Saturday, July 11, 2009

Charity and Christianity

As President Obama completes his visit to Ghana, I think back to George W. Bush, and his support for Africa.

Despite how much former President Bush's policies have screwed up much of the US and the world, you can't deny what George W. Bush tried to do for Africa. In probably one of his most charitable acts, Bush provided the most aid in Africa to fight poverty and disease, more than any other American President.
In the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency, America's direct bilateral assistance to Africa was only Pounds 700 million. Mr Bush has almost quadrupled this sum. Combating Aids once played virtually no part in America's development policies. Mr Bush has established the biggest fund ever devoted to fighting an epidemic. The President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, funded to the tune of Pounds 7.5 billion, is paying for hundreds of thousands of Africans to receive the life-saving drugs which hold Aids at bay.

Mr Bush has also made America the biggest single donor to the Global Fund for Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, contributing one third of its Pounds 5 billion. No other leader has given as much money to the World Food Programme as Mr Bush.

I've always thought that the root of all evil was essentially humanity's selfishness. It's our inability to care for others, and only think of our own selfish wants and needs, that bring out all kinds of crimes and horrible acts of violence. If one is a true Christian, you think of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made, which is giving up of himself for all of mankind. His most important command to us was to "Love one another, as I have loved you".

That's why being charitable and showing mercy is the only way to really emulate Christ. Anyone who dismisses the suffering of others, and can still call themselves a Christian is simply delusional.
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Friday, July 10, 2009

Laws and Stupidity

It's funny, a lot of the time, people will gripe about Washington, and "those no-good politicians", and how they have no common sense.

Sometimes it's also easy to forget, that politicians are people too, and people in general can be stupid.

Case in point - people who live in Florida and think that buying a Burmese Python for a pet is a great idea. Shockingly enough, the python market is an estimated $10 Million annual business.

While it may seem funny, the explosion of pythons in Florida is becoming a huge ecological nightmare. It seems too many idiots thought it would be "cool" to have a pet python. So instead of researching and studying up on the care of pythons, they just go out and buy one. When it becomes too difficult to handle, and they realize that it's a lot harder to take care of than say a dog, they end up dumping it in the swamps or by lakes.
Officials, for example, fear pythons may be on the brink of wiping out what remains of the endangered Key Largo wood rat and that other South Florida animals like the Key Deer could be next. The Everglades are estimated to contain as many as 150,000 pythons now, preying on rare bird and mammal wildlife. "If we don't get on top of this, they're going to eradicate the indigenous species of the Everglades," Rodney Barreto, Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission chairman, said during a visit this year by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Or beyond: the pythons are believed to be moving northward into other parts of Florida and the U.S.
Recently it resulted in a terrible tragedy, when a 2 year old in Florida was strangled to death by a python. These tragic events occur, and we wonder why we need to have laws and regulations.

Pretty much to protect us from ourselves and our inner Homer Simpson.
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Monday, June 8, 2009

Taxing Drunk Drivers - What an Idea!

One of the biggest questions about enacting universal health-care is how to pay for it. Ironically, we could have paid for it a several times over if we hadn't had the war with Iraq! But that's not the hand that we are dealt.

Nate Silver has an interesting idea
about one way to gain revenue for health-care. His idea is taxing people who are caught driving under the influence a hefty tax of $8,000 per incident.

In 2006, there were 1.1 million arrests for drunk driving in the United States (source), not counting Florida which didn't report its statistics. Fine each of those people $8,000, and you'd have almost about $9 billion more to pay for health care every year. Why $8,000? Because that's the figure, according to a 2001 paper (.pdf) by Steve Levitt (the Freakonomics guy) and Jack Porter, that would be required to internalize the negative externalities associated with driving drunk.* By the way, if you're concerned that this tax might be regressive, you could scale it according to a person's income, as they do for traffic fines in Finland.

Of course, if you were actually to fine people $8K every time they got a drunk driving conviction, you wouldn't raise quite as much as $9 billion. Faced with a choice between an $8,000 fine or a $20 taxi fare, a lot more people would have Yellow Cab on speed dial, and you'd have fewer revenue-producing arrests.** But this is a feature of the policy rather than a bug -- you'd be stopping drunk driving. Moreover, it's exactly the same feature/bug problem you'd run into by raising alcohol taxes in general, or any time you were trying to use tax policy to disincentivize an undesirable behavior.

In some ways this reflects an approach of "liberal paternalism" as advocated by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in their book - "Nudge".

I think this idea has merit!
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Friday, June 5, 2009

Remembering Buchenwald

All this week, I've been struck by how provident it seems to have President Obama as our leader in these difficult times. His outreach this week in a historic speech at the University of Cairo, was honest and surprising in it's tone. He spoke as no other President could have spoken. He pushed on the fundamental issue to the Middle East Process, which was that both Israel and Palestine had to compromise and accept the right for the existence and sovreignty of both states. Israel must stop their settlements and pull back to the original treaties. The Palestinian government must get under their control, the violent terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas. Both have to stop playing the victim and the aggressor.

If you listen to both extreme sides, each accuse the other of lying and killing their people. They are both right and wrong.

All too often it's easy too marginalize and disparage a whole culture or race. That happened once before, which led to the death of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

One thing is clear, regardless of race, human beings are capable of both kindess and love, but also of great evil. Each society naturally has it's extremists. Those who are filled with fear and hate. We have Rightwing fundametalist conservatives here in the US, who only spout venom and hatred for those who are different from them.

They don't see the benefit in open and honest dialogue, nor of accepting of differing viewpoints. They would rather just use their guns to shoot people, as has been demonstrated by the conservative nutcase that opened fire in a Tennessee Church because of his hatred of Liberals. Or most recently, this pathetic speciman of a human being who thought he was justified in assassinating Dr. Tiller, who was known for helping women who no one else would help.

It's led, cowardly conservatives like the aptly named Dick Cheney to spit on the US ideals of democracy and justice, and commit acts of torture on other human beings.

Yes there are criminals and terrorists, but we must follow the law, and be above the violence that the terrorists love. By committing torture, we have ceded the moral high ground, and have aided and abetted the recruiting tactics of Al Qaeda.

But what struck me most today is that when President Obama visted Buchenwald, he admonised those who would deny or forget the horrors that were committed so long ago.

The Germans are very careful and almost obsessed with not denying or forgetting that they killed millions of Jews. Any hint of anti-semitism is dealt with swiftly and harshly.

The current generation knows that they are not to blame, as they were not there, but they do accept that, as a nation, what they did was wrong. They accept that dark period of their history with shame and regret.

What I find ironic, is that politicians like Inhofe of Oklahoma can be such a liar and an idiot as to call President Obama "un-American", and yet deny that we tortured.

As they advise many people with addictions, the first step is acknowledging you have a problem.

It's too bad that dishonorable conservatives like Inhofe can't do what's right and acknowledge what they did, so that we can fix what's wrong with America.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

President Obama's 100 Days

Getting settled in a new job, a new city, new friends, and juggling a love life, hasn't left me much time to write. However, I watched President Obama's speech and Press Conference marking his 100 Days in office.

Much has been hyped by the constant 24 hour Cable/Mainstream Media on President Obama's first 100 days, particularly with their incessant need to grade his first 100 days, as if he was a student.

Being in a planning role, it always boggles my mind when people continue to spotlight on instantaneous results and what's happening now, without a thought to what does it mean for the future.

It's 100 days into a four year term, and I personally think the challenges we face today requires us to be little more thoughtful and to realistically assess the current situation. We need to make sure that we rigorously contemplate the implications of the various policy proposals, in order to ensure we have some probability of meeting success.

Yet predictably, the idiot masses still want their 10 second soundbite or their minute in the news cycle of their "gotcha moments".

With all the hoopla and the superficial, but utterly predictable punditry out there, it was a relief to come across this really moving and introspective photo diary of President Obama's first 100 days.

It was taken by Callie Shell, who first noticed Barack Obama as an extraordinary politician at the 2003 DNC Convention, where he gave his first soaring national speech. She found him so compelling, that she trailed him during his Presidential Campaign.

The most emotional point in the video occurs 10 minutes into the video story, where she gives insights on the moments she was trying to capture with her camera.

Watching it, I was filled with such pride and emotion at having such a caring, intelligent, and capable leader as our President.

It's definitely worth the time to take a moment to watch this video at .

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Monday, March 23, 2009

What were they thinking???

I am stunned by the sheer stupidity of Congress. What on earth possessed them to pass a rushed piece of legislation to tax bonuses for Financial Intitutions receiving Federal Bailout money?

First of all their spontaneous reaction to "populist" rage is now open to questions of constitutional legitimacy, and secondly, they look like idiots just reacting without thinking. I get the anger over the sheer greed and thoughtlessness of AIG and Merrill Lynch for giving bonuses to morons who brought about this financial crisis. But to compound this mistake with an another one is ridiculous.

We should not have laws passed on whims of "populism". It was just as dumb when people voted to legislate the California Constitution to define marriage. It would be just as stupid for Government to enact legislation based on the whims of polls, pundits, or the Stock Market. President Obama said very thoughtfully in his interview on "60 Minutes":

The one thing that— I've tried to emphasize, though, throughout this week, and will continue to try to emphasize during the course of the next several months as we dig ourselves out of this— the economic hole that we're in, is we can't govern out of anger. We've got to try to make good decisions based on the facts, in order to put people back to work, to get credit flowing again. And I'm not going to be distracted by— what's happening day to day. I've gotta stay focused on making sure that— we're getting this economy moving again.

Furthermore, in response to Steve Kroft's question on the legitimacy of the bill passed by the House, that would "impose a tax of up TO 90% on the AIG bonuses and on the bonuses of anyone making more than $250,000 a year who works for a financial institution receiving MORE THAN five BILLION IN bailout funds"

President Obama had this to say:

Well, I think that— as a general proposition, you don't want to be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals. You want to pass laws that have some broad applicability. And as a general proposition, I think you certainly don't want to use the tax code—is to punish people.

We have no idea on the implication of what they have done. Furthermore, what kind of precedent does this set for the future? There needs to be a holistic view on what's the right thing to do. The point of leadership is to set policy with a strategic goal, and not to be distracted by the latest policy "trend". Action for the sake of action is not necessarily a good idea, and in the business world, if you don't have the right strategy driving your action plans, it will soon drive you into a ditch and bring a number of inefficiencies within your organization - not to mention have people running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Class War Delusions

Someone in my past, once mentioned "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. At the time, I had never read the book, so I had no idea that it was almost a literary bible for conservatives. For those of you who do not know what the premise of this book is, it's basically about this character named John Galt, who decides he's tired of supporting other members of society, and so decides to withdraw from society. Essentially, the most selfish and unchristian character you would ever read about, outside of Charles Dicken's character "Scrooge".

Stephen Colbert has a very humorous take on the synopsis and the key message of this book:

The question "Who is John Galt?" is also answered towards the closing of the novel — John Galt is a man disgusted that non-productive members of society use laws and guilt to leech from the value created by productive members of society, and furthermore even exalt the qualities of the leeches over the workers and inventors. He made a pledge that he would never live his life for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for him, and founded an enclave (Galt's Gulch), separate from the rest of the country, where he and other productive members of society have fled.
Essentially it has become the battle cry of the ridiculous and delusional right wing idiots still left in the Republican party. Case in point, Chuck Norris, who is ready to declare himself President of Texas. Essentially, Chuck Norris has declared his intent for treason and sedition. So there you have it, crazies like Chuck Norris are pretty much all you have left of the Conservative party.

But what makes it so ridiculously laughable, is this strawman argument that they continue to float, that because you potentially have a higher marginal tax rate, which by the way is only setting it back to the original rates under President Clinton, that this essentially demotivates people to be successful. So there is this movement where they are "Going Galt", and get people to "go on strike" because they feel burdened by their successes. As Austin Powers would say: "Riiiight ...."

Yeah, I would just loooove to see that. If you had the following options:
A. Earning $0 - because you feel demotivated to be taxed on your success.

B. Earning $300,000, and having $50,000 taxed at 36% vs. 33%
Which would you pick? Of course you are going to take Option B.

Secondly, people need to learn the meaning of the word "Marginal Tax Rate". When President Obama stated that those earning more than $250,000 would be facing a higher tax rate, that does not mean that you will be taxed on the full $250,000 at the higher tax rate. It simply means, you will see a slightly higher marginal tax rate for anything you make AFTER $250,000. You have financially illiterate people out there who think that if you make $300,000, that the entire amount would be taxed at 36%.

So by all means, have the crazy right wing nut cases "Going Galt" see how far it takes them. With their "every man for himself" philosophy, I doubt they could continue to exist peacefully as a society on their own.

Talk about Dawinism in action, oh but I forgot, they don't believe in evolution or in science.
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Monday, March 9, 2009

Moving Day

The worst part about moving anywhere is the day you receive your furniture and goods, and you find yourself surrounded by a mountain of boxes, with no idea where anything is.

The movers were quite quick in packing me up in Boston. They were so quick, I felt I had to move out of the way, otherwise risk being packed myself if I stood still too long! They were also equally quick in unloading all the boxes into my new apartment. It was all I could do to check off the box number in the inventory control list. It was like playing an odd sort of BINGO, with numbers being randomly called out. In the end, everything arrived, so kudos to my driver Howard Taylor, of Planes Moving Company!

The good thing for me is that, with each move, I am getting a little smarter! This time I took my wireless box with me, as well as making sure all my bedding, pillows, duvets were packed together. That made assembling my bed and getting my wireless access set up relatively pain free. I say relatively, because it always takes longer than one thinks it should.

Now it's the usual shopping trips to IKEA and Bed, Bath, and Beyond for more things one thinks one needs!

One sad note, you can clearly see in this picture, one the white boxes that followed me from Geneva, but never got unpacked - guess I don't need anything in there!
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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Financial Market Madness

I've been working a lot of hours as I am doing two jobs right now. I am still supporting my old role and business unit, while undertaking my new assignment. Having to deal with a move at the same time has left me with little sleep and time.

However, in the past weeks, I've been fuming about the hypocrisy and the madness of the financial markets. And don't even get me started on the ridiculous inferences that Networks like Fox News tries to put forward, that somehow the Stock Market is reacting negatively to President Obama's policies.

But what continues to get me is the whiny nature of Banks. Recently, Sheila Bair of the FDIC has indicated that there needs to be an emergency fee assessed to all the banks to shore up the FDIC, otherwise, it may go insolvent.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair said the fund it uses to protect customer deposits at U.S. banks could dry up amid a surge in bank failures, as she responded to an industry outcry against new fees approved by the agency.

Without these assessments, the deposit insurance fund could become insolvent this year,” Bair wrote in a March 2 letter to the industry. U.S. community banks plan to flood the FDIC with about 5,000 letters in protest of the fees, according to a trade group.

This is the insanity that goes through Banks minds these days, the ONLY THING PROTECTING THEM AGAINST RUNS AGAINST THE BANKS IS THE FDIC INSURANCE - yet these morons are planning to send letters to protest this fee increase.

I guess Banks now understand how we feel when they charge us a fee to take money out of ATMs or for maintaining checking accounts!

But the best effort to date on pointing out the sheer stupidity and craziness of "so-called" Financial reporters like Rick Santelli of CNBC, and Wall St. has been tonight's show on "The Daily Show".

This was a priceless moment of "STFU" by Jon Stewart to the Rick Santelli and Larry Kudlows of the world - well worth losing out on sleep to watch!
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Understanding the Financial Crisis

For many the underlying causes and the correlation between Wall St. and Main St. has been confusing, and very poorly reported or explained.

This video does a fantastic job of explaining the Financial Crisis, and recognizing the blame that is to go to all parties - not just poor, stupid people.

This excellent video is produced by Jonathan Jarvis, a designer based out of Los Angeles.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Alan Greenspan, the lack of regulation, Wall St. greed, irresponsible lenders, homeowners both fiscally irresponsible and responsible, and the unending optimism, that housing values will always rise, did indeed create a Perfect Storm for this financial crisis. We are all in this together, and we must all work to get out of this together.

In order to stem this crisis, it will be critical to stop the hemorraging in the foreclosures and stablise the housing market, but listening to the over-the-top idiot reporters like Rick Santelli, with his mindless, sycophantic rantings, I've come to realize that overwhelming self-indulgent greed continues to rule the minds of these morons. All they can think about is themselves and their perception of how life is unfair.

What's really pathetic is that Rick Santelli, and many like him can only shout about how terrible President Obama's plan to stop the continued foreclosure crisis is, yet have no real solution or alternative. Until they have a better idea, they should just sit in their corner and take a chill pill.

Which makes this video, where Robert Gibbs smacks Rick Santelli, something to savor.

I’ve watched Mr. Santelli on cable the past 24 hours or so. I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives but the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgages, stay in their jobs, pay their bills, send their kids to school," Gibbs said. "I think we left a few months ago the adage that if it was good for a derivatives trader that it was good for Main Street

"Mr. Santelli has argued, I think quite wrongly, that this plan won’t help everyone," Gibbs said. "This plan helps people who have been playing by the rules....I would encouraged him to read the president’s plan....I’d be more than happy to have him come here to read it. I’d be happy to buy him a cup of coffee—decaf," the press secretary said, in a not-so-subtle jab at Santelli’s frantic style.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Did you know - Shift Happens 3.0

I saw this last year at a presentation at an internal townhall meeting within my company.

What's clear is that information and the way we use and access information is changing at unbelievable speed, that it begs the question, how are we prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow? In what way are we prepared to continually innovate?

Quite frankly, if the Republicans had their way, we'd still be operating in the dark ages, with their disdain for science and research. Think of any funding for science, and they will find a way to make fun of it, and call it "pork" or act outraged because there is some innocuous sexual connotation. To them, the Theory of Evolution is hocus pocus.

I was reminded of this when coming across this on TIME
Variations of this video, called Did You Know?, have been floating around for years. It is the product of Karl Fisch, a school teacher from Colorado, and Scott McLeod, a professor at Iowa State University.
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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day Special

Not exactly a Charlie Brown type special, but still an amusing clip about finding true love - for conservatives.

There was a diary on DKOS that talked about Hannidate, and it reminded me of this hilarious sketch from The Daily Show:

I was able to spend Valentine's day with someone special, and hope everyone else had someone special to spend the day with!
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Bizarro World

It seems Frank Rich and SNL, and many others are channeling the same thoughts as I am. The Republican Party and the Washington Beltway Pundits are living in - as Jerry Seinfeld would put it - "bizarro world".

In his weekly NY Times editorial, Rich offers this interesting take:
AM I crazy, or wasn’t the Obama presidency pronounced dead just days ago? Obama had “all but lost control of the agenda in Washington,” declared Newsweek on Feb. 4 as it wondered whether he might even get a stimulus package through Congress. “Obama Losing Stimulus Message War” was the headline at Politico a day later.

Less than a month into Obama’s term, we don’t (and can’t) know how he’ll fare as president.

For Axelrod, the moral is “not just that Washington is too insular but that the American people are a lot smarter than people in Washington think.” Here’s a third moral: Overdosing on this culture can be fatal. Because Republicans are isolated in that parallel universe and believe all the noise in its echo chamber, they are now as out of touch with reality as the “inevitable” Clinton campaign was before it got clobbered in Iowa. The G.O.P. doesn’t recognize that it emerged from the stimulus battle even worse off than when it started. That obliviousness gives the president the opening to win more ambitious policy victories than last week’s. Having checked the box on attempted bipartisanship, Obama can now move in for the kill.

Republicans will also be judged by the voters. If they want to obstruct and filibuster while the economy is in free fall, the president should call their bluff and let them go at it. In the first four years after F.D.R. took over from Hoover, the already decimated ranks of Republicans in Congress fell
from 36 to 16 in the Senate and from 117 to 88 in the House. The G.O.P. is so insistent that the New Deal was a mirage it may well have convinced itself that its own sorry record back then didn’t happen either.

Saturday Night Live, also offers this political sketch that satirizes and lays bare how out of touch the GOP thinking and strategy is. Personally I thought Dan Akroyd's portrayal of John Boehner was dead on!

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The most adorable Windows Commercial

Microsoft Windows continues with their $300 Million ad campaign "I'm a PC". Essentially these commercials are designed to break the "stereotype" that Windows PC user are boring and boxed characters.

This new ad is interesting in that it also tries to convey the message that Windows can be easy to use, that even little kids can use Windows.

However you feel about Microsoft Windows or the reality of the little girl being able to be work in a Windows Operating System, no one can deny how totally cute this little girl is!!

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The Biggest Loser

If I had to vote for the biggest loser of the week, it would be a really difficult choice for whether my vote would go to Senator Judd Gregg or the Republican Party.

I mean we already know that the Republican Party is a bunch of "do nothing" obstructionists, who are supposed to be representing the American People in their States, but instead they are filled with nothing but quest for power (re-taking in 2010) and grand-standing. The peer pressure in their own party is worse than High School. They are crowing about the fact that Not a SINGLE REPUBLICAN in the House voted for the Stimulus Bill. In the Senate, there were only 3 who broke to vote in favor of the Stimulus.

But don’t try telling Republicans that. They’re downright giddy with their obstructionist tactics. “Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban,” bragged Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s entire processes."
Seriously?? This Republican Congressman is giddy with the idea that they are applying something that they learned from the Taliban. If I were a member of the Republican Party, I'd tell this guy to "STFU - because you're embarassing us".

This makes it clear to the American people, that it wasn't about country or the well-being of the American People, it was all about toeing the party line. Statistically it doesn't add up, if every one was voting their conscious, you would expect some sampling of members on either side voting against their party - we see this with 7 Democrats who voted agains the Stimulus. But the fact that you have NO Republicans voting for the Stimulus in the House, indicates a systematic behavior - completely manufactured.

Watch this exchange between Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fl), who totally owns Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-CA). She basically makes him look like a sputtering idiot, which I guess was not too difficult, as that's what he is.

So since this is a constant display of sophmoric behavior by the Republican Party, I'm going to have to go with Senator Judd Gregg - who I didn't have a great deal of knowledge about in the past - but what a spineless speciman of a human being. The fact is, he could have done something great, he could have put country before politics, and put his so called "business acumen" to good use in the Commerce Department, as Secretary of Commerce.

But then he goes and does two things:

  1. First he says that he will abstain on the stimulus vote as he is Secretary Designate for the Commerce Department, and sites conflict of interest
  2. Then he withdraws his nominee as Secretary of Commerce, because he "couldn't be Judd Gregg".
Excuse my French, but "WTF????" It sounds like something some middle-aged guy or alternately some lame thing a girl might say when he/she wants out of a relationship. The feeble "it's not you, it's me - and I need to find myself" crap that men or women with no integrity or courage say to get out of a relationship.

So either he is STUPID or he has NO COJONES - so which is it?

Of course he is trying to back pedal and save face, saying that he didn't lobby for the position. But let's face it, he wouldn't have reached the notice of the President without Senator Harry Reid to recommend him, and why would Senator Reid do anything on his behalf, unless he was requested to by Senator Gregg?

So anyone applying for a job, should know what they are getting into, and he more or less accepted the position. To accept, and then turn around and say that it would not be a good fit, is an act of a total moron.

If I were President Obama, I wouldn't give this guy the time of day ever again. This happened to me once. I was extremely supportive towards a colleague who reached out to me, and expressed strong interest in a position. We spoke for months, keeping in contact about possible openings, then when an opportunity did come up, I lobbyied on his behalf, and when I extended the position to this candidate, he expressed doubt. After several days of thinking things through, he declined the position, even though we had talked for months about the possibility of him joining the organization. Then not 24 hours later after he declines the position, he calles me back and tell me that he changed his mind. Automatically, I told him, that the position was being offered to someone else, and that it was too late - because it was. Just because he was being "wishy-washy", didn't mean that I was going to be dragged along as well.

So how is it that he couldn't align or agree to what the position would be about in his talks with President Obama in the beginning??? If he didn't agree to certain key deal breakers, he could have walked away, and just said that it was an honor to be considered, but that the fit wasn't right for either party. So what didn't he understand about the job, before accepting it??

If he was ok with the conditions on taking the job, what changed since his acceptance?? I mean let's face it, it's not a secret that President Obama is a Democrat with progressive philosophy. How does he not understand that the President will set the agenda and the vision, that he serves in the CABINET of the President, working on the President's behalf. So if it came down to it being a surprise that he wouldn't get to implement policy to his liking, then all I can say is that he was STUPID for accepting a job he didn't totally understand.

If he understood the conditions and the expectations of the President, the only other thing that makes sense is the dynamics and the peer pressure from his Republican Party. Essentially he caved in to whatever they were saying to him, and he decided he didn't want to be alienated from his little Republican Clique.

Republicans celebrated Gregg’s decision to stay in the Senate — and gloated over the embarrassment the Obama team was facing. “Sen. Gregg made a principled decision to return, and we’re glad to have him,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “He is among the smartest, most effective legislators to serve in the Senate — Democrat or Republican — and a key adviser to me and to the Republican Conference. It’s great to have him back.”

McConnell discouraged Gregg from accepting the commerce nomination before he took it, and he talked with him about withdrawing before he made his announcement. While McConnell wouldn’t discuss the specifics of his conversations with Gregg, he said: “It’s totally safe to say I was not happy to have a member of my team leave the Senate and go to the administration.”

There was even this garbage that was being circulated that it made the Republicans "emboldened" because Senator Gregg rejected President Obama.

What's silly is that the Republicans think it's a good thing to reflect on their party, when in actuality, it made Senator Gregg look like a weak, indecisive loser, and their party a bunch of petty vindictive men - worse than the shenanigans on "Mean Girls". So this indicates he has no mojo to be his own man.

The fact that the Republican Party are coralling their members and telling them to vote NO despite the benefits, and the fact that some Republican members like the stimulus, but they just don't want to be linked to voting for such a high spending bill, confirms what I have always known about the Republican Party. A bunch of hypocritical losers who care more about how they look, than what they actually do to benefit the country and the American People.

Let's just stop with the lies and the theatrical display, when they moan and don on clothes of sack ashes in decrying the debt we are burdening our children with - where were their fiscal conservative grumblings when we spent billions on contractors and on the Iraq War? Literally they lost $12 Billion dollars, they couldn't find out any accounting for this in the War spending. Did they forget that they and their President took a SURPLUS and turned it into a trillion dollar deficit? Finally, let's not forget that it was the aptly named, DICK Cheney who said "Deficits don't matter".

So at a meeting with the vice president after the mid-term elections in 2002, Suskind writes that O'Neill argued against a second round of tax cuts. “Cheney, at this moment, shows his hand,” says Suskind. “He says, ‘You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.’ … O'Neill is speechless.” ”It was not just about not wanting the tax cut. It was about how to use the nation's resources to improve the condition of our society,” says O’Neill. “And I thought the weight of working on Social Security and fundamental tax reform was a lot more important than a tax reduction.” Did he think it was irresponsible? “Well, it's for sure not what I would have done,” says O’Neill.

By the way, Senator Judd Gregg, voted "NO" on the Stimulus Bill - AFTER withdrawing his nomination as Secretary of Commerce. Gee - what a shocker!

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

China still likes US Debt

I wrote back in January "Who will buy US Debt?", well it turns out the Chinese haven't really washed their hands of us yet...

According to FT:

China will continue to buy US Treasury bonds even though it knows the dollar will depreciate because such investments remain its “only option” in a perilous world, a senior Chinese banking regulator said on Wednesday.

China has used the dollars it accumulates selling manufactured goods to US consumers to accumulate the world’s largest holding of Treasuries. However, the increasing US budget deficit and its potential impact on the dollar have raised questions about the future Chinese appetite for US debt.

“Except for US Treasuries, what can you hold?” he asked. “Gold? You don’t hold Japanese government bonds or UK bonds. US Treasuries are the safe haven. For everyone, including China, it is the only option.”

With the $790 Billion Stimulus package, it's becoming clear this strange symbiotic relationship will continue. China and the rest of the World's Economy would crumble if the US Economy were to implode, so in a way they need us, as much as we need them.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Does technology make us stupid?

I recently bought a car with a GPS Navigation system. I got it, because my siblings insisted it was something I should get. I was at first reluctant to get it, because I always prided myself on being able to be intelligent enough to figure out where I am going, and relying on my sense of direction.

While I know it's totally optional for me to use it, I am finding it pretty useful, as I get to know the Los Angeles area. But it did make me wonder, while it's a useful technology, does it make people less able to cultivate mental capabilities to figure out directions. In other words, does it make us stupid?

I think about spell check and grammar check, both are great features, but I wonder if it's making us lazy about knowing how to spell words or write grammatically correct sentences.

It also makes me wonder how the Internet and applications like Twitter affects the way we read and communicate. Andrew Sullivan notes how many are noticing the lack of patience they have for reading long paragraphs. Yves Smith writes:
I notice how the Internet has affected how I read. I have become impatient with longer stories (unless I am on an airplane). I spend most of my time on the Internet, and the vast majority of what I read fits within the browser window. I find that has conditioned my expectations. When confronted with a longer piece (say Sunday New York Times magazine feature or New Yorker length) I find after the first page wondering if it really had to be this long, and often not finishing the piece. Five years ago, I never would have responded this way.
This reminded me of an article in the NY Times, that debated how the internet has changed the way we read. There are many different viewpoints, as can be expected, ranging from those who feel the internet hinders reading skills, to those who point to other benefits that internet brings to those able to take in many different sources of information.

As teenagers’ scores on standardized reading tests have declined or stagnated, some argue that the hours spent prowling the Internet are the enemy of reading — diminishing literacy, wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books.

Neurological studies show that learning to read changes the brain’s circuitry. Scientists speculate that reading on the Internet may also affect the brain’s hard wiring in a way that is different from book reading.

The United States is diverging from the policies of some other countries. Next year, for the first time, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which administers reading, math and science tests to a sample of 15-year-old students in more than 50 countries, will add an electronic reading component. The United States, among other countries, will not participate. A spokeswoman for the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the Department of Education, said an additional test would overburden schools.
I would tend to agree that the Internet does teach us other skills, with so many websites, individuals have to be able to filter through and organize the concepts and information flowing through the screen. So I don't think the Internet as a bad thing, just different. But I can't help noticing that I, myself, tend to scan through to just get the key words or points. That I don't exactly read as thoroughly as I used to.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Economic Armageddon

I just came across a video clip, of what happened that fateful day in September, 2008 when Hank Paulson literally came begging on his knees to Nancy Pelosi to gain support and action from Congress with regards to the first TARP Financial Bailout.

According to TMFSinchurina on his MotleyFool blog:
Now, we have another video (actually available since late January), and one which I encourage every Fool not only to watch but to circulate as they see fit, in which Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski of Pennsylvania reveals some shocking information regarding a bank run which occured right here and indeed brought this country and the entire world economy to within three hours of complete and systemic financial collapse. In this video, Congressman Kanjorski reveals (at about the 2:15 mark) that the move to raise the move to guarantee money market funds up to $250,000 was an emergency measure to stave off a massive run on the banks that removed $550 billion from the system in a matter of just a couple of hours. Treasury then injected $105 billion to no avail, and shut the system down to prevent a panic continuation of this electronic bank run. By "their" [read Treasury's] estimation, had they not shut it down and issued the guarantee, money market withdrawls would have reached $5.5 trillion by two 'o'clock that afternoon!! He then indicates Treasury's assessment that the run not only would have destroyed the U.S. economy immediately, but would have collapsed the world economy within 24 hours.
According to Bloomberg back in Sept. 17, 2008:

Assets in money market funds, considered the safest investments after cash and bank deposits, rose to a record $3.59 trillion this month as stock and commodity markets fell. Investor confidence has been shaken by the subprime-mortgage collapse, the demise of Lehman and Bear Stearns Cos., and the failure of 11 U.S. commercial banks.

Widespread withdrawals from money-market funds would aggravate the global credit crunch because they are major buyers of short-term debt issued by corporations and financial companies. Today, the cost of borrowing in dollars for three months jumped the most since September 1999 as banks hoarded cash. The London interbank offered rate, or Libor, rose 19 basis points to 3.06 percent, the British Bankers' Association said. A basis point is one-hundredth of 1 percent.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

President Obama's First Press Conference

I am stunned, absolutely stunned, after 8 years of complete nonsense, President Obama's first press conference to the American Public is a refreshing change in both tone and content.

"I took a trip to Elkhart, Indiana today. Elkhart is a place that has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in America. In one year, the unemployment rate went from 4.7% to 15.3%. Companies that have sustained this community for years are shedding jobs at an alarming speed, and the people who've lost them have no idea what to do or who to turn to. They can't pay their bills and they've stopped spending money. And because they've stopped spending money, more businesses have been forced to lay off more workers. Local TV stations have started running public service announcements that tell people where to find food banks, even as the food banks don't have enough to meet the demand.

As we speak, similar scenes are playing out in cities and towns across the country. Last Monday, more than 1,000 men and women stood in line for 35 firefighter jobs in Miami. Last month, our economy lost 598,000 jobs, which is nearly the equivalent of losing every single job in the state of Maine. And if there's anyone out there who still doesn't believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside down because they don't know where their next paycheck is coming from."

"The plan is not perfect," the president said, addressing the nation from the East Room of the White House. "No plan is. I can't tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans."
I think political analyst, Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show", made a very interesting observation, when she indicated that President Obama was presenting the issue and the situation of what's happening to everyday Americans to Washington, this is different than President Obama trying to explain Washington to the American Public - which is what former President Bush often did.

If anyone doubts the serious and real crisis we are looking at with regards to the economy, this chart says it all:

The Green Line represents 2008/2009 Job Losses, these are ACTUAL job losses. The shocking pace of unemployment rates compared to the unemployment rates in the past should wake up any left in denial.

The only question is HOW long will this recession last if we don't act soon. The longer we wait, the longer and more painful this recession will be.
The Republican GOP Party is demonstrating how pathetically inadequate they are to the whole crisis resolution. They have become a party of whiners ("Nancy Pelosi is being mean to us") and obstructionists. I have no idea what these guys are smoking, how stupid are they, that they don't see that the American Public gets the fact that the GOP are the problem. Yet they are high-fiving each other that none of the House Republicans voted for the Stimulus Bill.

It's absolutely stunning, how the Republican Party honestly does not know how to govern, all they know how to do is complain. They certainly have the ability to feign hurt and outrage down pat. They remind me of soccer players who fall down and look agonized to get a flag or penalty on the other team. The GOP just loves "working the refs". I am completely offended that my tax payers are going toward the salary of these useless morons. Personally I am a fairly generous and forgiving person, but nothing tests my patience than pure stupidity and incompetence.

Have a look at these poll numbers by Gallup:

President Barack Obama continues to have high approval ratings, compared to Congress. But what's interesting is that the Republicans in Congress has the biggest disapproval rate, even greater than the Democrats.

There is a great quote from Thomas Pain, that Lee Iaoccoca repeated in a long ago commercial:

"Lead, Follow, or Get out of the way"

The Republican Party should really consider that advice...

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Favorite Things

I think in this economic environment, you have to take pleasure in some of the simple things.

Here are a few of my favorite things:
  1. Being able to sleep in on a Sunday morning
  2. That first cup of coffee in the morning
  3. Getting compliments from men in random places
  4. Dancing to a Britney Spears song (in private)
  5. The Whole Foods Salad Bar
  6. Buying that fabulous black dress on impulse, and finding that it's on sale!
  7. Watching "Weekend at Bernies" on TBS
  8. Reading the Best Of Rants and Raves on Craigslist (it definitely helps to put your life in perspective and realize that you have a great life compared to others)
  9. Going to Costco's and trying their dessert samples!
  10. Going for a walk in the sun/on the beach/in the mountains etc.
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The Republican Party - Party of the Stupids

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, we got a preview of the future leadership of the Republican Party, and it provided a great little gem of an interview with Michael Steele, which showcased just how much the Republican Party is becoming the party of the Stupid People.

Trying to sound outraged and morally superior, the hypocritcal Republican "suddenly we have become the party of fiscal responsibility" Michael Steele has this to say about Pell Grants:
STEELE: How does -- how does -- I mean, I'm all for Pell Grants, but how does a Pell Grant, increasing funding for Pell Grant get me a job when I just lost mine?

Yes Mr. Steele, please go on and tell us why you think having stupid and uneducated people in America is good for our economy. And while we are at it, explain to me why having a proper and real solution to address Health Care and Health issues is such a bad thing? Why is it that they can't get it throught their tiny little skulls, that having a healthy and educated workforce is GOOD for the economy.

Then Steele goes on to argue that jobs created by the Government aren't really jobs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So a job doesn't count if it's a government job?


STEELE: Hold on. No, let me -- let me -- let me finish. That is a contract. It ends at a certain point, George. You know that. These road projects that we're talking about have an end point.

As a small-business owner, I'm looking to grow my business, expand my business. I want to reach further. I want to be international. I want to be national. It's a whole different perspective on how you create a job versus how you create work. And I'm -- either way, the bottom line is...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess I don't really understand that distinction.

STEELE: Well, the difference -- the distinction is this. If a government -- if you've got a government contract that is a fixed period of time, it goes away. The work may go away. That's -- there's no guarantee that that -- that there's going to be more work when you're done in that job.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but we've seen millions and millions of jobs going away in the private sector just in the last year.

STEELE: But they come -- yes, they -- and they come back, though, George. That's the point. When they go -- they've gone away before, and they come back.
I love how Steele doesn't get how dumb he sounds saying that. Exactly how are these jobs going to come back or get created when there is no demand? Exactly how do they not get that something needs to get the economy re-started. The only way to compensate in place of private spending, is for Government to step up - UNTIL the economy can get back on its feet.

But then again, these are the morons who still think that having emission standards is a terrible thing, and who fought against efficiency standards since the last Oil crisis, which meant that the US was NOT prepared this past summer to handle the high oil prices.

As I watch the Stimulus debate and posturing by the Republican party, I honestly don't know why I continue to be astounded by their stupidity and their idiotic talking points. Really, can't they ever come up with intelligent and productive ideas? Why are they always such a bunch of small minded hypocrites?

I can't put it any better than Jon Stewart, on just how ridiculous the Republican Party is and will be for foreseeable future!

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Acting vs Being President

I read an article on Huffington Post the other day that just really got my goat. I'd love to say something a bit stronger, but I don't like to swear.

Think Progress provided this little gem about Andrew Card's response to the working informality of President Obama's administration in the NY Times Article:

CARD: I found that Ronald Reagan and both President Bushes treated the Oval Office with tremendous respect. They treated the Office of the Presidency with tremendous respect. And some of that respect was reflected in how they expected people to behave, how they expected them to dress when they walked into the symbol of freedom for the world, the Oval Office. And yes, I’m disappointed to see the casual, laissez faire, short sleeves, no shirt and tie, no jacket, kind of locker room experience that seems to be taking place in this White House and the Oval Office.
Seriously??? Because President Obama will take off his suit jacket to actually do work in the Oval Office, Andrew Card thinks it creates a locker-room experience??

Because if anyone created that locker-room experience it was President Bush, with his ridiculous habit of calling people by their nicknames! Why? Because he couldn't be bothered to respect that individual by remembering or calling them by their true name. What was up with him calling reporters like David Gregory, "Stretch", or Michael Brown that incompetent FEMA director, "Brownie". It always reminded me of some coach saying "You can do it slugger".

If nothing else, this seriously underscored the disillusionment of the Bush Presidency. Here is the difference between the two men:

If Mr. Obama’s clock is looser than Mr. Bush’s, so too are his sartorial standards. Over the weekend, Mr. Obama’s first in office, his aides did not quite know how to dress. Some showed up in the West Wing in jeans (another no-no under Mr. Bush), some in coats and ties.

So the president issued an informal edict for “business casual” on weekends — and set his own example. He showed up Saturday for a briefing with his chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, dressed in slacks and a gray sweater over a white buttoned-down shirt. Workers from the Bush White House are shocked.

“I’ll never forget going to work on a Saturday morning, getting called down to the Oval Office because there was something he was mad about,” said Dan Bartlett, who was counselor to Mr. Bush. “I had on khakis and a buttoned-down shirt, and I had to stand by the door and get chewed out for about 15 minutes. He wouldn’t even let me cross the threshold.”

In a nutshell: President Bush just PLAYED at being President, while President Obama is a President.

President Bush just liked the pomp and circumstance, taking pride in his silly Presidential Rug in the Oval Office, the special feeling of flying around in Air Force One, and the "Hail to the Chief" playing in his footsteps. He would never admit to making a mistake, because he felt that would make him look weak.

President Obama, however, is more concerned about actually DOING something to make a difference. Setting the tone, communicating to the American Public what's at stake, and what's being done, setting the goals and priorities to his Administration. Because that's what a PRESIDENT DOES! He doesn't feel the need to own all the ideas, he will admit that he will make mistakes - who doesn't? Most of all, he is willing to hear opposing views and criticism.

Another example showcasing the difference between the two Presidents:

In the West Wing, Mr. Obama is a bit of a wanderer. When Mr. Bush wanted to see a member of his staff, the aide was summoned to the Oval Office. But Mr. Obama tends to roam the halls; one day last week, he turned up in the office of his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, who was in the unfortunate position of having his feet up on the desk when the boss walked in.

“Wow, Gibbs,” the press secretary recalls the president saying. “Just got here and you already have your feet up.” Mr. Gibbs scrambled to stand up, surprising Mr. Obama, who is not yet accustomed to having people rise when he enters a room.
This example of the two types of leadership isn't just limited to the Office of the President, Everyone in any field or job knows what I am talking about. The boss who only pays attention to superficial matters, like what time you get in, as opposed to what you actually accomplish. The manager who expects everyone to fawn over them, despite the fact that they are incompetent. The ones who expect you to do all the work in getting ready for the big presentation, and then take all the credit. Even in the military you have some officers who are complete idiots, and who care about looking like a leader, as opposed to actually being a leader.

But it's not just jobs, it's also in some Churches. You have some churches who disapprove of how people are dressed for service. I always think it's nicer to dress to go to church, but I guarantee that God doesn't care whether you wear jeans or whether you wear a designer suit, he would just rather you show up to spend time with him, to hear his word, and sing about his blessings!

This is a small thing, and I am sure that President Obama could care less what Andrew Card and his ilk have to say about whether or not he wears a suit jacket in the Oval office.

But when I read this comment, it just got me totally steamed about the principle - that the Bush Administration NEVER GOT IT. It's not about the superificial things that matter, it's about the substance - the blatant disrespect of the the US Constitution, the secrecy, the incompetent managing of the economy, the Wars that were bungled, and the lives that were lost.

The fact that they don't speak to that, but just stupid, superifical things about what to wear in the Oval Office is what makes me so angry. I mean how STUPID are these guys? They totally don't get it, and they never will.

Part of what drives success is a clear willingness to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. According to these guys, they never did anything wrong. This continued lack of self-awareness will be the reason why the Republican Party will be wandering in the wilderness for generations to come. They only have bloviating idiots like Rush Limbaugh to lead them.

They have no solution, no ideas, no message, and no self-awareness of exactly what's wrong with their party.

The only danger to the Democrats is if they fall victim to the same trap! They too need to be cognizant of what is required, and really understand the mood of the American People. If they lose that, then the leadership is their's to lose.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Of all Human emotions, I find "trust" to be a really strange concept. We talk about trust as a concept in our every day life, from the dollar bill that declares "In God We Trust", to the notion that we, as individuals, "trust" in the legal entity and validity of the US Government to ensure our bank accounts. Because if you think about it, our paper money could be like monopoly money. The only thing that gives it value, is because we endow it with meaning, and we "trust" that the government would be able to back the value. Originally this was backed by the value and holdings of Gold Reserves, but since we walked away from tying the the US Dollar to the Gold Standard, our financial system is dependent on the trust we place in the US Government.

When we go grocery shopping, we "trust" that we get what we paid for, that we expect that there is a minimum standard of quality and freshness.

Duracell has spent a lot of effort to brand this idea in their batteries - that it's

A stable society can only flourish with trust in the individual responsibility - that people adhere to the same set of rules. Personal relationships work only when individuals trust in each other. That there is something dependable and reliable between two people. Parents trust that their kids will do the right thing. When that trust is broken, it always makes things harder to keep the same open trust in someone new, that trust issues from a past relationship doesn't color the new one.

I struggled with this concept recently, which is why it's so much on my mind. I struggled with a new person I had recently met, particularly after being disappointed by my last long term relationship, but I also run into this trust issue at work all the time. It's been my experience, that no matter what process or system we implement to help us attain some business result, it's success always depends on trusting that everyone conducts their tasks as required, that they stick to the guidelines or rules that have been set.

What's interesting is the culture in my company is very much centered around individual ownership and accountability. That there is this trust that people will perform and do what they are supposed to do. Funny enough, the reality is, it's actually a lot harder assume this "trust". Because while one person might be trusted. It's a lot harder to control for a larger group. Can anyone really expect the same level of consistency?

Normally I consider my self an optimistic person, always willing to give others the benefit of the doubt. But the reality is, that I have a strong tendency to want to control situations and people, because I don't trust that people will do what is right, what is expected of them. Ironically, I railed at this very issue that made me want to bang my head against the wall today. In a nutshell, the global function essentially does not trust the local countries, so when I told them that they would no longer be signing off on the end product, they balked. My argument to them was that they, at the global level, set the standards. It's up to the local countries to follow and execute to those guidelines. It's this whole notion of "Think Globally, Act Locally". They have to trust that the local organizations will keep to the original intent as much as possible, while at the same time using their judgment to make changes to support their market. So I was demanding that they trust the countries, but oddly enough I would struggle to also place this same trust were I in their position.
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Commander-in-Chief Obama

Just saw an interesting story on President Obama's upcoming meeting with military commanders at the Pentagon.

From the AP:
Iraq is stable enough to allow the roughly 22,000 U.S. Marines there to withdraw, the service's top general said Friday.

"The time is right for Marines in general terms to leave Iraq," said Marine Corps Commandant James Conway.

The Marine Corps can't fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, because it does not have enough combat support troops and equipment to divide between the missions.

"Anything that you put into Afghanistan must necessarily come as a reduction of Marine forces in Iraq," he told reporters. "When the door slams on the Marines in Iraq, let all the Marines be on the other side of the door."

Conway has been pushing for a large deployment of Marines to Afghanistan for months. No decisions have been made on the size of the force that would be sent.

More interestingly, was this observation:

Conway said that Obama's willingness to meet with his military chiefs at the Pentagon instead of the White House amounts to a gesture of respect to the commanders.

"It is great symbology; he's on our turf," he said. "More importantly, he gets to meet and shake hands with hundreds of people in all the services."

President Obama continually impresses me with his collaborative nature, political maturity, and his respectful demeanor.

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Closing Gitmo ~ Restoring America's honor

Obama signed the Executive Order to close Guantanamo Bay Prison within one year.

Already the Conservatives pundits are going crazy with fear. What I find astonishing is that they think that Gitmo has kept Americans safe; when in reality, this very act was probably Al Qaeda's most powerful recruiting tool! They can advertise how unjust and hypocritical the United States is, and they would laugh and spit on our notion of Democracy.

According to the latest Gallup Poll, 45% of Americans do not believe that Guantanamo Bay should be closed. This was quite surprising and shocking to me. How can more Americans not see how morally wrong it is to torture. Can anyone,who professes to be a Christian, even say with a clear conscious that torture is acceptable?? How can Americans who profess that we feel so strongly about democracy and freedom, that we are willing to die for it, suddenly become so cowardly to say, we need to ignore human rights and that torture is acceptable because it will keep us safe.

As a society that upholds democratic ideals and principles, everyone should know that torture is wrong. You don't need a law to tell you that to commit such barbaric acts is not right. If that was the case, then why not castrate rapists and pedophiles? Yet we don't do this, because that is an act that is not reflective of a humane and just society. This idea that we can even attempt to tell the rest of the world, China included, to respect Human Rights, and push them toward a democractic model, while continually supporting torture and rendition, and ignoring Habeus Corpus is laughable.

The Habeas Corpus act of 1649 and its interpretation was clearly upheld and incorporated into our Constitution by the Founding Fathers. Furthermore, the Founding Fathers, when developing the Constitution, clearly put the focus and emphasis on individual freedoms, and checks and balances against the limitations of Government abuses. This is why during criminal trials, the burden of proof rests with the State, not the individual. This is why illegal search and seizures are not allowed.

George Bush created a nightmare when he created Guantanamo Bay Prison. He was on record for trying to close it, however, he was unable to accomplish it, simply due to the legal complexities, and the fact that because evidence obtained by torture taints the evidence.

I have no doubt that there are some very dangerous terrorists, at the same time, there is also a large probability that a majority are innocent people who have been illegally imprisoned. They have had no avenues for justice, nor have they been able to petition for release due to lack of evidence. However, by imprisoning and torturing them unjustly, we have now just made more enemies.

Let's remember that all the former Secretary of States went on record on the CNN Forum "The Next President: A World of Challenges":

AMANPOUR: General Powell, it's not just about like, is it? It's about being able to get things done. America is the strongest nation in the world. But a new intelligence report is going to tell the next president that America's dominance is not going to be as supreme as it was.

So what do you tell the next president about how to regain respect?

POWELL: I think we have to recognize that there are other nations in the world now whose economic strength is growing, and therefore their political influence is growing.

I don't know that we should be afraid of this or see that as a threat to us. Isn't this what we were working for all of these many decades? We wanted them to rise up and join the international economic community. And that is what is happening.

We're working multilaterally to solve the Iranian problem, the North Korean problem. We have worked with the world to increase funding for HIV-AIDS. We've doubled the amount of money we're putting into development assistance around the world.

So I think a case can be made that we can build on that strength. And the new president, with a different approach to things, and with a different attitude to the rest of the world, can reverse this.

SESNO: But how about some tangible things that the next administration, the next president can do to change policy or send a signal that will address these issues?

POWELL: Close Guantanamo.

ALBRIGHT: Close Guantanamo. I think...

BAKER: Close Guantanamo. We were on a panel together several months ago, and we all agreed, one of the best things that could happen would be to close Guantanamo, which is a very serious blot upon our reputation.
Military experts all agree that torture is not a reliable method for obtaining evidence. Unfortunately, most Americans watch too much TV, and have been fooled by the television "24", and the notion that by torturing someone, it will for sure get that critical piece of intelligence that will help defuse a bomb with 1 minute to spare!
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