth: President Obama has appeased Iran
Myth: Iran wants nukes to threaten Israel.
Fact: President Obama’s international collaborative approach has brought Iran to the table while keeping Israel under wraps.

Myth: President Obama is not a US citizen
Myth: President Obama is a Muslim
Fact: President Obama is an American born to an American mother and Kenyan father in Hawaii.

Myth: Dodd-Frank is a job killer
Myth: Affordable Care Act is a job killer
Fact: Jobs were killed because we had NO financial regulation and ACA creates jobs

Myth: If we drill more oil domestically, the price will go down.
Myth: Keystone XL Pipeline will create 50k jobs
Fact: Oil is traded on exchanges and prices go up and down based on global supply, demand, and shocks.

Myth: President Obama hates Israel
Myth: President Obama is pro-Palestinian
Fact: President Obama has stood by Israel at the UN, has sold weapons systems to the Israelis that Bush refused to sell, and his call for a two state solution is on the same borders as every US President.

Myth: President Obama has added more debt than any other US President
Myth: Simpson Bowles failed because President Obama didn’t approve it
Fact: Ronald Reagan increased debt/GDP more than any other President and Simpson Bowles never made it to the President’s desk because Republicans Camp, Ryan, and Hensarling rejected the proposal

Myth: Debt reduction can be accomplished by raising taxes on the rich
Myth: Debt reduction can be accomplished by reducing discretionary spending
Fact: It will take tax increases across the board and spending cuts across the board to balance a budget.

Myth: Ronald Reagan never raised taxes
Myth: Today’s Republican Party would nominate Ronald Reagan
Fact: Reagan raised taxes, increased spending, and increased the size of government, all of which would be anathema to today’s GOP.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Republican Criticism of President Obama: Vile and Empty

I am not na├»ve and I understand politics is a dirty game.  I refer to it as the politics of politics; the dirty unseemly underbelly where if you think Richard Hatch, Boston Rob, and Russell Hantz of Survivor fame were mean manipulative operators, you haven’t even stepped into the kiddie pool.  It’s a nasty game; it’s MMA with knives and chains and the California cop with the 1 gallon pepper spray can.   But still, there needs to be a level of class and respect.  Boxing is a vicious sport, but there are still rules. 
Nastiness in politics is not a new phenomenon.   In 1964 the Johnson campaign ran the infamous mushroom cloud ad against its opponent Barry Goldwater. The ad ran once, and while the ad never mentioned Goldwater, the message was clear: Electing Barry Goldwater could lead to nuclear war.  Republican operator Lee Atwater dominated the 80’s in the attack ad world and went as far as to claim that voting for Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988 would lead to rapists and murderers being released from our nation’s prisons.  In 2000, the George W. Bush campaign launched a vicious attack on fellow Republican John McCain during the South Carolina campaign implying illegitimate children and mental illness. But that is nothing in comparison to the unwavering attacks on the President; attacks that have nothing to do with policy but are simply unveiled attempts to portray him as unfit to lead.  What’s worse, I am not talking about some unemployed overweight wife-beater wearing meth cooker in a Nebraska trailer park with dial up connection for his website.  I am talking about the formal and informal leaders of the right.  Some of these claims are poorly veiled attacks while some are overt unadulterated venom.  Gingrich, Huckabee, Palin, Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, Malkin, Coulter, Perry, Cheneys, Kristol, Krauthammer, Trump, and the Roberstons have all taken direct and indirect shots at President Obama’s citizenship, religion, patriotism, background, education, and allegiance.  This is unheard of and unprecedented; opposition leaders challenging the President’s patriotism?  I can think of no charge as serious as questioning the patriotism of the Commander in Chief, and I can’t imagine the toll it has taken on the President and his family.  To make matters worse, there has been no dressing down by Republican Party leaders to denounce this denying of his legitimacy and denigration of the office.  In my eyes, the Republican Party is permanently marked with this shame, and I mean the whole party.
When I listen to this current crop of Republican candidates, I am struck by their language.   To say the future of America is at stake, that the President is importing a European socialism, to imply he has weakened our nation, and to insist he has failed as a leader are not critiques of a President’s policies, they are veiled personal attacks, attacks on the legitimacy of the sitting President.  I know it’s about serving the reddest of the red meat to the reddest of the red states.  But you know what, just like viewers of Fox News are the country’s most uninformed (backed by scientific data); those that listen to these candidates will believe everything and anything.   
Gingrich says he wants to debate the President on the issues.  Great, but in Newt’s bloated head, discussing the issues means throwing out terms like social engineering, Kenyan anti-colonialism, food-stamp president.  No Newt, issues are the role of government, fiscal management, energy policy, education policy, and the role of America in the new hyper-connected global landscape.
 As for Romney, you will get no sympathy from me about getting attacked on the out-of-context comment about firing people.  Yes, you got screwed.  But you deserved it after your campaign pulled the same stunt with President Obama just weeks prior.  Further, your attacks on the President are baseless and even when they have a hint of fact in them, you sully yourself with the, once again, lack of context.  Either you believe or don’t believe that President Obama took over a horrendous economic state. If it’s the former, then when you make a claim that more jobs were lost under President Obama in the first 6 months than any other President, you are being disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.  Worse you have no moral code.
All the Republicans have are false generalizations when the facts and data support the President.  They love to claim the stimulus was a failure, yet John McCain’s own 2008 campaign economic advisor, Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi said "The stimulus did exactly what it was intended to do. It was intended to end the recession, jump-start the economy, and it did that.”  They will tell you that the President has failed miserably in dealing with Iran and yet we have Europe, Japan, and others working in concert with us to cripple the Ahmadinejad regime WITHOUT empty threats and US invasion.  The President was called a socialist when the government stepped in to save the U.S. Auto Industry and in 2011 General Motors led the world in vehicles sales and projections show significant sales increases over the next 3 years.
So please GOP candidates, challenge The President in the issues, like you say you want to.  But, you can’t and won’t because it’s a battle of wits and you guys are empty handed. Ultimately, these Republicans rely on the dirtiness and the nastiness because they cannot win on record or achievement.  They can’t compete against President Obama on ethical issues, foreign policy, justice, and achievements.
And that sadly weakens America when the opposition has become nothing more than a tabloid.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fear and Greed: The Republican Playbook

I think I know why it is so difficult for me to like Republicans.  They’re unlikeable.  I know, you are probably saying “Wow, that’s some serious Socratic shit there my man”.
There is a saying in business to the effect that people are best motivated through fear or greed.  Some managers believe threats of lay-offs will motivate people to work harder.  This is especially effective in down periods of an economy when it is an employer’s market and jobs are not plentiful.  Similarly, greed can also motivate through the form of exorbitant bonuses or one time awards to maximize performance in the short term or in a burst mode.  This is often seen in trading and never better exemplified than in the 2011 movie Margin Call where all of a firm’s traders will be out of a job at the end of the business day and in order to get them to dump some toxic mortgage backed securities, management incentivizes them with $millions of bonuses for one day of aggressive trading.
But, both fear and greed have very short half-lives.  Yes, it is possible to get some impressive results in the short term, but in the long run these two motivational tools can cause serious harm if they are used repeatedly and arbitrarily.  You can whip a horse or kick a dog only so many times before he just takes a dump and says ‘up yours chief.’
Conversely, understanding what motivates employees over the long haul will create long term value and employee engagement.  There have been hundreds of studies conducted on motivating employees and developing an engaged workforce.  Most point to a workforce that feels:
·         That someone is looking out for them
·         Their opinion matters
·         They are being treated with respect
·         They have an opportunity to grow
·         The company mission makes them feel as if their job is important
This representative list is not about fear and greed, there is no carrot and stick, but there is belief and hope.  I am no Pollyanna. Twenty six years of private sector work starting as an entry level engineer to an executive you see things for what they are.  Fear and greed are the cornerstones of a culture that can create wealth but no value.  Hope and belief creates sustained value and shared wealth.  Fear and greed are fleeting, belief and hope is unrelenting and universal.
So what does this have to do with Republicans and conservatives?  Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been one group constantly trying to find us a new enemy.  Yes this new breed, these neoconservatives or neocons, have moved on from fighting communists to finding our next enemies that we must fear.  Did al-Qaeda attack us on 9/11?  Absolutely, but these neocons have been on an all-out assault on the world’s largest religion.  Gingrich has been leading the assault on the threats of Sharia law to the American way of life, but offers no facts to back up that wild assertion.  Our way of life is under assault from the radical Muslim.  The war on Judeo-Christian dates back to the Crusades, but this time the future of the world lies in the balance.  Yes citizens of America be afraid be very very afraid.  Oh, and watch out the ‘brown invasion’ from south of the border will end our way of life as Caucasians become a minority in America by 2040.  Build a wall, arrest and deport them all.  Save America.  We are at a critical junction in American History and in order to save this great republic and American exceptionalism we must not re-elect President Barack Hussein, probably Muslim, Obama.
Now thanks to the sarcasm and snarking of the likes of Sarah Palin, the ideal of belief and hope has been mocked and ridiculed.  But you know what? It is exactly those tenets that fuel this nation.  Why is a dollar worth a dollar; because people believe in the full faith of the U.S. Government?  Our economy is driven by 70% consumer spending which accelerates when folks believe things are getting better.  Yes, hope and change were a campaign slogan but great periods in American history coincide with an engaged populace.  When a leader is looking out for the everyman, not the rich man; when a leader inspires a nation to believe in a vision, not fear a foreign challenge; when a leader treats his employer with respect and not disdain.  That’s hope and faith, and that’s how you lead.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekend tweet highlights and other stuff from team Diggaduh

Sunday Night Wrap Up
Remember in GoodFellas how Paulie and company takeover & then milk the restaurant for everything then torch it? Sounds like Bain Capital to me.
Thought I was watching CBS Undercover Boss but it turns out it was a 30 minute Super PAC ad about Romney.
Sunday night was the Golden Globes night; brought to you by the Hollywood Foreign Press: The trinity of Conservative horror.
Jim DeMint is chickenshit. He won't endorse before the South Carolina Primary. Does Nikki Haley have your balls Mr. Senator?  The so-called kingmaker must be waiting until after the coronation to endorse someone.
Rick Perry's campaign is in so much trouble his Super PAC was downgraded to Mediocre PAC.
Tim Tebow prays while Rob Gronkowski hangs out with strippers and porn stars. Devil had scoreboard Saturday night.
Texas believes a woman should have an unnecessary ultrasound before having her legally protected abortion, proving once again that social conservatives want the biggest government possible to help enforce their crackpot morality.
Mark Hanna, the famous political fixer and boss of the late 19th century "The three most important things in American politics are money, money, & I forget what the other one is.”
I’d love to see the Republicans take the Obama Administration to court over the recess appointments.  Yes, let it play out in the press as unemployment stays high and Boehner and his caucus worry about a few appointments and not jobs.
Did you know Mississippi has the highest rate of church attendance and the highest murder rate?  Gay marrying liberal Vermont has the lowest murder rate?  Massachusetts, the great bastion of secular liberalism, was the 1st state to legalize gay marriage and has the lowest divorce rate. So do me a favor Social Conservatives, Family Research Council, and the rest:  instead of shoving your moral bullshit down my throat, why don’t you shove it up your ass.
Who is the 1%?  On a global basis, an individual earning $34,000/yr would qualify for the 1%.
Since 2004, the rate of birth defects and childhood cancer in Fallujah, Iraq is at 14.7%, possibly due to the depleted uranium and white phosphorous munitions used by American forces.  That rate is higher than Hiroshima after WWII.
Does the Republican electorate really like its choices?  Apparently not.  58% of primary voters say they want more choices while only 37% are satisfied.  Can you say enthusiasm gap?
Why does increased poverty matter?  Data suggests that children born into poverty are at a higher risk of ADHD.
Auto industry analysts are predicting U.S. domestic light vehicle sales will increase from 2011 sales of 12.6m to 14.7m in 2013, and 16.2m in 2015.  Good thing we have an auto industry.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What is the role of government?

What is the role of government?
That question, above all, separates the political silos that span the spectrum from communist to free market capitalists.  The communist model includes central planning and distribution where the government provides a societal pool of goods and services available to all no matter of rank or station.  Theoretically, the government makes sure all goods and resources are distributed evenly based on everyone contributing at government controlled wages and prices.  The communist government ensures wages are paid, healthcare, pensions, and education are provided, and production quotas are met.  The state owns all industry, controls the media, and will mandate birth and population controls.  In the free market, prices are determined by supply and demand and the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts. Property is privately held and all production means are under private control. In the free market economy only the market participants regulate the markets. The government plays a neutral role in its administration and legislation of economic activity, neither limiting it nor actively promoting it. Socially, the free market is often linked to libertarianism and freedom of choice for citizens.
What about the USA? What about our representative Republic?  Our system of capitalism is a far cry from communism and not as close to the free market as some would hope.  Since the adoption of our Constitution on September 17, 1787 and over the course of this country’s history, the role of government has expanded during times of existential threats and to correct social injustices; sometimes for the better and sometimes not.  Excessive government intervention has often occurred under the guise of national security: the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, Japanese internment, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and the Patriot Act were all examples of the Federal Government expanding its authority as a response to real and imagined threats.  Often governments will rise to defend the rights and opportunities of the general populace against the ruling class or industrial barons.  Theodore Roosevelt, America’s first great Progressive President, and Woodrow Wilson were at the forefront of the Progressive Era from 1880 – 1920 government, where Democrat and Republican alike, enacted new legislation to improve education and food, drug, and work place safety, fight corruption, enable labor unions, break up monopolies and oligarchies, and improve medicine, treatment, and healthcare.  Of course to pay for all of this, the government needed funds, and those funds came in the form of taxation, specifically the 16th Amendment that created the Income Tax.  Of course not all Progressive ideas were in the best interests of the nation including forced birth control, eugenics, prohibition, and immigration controls.  Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society also led significant expansions of government including the establishment of the Social Security Administration, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Civil Rights Act, and it was the Republican presidency of Richard Nixon that gave us the EPA and Title IX in the 1970’s.  The power of the Federal Government in the form of regulations started to diminish in the late 70’s through 2008.  Airlines, banking, and environmental regulations were weakened or flat out eliminated to spur economic growth and promote free market principles, all with mixed results.
That is a very concise review of some of the major points in government expansion in the 20th century and the most recent contraction of some of those powers.  But should government be providing healthcare coverage and pensions?  Should the government be acting as the defender of social justice to level the playing field for the disabled, minorities, the poor, and the persecuted?  Why does the government offer rebates and subsidies to certain industries or businesses? Should government let the market manage itself?  Wouldn’t competition be the best police by allowing the consumer to choose?  Are monopolies a threat?  At what point does government intrusion into the lives of citizens became excessive? 
The Constitution is marvelous document and it up to our courts to decide with the support of a multitude of case law to interpret the legality of rulings against the law of the land.  The key thing in any judicial ruling is interpretation; I mean how can a judge know what the Constitutional framers intended?  Is a 200+ year old document relevant?
While not legally pertinent, the preamble of the Constitution offers what I believe is the spirit of the document and the role of government.  Still open to interpretation, the preamble imagines a land where the government enables its citizens to live freely without overly encumbering them:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
My interpretation can be boiled down to these highlights:
·         Defense of the country is the responsibility of the federal government
·         Government would ensure that its citizens were not victimized
·         The federal government would prevent intrastate and interstate conflict
·         The federal government would protect its citizens from external and internal forces bent on harming the republic.
But what real power does the government legally have? Can the government mandate that citizens purchase health insurance?  Can government incarcerate its citizens without charges during times of war?  Can the government order a woman to get an unnecessary ultrasound before proceeding with her legally protected right to abortion? At what point does the government assume the general welfare supersedes the individual right?
There is significant distrust in government today (Tea Party) and the signifcant distrust in the market (OWS).  Does the government create an unnatural imbalance when it offers subsidies or rebates to certain companies in certain industries?  Did the government have the power to intercede in the automotive industry?
I am a left leaning post-modern with progressive tendencies who does like walking on the beach but hates Pina Coladas. I want my government to provide for my defense, but I will not sacrifice my liberty in the process.  My government must fight for the little guy against the power of the corporation.  I do not want my government interfering with a woman’s rights nor do I want it telling a company where it can make a product as long as it is going to do it safely.  I worry that every time the government steps in to right a wrong it will have unintentional consequences, but I am willing more often than not to take that chance.  I want my government to do what is necessary to protect this planet and make its citizens competitive in this hyper-connected world.  And I want my government to not be wasteful.
This is a complex situation.  Socioeconomic policies and theories when looked through the purest lens in a laboratory never look like what they become in the wild.  It is up to government to tweak the policies and systems so that they are adaptable to the times and environment.   I like my government, I don’t sweat the little stuff but I worry about the big stuff.  But most of all, I want a government that allows me to do what I just did, agree and dissent.  And for the record, I trust social conservatives and free market fanatics the least. I don’t trust my government and I don’t trust the free market because they are run by men, and men are far from perfect.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Some Dinner Leftovers

Adam Sandler wins a People’s Choice Award for Comedic Movie Actor.  I guess that explains the Iowa Caucus.
The Neocons led by the Family Cheney and John Bolton say President Obama has been a foreign policy failure.  That’s like saying Michael Phelps can’t do the dog paddle, Meryl Streep needs acting lessons, Aaron Rodgers throws too many interceptions, and U2 will never last.
When Rick Santorum has sex, do you think he still wears the sweater vest?  And only the sweater vest?  How did that bile taste?
When it snows in the Northern Israeli Golan Heights what do kids use for a yarmulke on their snowmen?
So the Iranians have moved to Chapter Three of the instigation playbook: using speedy gunships to antagonize our bigger Coast Guard Vessels.  Fellas here some advice from my mom, ignore them and they will go away.
So Tea Party mouthpiece, CNN rightie, and unabashed Progressive Hater Dana Loesch thinks criticism of the Marines who urinated on dead Taliban fighters from the left is worse than the actual desecration.   How do you debate such illogic?
I can’t remember the last time that the crop of movies for the awards season has been so weak.  Cars 2 may get an Oscar nomination.
Season 2 premier of Shameless was last weekend and it was as fantastic as last season.  Apparently word of mouth has worked for the show too.  Viewership is up 50% from last year.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer says she won’t fight the federal government any longer and will allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open.  Brewer figures a stoned electorate is her best hope of a successful administration.
President Obama’s request for Congressional approval to consolidate several agencies is brilliant.  If the House says no they play into his hands as not being for smaller government.  If they say yes, they play into his hands by giving him something he wants.
Nine Eurozone nations had their debt ratings lowered today by S&P.  How soon until Germany annexes France and Austria?
Is it too late to get Donald Trump in the race?  The Reality show that is the GOP campaign is getting stale and needs a jump start.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday's Jersey Shore Free Tidbits

Did you know that Kim Jong Un is the younger son of the late Kim Jong-IL?  It seems the older son Kim Jong Nam was caught trying to enter Japan to visit Tokyo Disneyland  in 2001.  Nam now lives in Macau having a gambling good old time. 
The issue isn't how Bain Capital makes money.  You may not like it, but that's what private equity does.  The issue is how Mitt Romney is trying to portray it as something completely different.  Can’t run from your pass and can’t run from who you are no matter how much you flip flop.
Once again for those in the cheap seats: oil is a commodity traded in commodity exchange.  The price is set by global supply and demand.  Further, the U.S. hasn’t purchased Iranian oil since 1987, so when the issue about the Strait of Hormuz came up, it didn’t matter that we haven’t been buying Iranian oil, the perception was that supply could be adversely impacted and that drove the price up at the commodity exchange.  I’ll save a more in depth analysis for another time.
According to Popular Science, unmanned aircraft now make up 31 percent of the military's air power, a "40fold increase in the drone army" from 2005. According to a new congressional report, the U.S. military now has nearly 7,500 drones.   We have how entered the Drone Wars
Wal-Mart spent over #2Billion on advertising in 2010.  Who would have thought that saying Cheap stuff dirt cheap could cost so much. 
Can the Eurozone really survive?  Almost half of all Europeans trust their own country ‘a lot’ but only 20% have the same faith in other Europeans.  I guess when Germany blames Spain for killer cucumbers that actually originated in Germany, trust can become an issue.
The GOP already has a serious problem with the Hispanic community and it could very well be a significant factor in the November elections.  So what does the likely Republican nominee do?  He celebrates the endorsement of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kovach; the architect of the Arizona SB1070 anti-immigration law.  “I’m so proud to earn Kris’s support,” said Mitt Romney. “Kris has been a true leader on securing our borders and stopping the flow of illegal immigration into this country. We need more conservative leaders like Kris willing to stand up for the rule of law. With Kris on the team, I look forward to working with him to take forceful steps to curtail illegal immigration and to support states like South Carolina and Arizona that are stepping forward to address this problem.”  Yeah, that will help. 
The recent actions by the Europeans and Japanese to sever oil links with Iran are promising.  If other countries such as India, China, South Korea, and Pakistan cut or even just not expand their dealings with the Iranian regime, the pain will be significant.  The U.S. threat to sanction foreign banks dealing with Iran has also had the desired effect of bringing the Iranians to the table.  Yes, Republican chicken hawks, we call it diplomacy.
So now bankers in Europe, Asia, and now Canada are asking the U.S. not to enforce the Volcker Rule; the rule in the post financial crisis regulation prohibiting investment banks from proprietary trading.  The concern is that the rule could prevent some U.S. Banks from trading with other foreign institutions.  So the same guys (US Investment Banks) who nearly destroyed the global financial system, and the same guys (the rest of the world’s Investment Banks) who blamed the U.S. guys for nearly destroying the global financial system want to act like it never happened. 

I wrote this in November 2010. How did I do? How did he do?

I hope President Obama takes the initiative for the next two years; don’t be a politician, be a leader.  Inspire the nation with a vision of social progress (DADT and Immigration Policy) while laying out the necessary policies to keep the economy moving (short term stimulus) while reducing long term debt (entitlement reform and discretionary spending cuts).  You must be transformational: change the tax code, enable technology development, and eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy.  It will be tough medicine for Americans, but it must be done.   Tell the nation what it needs, not what it wants.  If you own the tactics by not delegating the work to Congress AND don’t allow the Republicans to take control of the dialogue, you will be successful.  Be Obama the leader, not Obama the politician. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Digganalysis of Romney Chances and Campaign

Some Quick Romney Thoughts:
·         He is clearly the class of the field and will wrap up the Republican nomination quickly thanks to deep financing and well organized campaign.  That has helped him in the preliminaries, but how will it match up to the even better funded and better organized Obama campaign.  To be the champ, you need to beat the champ.
·         Romney is already getting bloodied for his Bain Capital ties and is already identified as a Richie Rich.  This will make it difficult for him to connect to the same lower/middle income blue collar workers with whom Obama struggles to connect.
·         Romney has been promoting his ability to accomplish so much in the democratically controlled Massachusetts legislature as a sign of his track record of getting things done.  This smacks of compromise, the four letter word that sends the anti-establishment Tea Partiers into an apoplectic rage
·         Super Pac ads will hammer Romney for his $10,000 bet with Perry, his ‘I’m running for President for Pete’s Sake’ comment, his sound bite of firing people, his use of ‘fees’ as to avoid the tax word, and of course his signature healthcare legislation in Massachusetts.  The purpose isn’t to convince voters to vote for Obama, but to keep some Republicans and moderates home.
·         Romney’s VP choice will be interesting.  VP choices won’t swing voters to your side, but they can get you a higher turnout.  I think the talk of a Nikki Haley to get the women and tea party vote is DOA as is the Marco Rubio option to get Hispanic voters to swing to Romney.  At the end of the day, he will need to select a true vetted Conservative to be his running mate.
·         If Romney is forced on the defensive by a broad-based attack from Obama he will be in a difficult spot.  The President has the resources to wage battles in every battleground states and some pink states forcing Romney to defend a lot of turf.
·         I don’t believe religion will be a major factor, but it will be a factor in that it could keep turnout down from Evangelicals.  If this happens in any battleground states, he could be in trouble.
·         Finally, Obama still has Bill Clinton to call on to campaign for him.  Who will Romney call?

Sit back and enjoy the ride.