Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is President Obama Our Know Nothing President?

This is a list of what President Obama did not know until he read about it in the papers or otherwise learned of it after the fact, or so he says: The Justice Department investigation of AP and James Rosen, Fox News reporter Fast and Furious Benghazi, then and even now IRS harassment of the Tea Party Lack of shovel ready jobs “ NSA eavesdropping of foreign leaders, such as Angela Merkel Solynda The President didn’t know nuttin’ about nuttin’, not to mention how many states are in the United States. He once claimed to have campaigned in all 57 states of the United States with one or two to go. The President cannot be expected to know everything about everything in a government of this size, but he should be kept informed of major developments, even in his relentless pursuit of the perfect golf match, traveling on Air Force I to a vacation site, or in one of his eternal campaign swings. A good leader does not like to be hit by unpleasant surprises. Leaders will fire those who keep them uninformed. President Obama conversely has retained his advisors and cabinet members, thereby sending a message of approval of their actions. Secretary of the Interior said the President did not know of the problems with the ObamaCare website until a few days until its launch on October 1. The few tests before the October rollout illustrated major problems with the site. Yet apparently no one told the President as he touted the readiness of the website to the public that it was flawed. That doesn’t make sense, unless the testers and HHS were scared of telling the President that his “major accomplishment” had critical flaws. President Obama kept proclaiming for three years that we will be able to keep our insurance plans and out doctors eventhough his Administration knew three years ago that would not be the case. No one in his Administration apparently thought to have advised him against using these talking points over the next three years, even up to a month ago. The President claims to have learned of Fast and Furious, and most of these problems, from the media after the fact as we learned from them. The White House met 118 times with the Director of the Internal Revenue Service in 2010 and 2011, but but we are to believe the persecution of the Tea Party never came up. The Secretary of the Interior, the President’s Chief of Staff, and the White House Counsel knew of the Inspector General’s investigation of the IRS, but apparently none gave the President a head’s up on the investigation. The President was “shocked!, just shocked!” when he found out after the story broke. Not only did the President not know that Solyndra and other green energy companies were failing, having blown billions of taxpayer dollars, but he also continues to fund these companies. That’s not the sign of a smart leader. He still doesn’t know. President Obama promised that the Stimulus Bill would fund “shovel ready” jobs and projects until several years later when he said: “I guessed they weren’t so shovel-ready after all.” he wants a second stab at it with an infrastructure program. He’s willingly, blissfully ignorant of basic economics, not to mention history. Plausible deniability is necessary to protect any President, but the Obama Administration goes to the point of know nothingism.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Benjamin Netanyahu is the Winston Churchill of Our Generation

Prime Minister Winston Churchill is one of the greatest leaders of Great Britain. Benjamin Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. Their countries are the most stalwart friends of the United States with the United States and Great Britain sharing a “Special Relationship.” Yet, England, Israel, and Iran illustrate the tenets of the Obama foreign policy: smite thy friends and placate thy enemies. Sadly for America, England, and Israel, President Obama loathes our two closest allies. His personal dislike for Israel’s leader is well known. He stood him up in the White House when a 2010 meeting went nowhere. The petulant President stormed out when he didn’t get what he wanted. He stated “I’m going to the Presidential Wing to have diner with Michelle and the girls.” The President didn’t even offer crumbs to the Prime Minister. The young Benjamin Netanyahu spent many of his formative years in the United States. He received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from MIT. He understands the American people, but has to wonder about the current President. Prime Minister Tony Blair of England loaned a bust of Winston Churchill to the White House as a show of support and solidarity after 9/11. Churchill was made an honorary citizen of the United States in 1963. In addition, Jennie Randolph (nee Jerome), his mother, was an American born in Brooklyn. One of President Obama’s first acts as President was to package the Churchill Bust and send it back to the British. His Administration denied the return in July 2012, but was caught in a misstatement. Actually, it was a blatant lie. The theory is that the President believes British soldiers tortured his Kenyan grandfather. Speaker of the House John Boehner has ordered a new Churchill Bust to be placed in the Capitol. Churchill was a rising British politician, becoming in 1911 First Sea Lord, equivalent to our Secretary of the Navy. His career short-circuited when he sponsored the World War I disaster at Gallipoli in Turkey. He “wandered” the political wilderness in the 1930’s warning about Nazi Germany. He argued for rearmament. Few listened to Churchill as the British people were weary after the heavy losses during World War I. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain practiced appeasement with Hitler and boasted he had obtained “peace in our time.” He resigned as Prime Minister on May 10, 1940 after France fell to the Germans. Churchill was appointed his successor and rallied the British people to resist the Nazi jugglenaught when all seemed lost. His prescience continued after the war when on March 5, 1946 at Westminister College in Missouri he delivered his famous Iron Curtain Speech proclaiming “An Iron Curtain has descended across the continent” by Stalin and the Soviet Union. Prime Minister Netanyahu is in the President’s doghouse while the President seeks rapprochement with the Mullahs of Iran. The Israeli leader has twice spoken to the United Nations, a seabed of rising anti-semitism, about the dangers posed by Iran. He was basically met with the sounds of silence in the General Assembly. His September 27, 2012 speech to the General Assembly is known as the Red Line Speech. He said of Iran’s nuclear ambitions “At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” We know, of course, that a red line is a flexible concept with President Obama. He stated recently at the 40th Anniversary of the Yom Kipper War: “We can’t surrender the option of a preventative strike. It is not necessary in every situation, and it must be weighed carefully and seriously. But there are situations in which paying heed to the international price of such a step is outweighed by the price in blood we will pay if absorb a strategic strike that will demand a response later on, and perhaps too late.” Israel emerged out of the gases and fires of the Holocaust. It will not passively await such a fate today. President Obama will, of course, try to block any strike on Iran, and perhaps order the United States military to block one. Prime Minister Netanyahu and United States Secretary of State John Kerry met a few days ago in Rome for seven hours of talks. The Prime Minister wants the hard sanctions to remain on Iran while the President appears to be going wobbly to the dismay Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Mideast countries scared of Iran. Winston Churchill was not in a position to block Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement. Benjamin Netanyahu is in a different position today.

Monday, October 21, 2013

President Obama's Problems With ObamaCare

President Obama’s greatest problem with ObamaCare is that he cannot blame it on President Bush (either President Bush). He could claim it’s based on RomneyCare in Massachusetts, but the Governor was rejected by the voters last year. The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as ObamaCare, is the signature act of his Administration. If it fails, then he goes down with it. The next biggest problem for the President is that he didn’t know the details of the Bill. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could have been speaking directly to him rather than to Congress or the American people when she said: “But we have to pass the Bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” Congress and the President literally did not know what they were voting on in taking over 1/6 of the national’s economy. ObamaCare imploded before its time. It is doomed by its underlying economics: it was supposed to jump out of the starting gate, but fell victim the excessive reliance on the government. ObamaCare’s problem is that the implementation is based on 5 million lines of code by a government, which unsuccessfully poured billions into new computer systems for the FAA and the FBI. The primary drafter of the software, CGI Federal, lost its contract for poor performance last year in Montreal for failing to produce a similar product under a three year contract with the Province of Montreal. Even with extensive beta testing, Microsoft and Apple introduce software with flaws. The federal government did little testing of the software before opening it on October1. Presidents should not be confronted with unpleasant surprises, but no one dared tell the President the software wouldn’t work. They knew he wouldn’t listen. President Obama has stood by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, because of her blind loyalty to him. She too wore blinders, but her ignorance was compounded by incompetence. She tried to avoid testifying to Congress due to “lack of time,” but appeared on the Jon Stewart Show. The President and many of his acolytes sound like they’re selling snake oil. The President earlier today sounded like Baghdad Bob during the Fall of Baghdad. President Obama said earlier today that “The essence of the Bill is working fine.” President Obama is quick o the trigger in firing successful military leaders,such as Generals McChrystal and Petreaus, but is stubbornly loyal to mediocrity in his Cabinet. Demonizing Senator Ted Cruz and the Tea Party will not make ObamaCare work. The problem is greater than glitches and kinks; it's institutional and systemic. The President has a problem when Robert Gibbs, his previous press secretary, said it was bungled and people should be fired. President Obama has a problem in that the government shutdown was resolved. The continuing ObamaCare problems are now the lead article in the news today.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Reflections on the Republican Budget Battle

House Speaker John Boehner said: “We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win.” No! They fought the wrong fight with the wrong strategy with no chance of success. The Republicans lost the shutdown fight in 1996 when they controlled both houses of Congress. Congressman Boehner and Senator McConnell were there. They foresaw the outcome this time when the Republicans had an split majority in the House and an unwilling minority in the Senate, coupled with a President who made it clear to his aides two years ago that he would never again made concessions in budget battles. Speaker Boehner is on record several times saying he would not let the government default. President Obama is on record saying he would not compromise. The President had a complicit majority in the Senate led by Senator Harry Reid, probably the smallest minded majority leader in the 20th Century. The Republican leaders also knew that the media would support the President. The Tea Party did not cripple the Republican struggle; the House republicans never had a chance in this debate. The media let the President play smallball, by shutting open air parks and monuments, while allowing the National Mall to be opened for a demonstration for immigration reform. Some visitors to national monuments were issued $150 tickets. The biggest mistake of the Republicans was strategic. The House should have passed several funding bills for individual agencies along the way, as was common practice in past Congresses, instead of letting them all come together at the end. They would have had more leverage if only a few spending bills remained. Defunding ObamaCare never had a prayer of a chance during this Administration. Incremental steps might have passed, such as a repeal of the medical devices tax. Forcing Congressmen and Senators to vote on eliminating the subsidies for their health care would be a winner. Instead the Republicans adopted an “all or nothing” approach. It might have had some success with a government shutdown, but not with a pending debt defult. President Obama called for a changed, cooperative approach today, after calling out Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, bloggers, and talk radio. He’s hardly acting as a conciliator who promised to be a post-partisan President bringing Americans together, after calling republicans terrorists, hostage takers, and holding the country up to ransom in the preceding weeks. Senator Barbara Boxer referred to the Republicans as domestic abusers. The President won. It’s better to be a gracious winner than pour salt into one’s wounds. His viciousness may cost him immigration reform in the House. He had earlier this term struck out on his major proposals, such as gun control, an increase in the minimum wage, and pre-school care. Senator Patty Murray (D. Wash) represents the Senate majority on the newly appointed joint budget committee. She said everything is on the table, which is Democratic lexicon for tax increases. Speaker Boehner has stated tax increases are off the table. Their report is due December 13. The last joint committee resulted in the sequester, which has survived to live another day. If the new joint budget committee does not reach results, the second round of sequestration will commence on March 1. We also saw that Washington has not changed. The 35 page, unread bill that sailed through Congress yesterday was loaded with expensive pork – up to $2.2 billion for a dam and locks on the Ohio River, $450 million for flood repairs in Colorado, $636 million for wildfire fighting, and a survivor benefit for the widow of a deceased Senator. The bill also included retroactive pay for the furloughed federal employees, who are due for a pay raise in January. Some of these provisions would probably have been approved by Congress, but only after going through the normal budget process. Representatives and Senators today expressed “shock – just shocked” at what they blithely approved without reading. The President and Senator Reid had cried out for a clean bill. The biggest casualty of the Republican budget battle was taking attention off the main issue for Republicans – the ObamaCare rollout debacle. The computer “Glitches” are turning into ObamaCare self-destructing. The Republicans should back out of the way, and use Darrell Issa’s committee to investigate the no-bid contract awarded to CGI Federal, which lost a similar contract in Canada for failure to perform. Even California’s Covered California under which people have been able to sign up, cannot tell potential applicants which doctors are in which plans. The President believes he won. The media proclaimed him the winner. The bill reopens the government only to January 15 and the borrowing authority of the government to February 7. The President believes that a weakened GOP will not reopen the battle next year. The President probably still believes he will get his remaining agenda during his next three years. He doesn't understand that he has poisoned the waters.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Bell and Bill Are Still Tolling in Bell, California

The Bell Still Tolls in Bell Bell’s nightmare is coming to an end. Only one corrupt city official remains to go to trial. Bell, California, a city of 40,000 in Southwest Los Angeles County, hired Robert Rizzo as its city manager in August 1993 for a salary of $72,000. one of the lowest for any city manager in California at the time. It seemed like a bargain for the economically impoverished community in which ¼ of the residents live below the poverty line. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2010 that City Manager Rizzo was drawing a salary of $787,637, which with additional perks, grew to roughly $1.5 million annually. His assistant, Angela Spaccia, was earning $376,288 and Randy Adams, the newly hired police chief, $457,000. 4 of the 5 city council members were earning about $100,000 annually for their part time services. Rizzo also authorized $millions in loans to various elected and appointed Bell officials. Angela Spaccia defended her salary when the story broke by saying “You get what you pay for.” She’s hired a high priced, highly successful lawyer for her defense. Rizzo, Spaccia and Adams resigned shortly afterwards, but filed for large pensions. Rizzo claimed $650,000 annually from CalPers and an additional $350,000 from a second pension with the city. Spaccia sought $250,000 annually and Adams $510,000. The state claimed technical violations in reducing the pensions to $50,000, $34,000, and $240,000 respectively. The voters removed all council members from office in 2011, including one who was not involved in the scandals. He had been appointed to replace a retiring council member and had apparently not been brought into the corruption. Eight civic officials were arrested on Setember 21, 2011 on various charges of corruption. The list includes Rizzo, Spaccia, Mayor Oscar Hernandez, and three current and two former council members. The presiding judge could not understand how the police chief escaped indictment. The cases illustrate the SODDI Defense (“Some Other Dude Done It”) in action. The council members claimed ignorance at trial, and blame Rizzo for any misdeeds. The jury convicted on March 3, 2013 all but one of the council members on various corruption charges. One was inexplicably acquitted. Robert Rizzo copped a plea on October 3, 2013, pleading no contest (nolo contendere) to 69 counts of misappropriating public funds, hiding or falsifying reports, and perjury. The agreement entails 10-12 years in prison, and between $1million to $3.2 million in restitution, but he did not have to allocute as part of the deal. Rizzo claims he “wants to make amends,” but clearly not full restitution. The sleezebucket’s deal, as part of his "amends," includes testifying against Angela Spaccia, claiming she was the architect of the corrupt scheme - another example both of the SODDI Defense and that there is no honor among thieves. The resulting histrionics if the master gets to testify against the apprentice could become the basis of a reality show, proving yet another cliché that the truth can be stranger than fiction. Rizzo physically looks like a toad, but acted like a rat. He unsuccessfully sought legal fees and costs for his defense from the city. The city of Bell, alas, is near bankruptcy because of the defalcations.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The LAUSD I-Pad I-FUBAR Debacle

The sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second largest in the country, educating over 640,000 students at 1124 K-12 schools. LAUSD has struggled recently with financial problems, deteriorating facilities, teacher abuse cases, restrictive union rules, rubber rooms, a cumbersome bureaucracy, and poor test scores. The 3R’s are a challenge for many of the students. The problems are not solely of the LAUSD’s fault. About 80% of the students come from low income families. Many first generation students are from immigrant families, which do not speak English at home. A large percent of the students are illiterate in English and deficient in math. LAUSD’s solution? $500 million will be spent providing each student an I-Pad@$678. An additional $500 million will be spent on equipment and training. The Los Angeles school children will be computer literate. Or not. The textbooks and lessons will be downloaded onto the I-Pads. The young students will no longer have to trudge heavy books back and forth. They will do their homework on the computers with the results transmitted to the teacher. The IPads are thus for instructional purposes. Internet sites will be blocked. That is the theory. Over $30 million has been spent so far on providing IPads to 47,000 students. Today’s students, inner city or suburb, are computer savvy. The students at Roosevelt High School quickly cracked the LAUSD’s security settings in a simple three-step process: 1) Access the Settings 2) Delete the LAUSD Profile 3) Set up internet connections. 260 students at Roosevelt, 70 at Westchester High School, and10 at Angelou Community High School had the new code in a veritable nanosecond and entered Facebook, tweeted, played video games, and who knows what else. The IPads at Roosevelt and Westchester were called back by the LAUSD. Further distributions were frozen and students are no longer allowed to take the IPads home, thereby negating one of the major purposes of the IPad drive. 71 IPads were reported missing, 69 of them at the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Grenada Hills, an affluent community. The school district in its haste to distribute IPads had not addressed the issues of damaged IPads, lost IPads, and stolen IPads. The contract with Apple requires the company to replace up to 5% of the IPads. LAUSD has to eat the difference unless it can get the economically poor parents or guardians to cover the losses. The cumbersome LAUSD bureaucracy had not thought out what it was doing.

"Yes We Can" is Now "No I Won't"

President Obama ran a brilliant Presidential Campaign in 2008. He promised “Hope and Change” with “Yes, we can.” His soaring rhetoric offered Americans a post-racial, post-partisan Presidency. Americans saw what they wanted after 16 years of bitter, partisan politics in the Clinton and Bush Administrations. It was simply campaign smoke and mirrors like President George H. W. Bush’s “No new taxes” pledge, which he never meant to keep. President Elect Obama said five days before his inauguration that he would fundamentally transform America. That was no surprise to many of us. The surprise was his bitter partisanship. His view of compromise appeared early with the Stimulus Bill and ObamaCare. It is a version of the fabled Soviet School of Negotiation: “What’s mine is mine; what’s yours we’ll negotiate.” His current posture to Republicans is simple: “Give me what I want now, and then we’ll negotiate later.” Republicans do not trust the President. Nor should he expect Republicans to give him wants he wishes by calling them radical extortionists and hostage takers seeking ransom. The rhetoric may play well with his base, but it is not a winning negotiation strategy. The time to lead, not to campaign, is now. The bitter partisanship is on view for all Americans to see. Maybe we are witnessing a century later two antagonists so blind to reality that they drift into World War I, but I doubt it. The President is guided by his past and false political assumptions. Part of the President’s problem is his easy climb up the political ladder. Opponents fell by the wayside as he glided into his United States Senate seat. He never learned one of the fundamental rules of life: “Be nice to those you pass on the way up; you may see them again on the way down.” Part of the posturing though is sheer political calculus. He believes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrats, and the Republicans all believe that the Democrats won and the Republicans lost the 1995 Government Shutdown led by the Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The polls are different this time. The Democrats held a 23% lead in the polls during the shutdown battle 18 years ago. They’re roughly even today with voters showing disdain for Democrats and the President as well as Republicans. The prevailing view is “A plague on all your houses.” The President’s unfavorability ratings greatly exceed his approval numbers. His lack of leadership, shown by Syria and the budget battles has caught up to him. The Republicans’ initial budget bill defunded ObamaCare. That was going nowhere and everyone knew it. It was an opening gambit. The Democratic Senate would reject it, and then counter offer. Yet, the Democrats did not counter offer. They wanted a shutdown and tendered the House Republicans an offer they could not accept – a clean, no-strings attached budget. The Senate, which has not passed a budget in 5 years, wants a “Clean Continuing Resolution.” Senate Majority Leader followed up by making it clear that the Senate would either reject or refuse to consider any limited budget bills. Thus, when the House passed a bill to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after the Democrats accused the Republicans of cutting off funding to cancer stricken children, Harry Reid was asked “Why wouldn’t he want to help one child with cancer if he could?” The Majority Leader’s response was “Why would we want to do that?” The media would have crucified a Republican for a statement like that. The President is rolling the dice on trying to break the Republican Party in the budget battles so that the GOP won’t pose a problem for him in the remainder of his second term. Short of that, if the Republicans, or a significant number of them cave, then an internecine battle will erupt within the Republicans such that the Tea Party will attempt to take out in the primaries any Republicans who sided with the Democrats. The possible victims of any primary challenge could include Speaker Boehner. A third aim is to demoralize Republicans such that they will have a low turnout in 2014. He knows Republicans turn out in larger numbers in the midterm elections than Democrats. Dispirited Republicans might not vote, just as millions stayed at home in 2012, thereby giving Democrats an advantage in 2014. It’s all politics to the President and the Senate Majority Leader. Let the people feel the pain and they will take it out on Republicans. That is the playbook. Thus, close the open World War II Memorial to veterans, but open the closed National Mall to thousands of demonstrators seeking immigration reform. Death benefits were cut off to the survivors of soldiers killed in action, but $445 million was transferred to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The President earlier closed the White House, the house of the American people, to tourists during sequestration, but repeatedly opens the doors to lobbyists and celebrities. These are political acts, not acts of statesmanship. Perhaps he is also a spoiled narcissist who cannot tolerate criticism or opposition. The Hope and Change candidate has become a petulant “No I won’t” President.