Posts Tagged ‘barack obama’

Obama, Iran and the late William Buckley

February 16th, 2015 Comments off

There are growing indications that the Obama administration will sign a nuclear agreement with Iran that will allow Tehran to become a nuclear-threshold state. It seems the only issue being contested at present is the extent of the cosmetic and temporary concessions the Iranians will grant so that Iran does not fully emerge as a nuclear weapons state until after the expiration of the Obama presidency.  The disarming body language and genuine warmth that characterizes the public interaction between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Minster of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif seems to point in that direction, belying the fact that these two nations have not had diplomatic relations for 35 years because the government of one of those states ordered its armed thugs to attack and seize the embassy of the other nation, in the most flagrant violation of international law, holding its diplomats hostage for 444 days.

Of course, Barack Obama has promised on more than one occasion that he would never permit Iran to become a nuclear armed state. Then again, this is the same President Obama who warned Syria’s president not to use poison gas on his own people, or there would be consequences for crossing that red line. And let us not forget the President’s assurances that the war in Iraq was over and it was safe to withdraw all U.S. forces, or that the emerging Islamic State was nothing more than a “jayvee team” or that Yemen was a great success story for America’s anti-terrorism strategy–the same Yemen where Washington was recently forced to close its embassy after a coup in that country staged by anti-American rebels loyal to Iran.

The consequences involved in permitting Iran to become a nuclear weapons state are, obviously, far more consequential. Barack Obama is not the first president confronting a rogue regime about to acquire nuclear weapons capability. In the early 1990s, evidence mounted that North Korea was embarking on a nuclear weapons program. As with President Obama, then President Clinton pledged to the American people that the North Korean regime would never be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons. Then former President Jimmy Carter came to the rescue. He flew to North Korea, met with the reigning dictator and laid the groundwork for what became the 1994 Agreed Framework treaty, which supposedly froze North Korea’s attempt to develop atomic weapons through plutonium production in exchange for U.S. economic aid. However, the treaty collapsed after Clinton left office when U.S. intelligence learned that North Korea had cheated on the agreement by secretly developing a uranium enrichment program as an alternative path towards developing nuclear bombs. In 2006, North Korea conducted its first test detonation of a nuclear bomb.

It appears that the Obama administration is following in the path originally set by President Clinton. In addition to tolerating a vast nuclear enrichment facility, much of it underground, that can only have been established for the eventual mass production of nuclear bombs to mate with Tehran’s increasingly powerful and longer-range ballistic missiles, the current administration has been passive in the face of Iran’s growing hegemony in the Middle East, as witnessed by Tehran’s virtual  occupation of Lebanon through its proxy militia, its massive intervention in the Syrian civil war on the side of Bashar al-Assad, and increasing military involvement and control in Iraq and the recent pro-Iranian coup in Yemen. This passivity is inexplicable, considering the potential  and dire strategic and economic consequences for the United States.

What about the character of the regime that President Obama and his national security team seem about to trust with the most destructive weapons on earth? Amid  the long list of Iranian terrorist attacks against the U.S. and its interests aboard  unleashed by Tehran since 1979, there is one which, more than any other, defines the essence of the regime of the Ayatollahs and its contempt for the United States.

In 1984 the CIA station chief in Beirut, William Buckley, was kidnapped by the Iranian controlled Hezbollah  militia. The fate of William Buckley was disclosed by Washington Post columnist Jack Anderson in an article published the following year (,8626261). According to Anderson, who based his account on confidential sources within the U.S. intelligence community, Buckley was smuggled into Iran, and subjected to numerous bouts of brutal interrogation under barbaric torture in the basement of the Iranian foreign ministry, the same building being presided over today by John Kerry’s Iranian counterpart, Zarif.  The barbarous torture eventually induced a heart attack, leading to the death of Buckley. As Jack Anderson stated in his article, Iran was responsible for the horrific murder under torture of an American patriot.

President Obama seems determined to move forward on a nuclear agreement with the regime that tortured and murdered William Buckley. He should reflect on how this dedicated CIA agent must have felt, abandoned by his government and alone with his Iranian torturers, enduring a hellish nightmare in the basement of the Iranian foreign ministry.  Is the nation William Buckley died for now about to be abandoned, for the sake of a presidential legacy?

If Hillary Clinton runs for President of the United States  in 2016, see the video about the book that warned back in 2008 what a second Clinton presidency would mean for the USA:



Hillary Clinton Nude

Hillary Clinton Nude

Barack Obama, Missing In Action

January 13th, 2015 Comments off

“Showing up is 80 percent of life.”

-Woody Allen


It was the non-presence that reverberated around the world. The largest demonstration to be held in the history of Paris, drawing 1.5 million participants in response to the Jihadist attacks in the French capital, was led by a phalanx of world leaders. Standing alongside French President Francois Hollande was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and a host of other prominent heads of state and government, representative of America’s closest and most engaged allies in the global struggle that has come to define the opening decades of the 21st century.  But not the head of state of the United States.

Neither Present Obama, nor Vice President Biden, nor Secretary of State Kerry saw fit to be present in this symbolically iconic march of unity. True, the lame duck Attorney General, Eric Holder was in Paris, ostensibly for meetings related to the recent terror attacks in the capital of America’s oldest ally. Yet, even he chose to be absent at the rally that so galvanized the rest of the world. In contrast, even Russia, at the nadir of its relationship with the European Union over the crisis in Ukraine, dispatched Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to participate in the rally.

The absence of Barack Obama or any other senior official from his administration on January 11 in Paris is so inexplicable, even the president’s most steadfast defenders are aghast. What rationale can possibly be proffered in defense of so counter-intuitive a non-action?

Undoubtedly, President Obama was acting on the “advice” of his senior national security team, the same clique of sages that counseled Obama to deny the Syrian opposition military assistance on the premise that they were only “pharmacists and doctors” (, thus opening the way for Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to fill the vacuum. The same gang of consigliere that suggested a swift withdrawal of American forces from Iraq simultaneous with a declaration that the war was over, ignoring the voices of those that warned of impending disaster, such as departing U.S. ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker ( The geniuses that devised a provocative approach towards Russia in Ukraine guaranteed to relaunch the Cold War, on the theory that the United States did not have enough adversaries  to confront in the world.

The President of the United States is not only the chief manager of the Federal government bureaucracy. He is also, since World War II, the leading world statesman. His physical presence, even symbolic, has immense impact on the global stage. When President Kennedy flew to the Western zone in Berlin in June 1963 at a time of growing Cold War tension over the future of that beleaguered outpost of freedom, he intuitively understood that importance in a manner that President Obama apparently does not. Addressing a mass rally in that city, Kennedy proclaimed “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (I am a Berliner!) Kennedy’s presence and words energized and inspired millions, and was a watershed moment during the Cold War.

How magnificent an opportunity it would have been if President Barack Obama had joined with his peers he is supposedly in alliance with in the confrontation with radical Islam, and proclaimed to the citizens of the French capital, “Je suis un Parisien! ”

Sadly, the man who was elected as the 44th President of the United States largely on the promise that he would inspire the world with his words, offered only the unseen echo of silence.



If Hillary Clinton runs for President of the United States  in 2016, see the video about the book that warned back in 2008 what a second Clinton presidency would mean for the USA:



Hillary Clinton Nude

Hillary Clinton Nude


President Obama Fires Secretary of Defense Hagel: Barack Obama and the Audacity of Failure

November 25th, 2014 Comments off

It is often remarked that the Ship of State  is the one ship which leaks from the top. Thus even before the blatantly theatrical political funeral dirge conducted at the White House in which President Obama announced that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the sole remaining Republican in his cabinet, would  be leaving of his own accord after serving only 22 months, the usual “unnamed senior sources” representing the administration were already telling their media contacts that Hagel was, in effect, fired.

The New York Times reported that  “officials characterized the decision as a recognition that the threat from the militant group Islamic State will require different skills from those that Mr. Hagel…was brought in to employ.” ( The implication was that Hagel was a timid man, originally brought in to implement Obama’s stated policy of withdrawing from first Iraq and then Afghanistan, while downsizing  the Defense Department. With the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a new policy was called for, and a new defense secretary, the unnamed White House source proclaimed, one more muscular and forceful in confronting the Islamic State.

While the passage of time will undoubtedly provide more leaks, perhaps a book of memoirs by Chuck Hagel and further context, this much is clear; President Barack Obama’s national security strategy in relation to Islamist threats stemming from the Middle East, in particular the Islamic State, has been an unmitigated disaster, and soon-to-be former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam combat veteran and moderate Republican with a strong streak of bipartisanship, has been set up as a scapegoat for the administration’s failures.

What we do know for sure is what both the President and his Defense Secretary had stated on the public record in connection with the Islamic State, also, known  as ISIS, and which President Obama insists on calling ISIL.

In January 2014 Obama told David Remnick of The New Yorker, after Islamist forces in Iraq seized Fallujah and raised the Al-Qaeda flag,  “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”  (

In contrast, Chuck Hagel had this to say about the Islamic State at a Pentagon press briefing conducted on August 21, 2014:  “They are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else… They are beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything we’ve seen.” (

While the President was initially dismissive of the Islamic State, and has remained tentative and uncertain in his at times awkward responses, Hagel was far from the passive and timid defense secretary he is now being portrayed as by the masters of spin in the White House. His very forceful and articulate warning displays an impressive level of sober realism that is sorely lacking within the President’s national security council, and from Obama himself.

Turning Chuck Hagel into a scapegoat cannot obfuscate the glaring failures cascading out of the ruins of the administration’s inept foreign policy and national security strategy. Obama is a president who loudly proclaims red lines in the sand, such as use of chemical warfare agents by the Syrian regime, and when President Bashar al-Assad defied those red lines with a grotesque massacre of innocents in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Obama grasped onto the flimsy straw tossed at him by Russia’s President Putin, rendering his red line invisible. His is an administration which sends presidential letters proclaiming friendship to the tyrannical “Supreme Leader” of Iran, who almost daily dishes out hatred and contempt for America, while permitting–perhaps encouraging–a senior unnamed official to tell journalist Jeff Goldberg of The Atlantic that Israel’s Prime Minster Netanyahu was, in effect, a fool for trusting President Obama’s pledges on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, because what the administration really sought was to delay an Israeli military operation until the Iranian nuclear program progressed to the point where it was beyond the capacity of the Israel Defense Forces to take it out. ( No wonder few world leaders maintain trust in the President’s word and integrity.

Beyond the Middle East, President Obama has “engineered” the radical deconstruction of Russia-U.S. relations. It must be recognized that the President himself bears a major responsibility for the deterioration in ties between Moscow and Washington. In previous blog pieces, I have pointed out what I believe have been President Putin’s miscalculations. But why did the President send CIA  Director John Brennan to Kiev at a sensitive point in the emerging Ukrainian-Russia crisis? Not only did the administration engage in needlessly provocative acts that exacerbated the crisis over Ukraine; President Obama has given evidence that he harbors deep contempt-as well as profound ignorance-towards Russia. In an interview with The Economist conducted aboard Air Force One in August 2014 the President proclaimed boldly, “Russia doesn’t make anything.” ( Perhaps the President is unaware that America’s Atlas V rockets, the vehicle used by the Defense Department to launch U.S. spy satellites into orbit utilize the RD-180 rocket engine in their first stage–and this component is not made in America, but in Russia, the land Barack Obama believes  “doesn’t make anything.”

Like the good soldier he is, Chuck Hagel stood stoically and with his dignity intact, beside President Obama and Vice President Biden in the White House’s State Dining Room, as his thinly-disguised termination was being ceremoniously performed. In time, just as with his predecessors Leon Panetta and Robert Gates, he may pen a tell-all book of memoirs, highly critical of the President. However, we need not wait for a future book to conclude that it is the President and his tightly-knit national security team–a clique which largely excluded and isolated Chuck Hagel– and not the fired defense secretary–who bear the historical responsibility for a record of disastrous decision-making.

In 2008, candidate-for-president Barack Obama proclaimed the audacity of hope in a time of despair, and wrote a very thoughtful and sensible op-ed piece in The New York Times, entitled “My Plan For Iraq,”  in which Obama advocated the retention of a residual military force in Iraq and warned that,  “we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. ” (

As with so much else connected with President Obama and national security, he has acted contrary to his past words and proclaimed intentions. There is no longer hope; the despair remains. Amid  the debris of a ruined national security strategy, we are left with the audacity of failure, glaring and unhidden, in spite of the best efforts at scapegoating Chuck Hagel.


If Hillary Clinton runs for President of the United States  in 2016, see the video about the book that warned back in 2008 what a second Clinton presidency would mean for the USA:



Hillary Clinton Nude

Hillary Clinton Nude


President Obama Wages War on the Islamic State, aka ISIS and ISIL: Anatomy of a Disaster in the Making

October 5th, 2014 Comments off

A  full-blooded war in its early stages is now underway, involving two antagonists, the Islamic State led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, known to his followers as Caliph Ibrahim, and the United States of America, led by President Barack Obama. The former, creator of the world’s first Islamic caliphate in nearly a century, is strong-willed, determined, persistent and utterly ruthless. The latter, by contrast, is a reluctant warrior, tentative, incoherent in his understanding and articulation of the threat posed by his nemesis, and prone to missteps. It is the distinction in the capacities of these two leaders far more than the relative military potential of the two opposing actors that will determine the outcome of this potentially epochal struggle. The present trajectory revealed in the leadership style and substance of the President leads me to a pessimistic assessment of this evolving military conflict . The following comprises my diagnosis of why President Obama is leading the United States towards a potentially cataclysmic outcome for his nation:

1. President Obama has consistently underestimated–and misunderstood– his opponent. Hubris is one of the most fatal afflictions that can undermine a national leader engaged in a great struggle. Unfortunately, Obama has time and again demonstrated an inability to accurately gauge his opponent’s capacity.  The intelligence failures and abject unwillingness to comprehend the emerging threat posed by al-Baghdadi and his Islamic State by the President  are already well recognized, such as his reference in January 2014 to the Islamic State as a “JV team.” Recent formulations by the President display continued misconceptions regarding the leader of the Islamic State.

In a nationally televised statement made by President Obama on September 10, 2014 he said, “ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents.” ( Considering that neither the President nor his principal national security advisors are practicing Muslims, while Abu Bakr a-Baghdadi holds two advanced degrees in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad, including a PhD, it is an astonishing display of naiveté for America’s Commander-in-Chief to engage in a contest on the relative expertise of the two leaders in the field of Islamic jurisprudence and Koranic exegesis. The brutal truth is that the Caliph of the Islamic State has the credentials and expert knowledge to base all of his military decisions on Islamic principles, and that is a defining strength of al-Baghdadi that enables him to inspire his followers to a fanatical religious devotion. The President’s ill-founded characterizations reveals a lack of ability to comprehend the glue that binds together the military prowess that defines the Islamic State. Furthermore, history repeatedly reveals that religion (and rigid secular ideologies)–not only Islam, but all three monotheistic faith traditions–have scriptures and theological precepts that can and have been used to justify the slaying of non-combatants.

By attempting to turn the conflict  that has been initiated by the Islamic State into a contest in defining the true nature of Islam, President Obama arouses contempt and ridicule from the enemy while achieving nothing on the battlefield.


2. The Commander-in-Chief is attempting to wage war on the cheap. One gets the impression that President Obama believes he can determine the course of a military conflict by edict. For example, he can decide to withdraw troops from one operational theatre, and declare no ground forces will be deployed to another arena, as though politically-determined polices are a substitute for careful, long-term strategic and operational decision-making. Clearly, Obama hopes to contain the Islamic State through airpower and drones, primarily American but supposedly involving a large coalition of allies.

If massive aerial bombing and the deployment of hundreds of thousands of troops could not defeat the Vietcong during the Vietnam war, what historical parallels is the President turning towards to instill confidence that airpower alone will bring the forces of the caliphate to their knees? As for the military contribution by several NATO and Arab allies, the miniscule number of combat aircraft being offered by these nations is irrelevance in the broader context of the struggle. The farcical nature of this contribution was illustrated by the British Ministry of Defense highlighting the deployment of a mere two aircraft and their subsequent destruction of a single Islamic State Toyota pickup truck as a major “triumph” on the battlefield.

To date, America’s leader and his key allies are thinking small and short-term, while the looming struggle will be massive and enduring. Conducting this warfare through minimalist means will only guarantee a far lengthier and costly struggle with the forces of the Islamic State.

3. President Obama lacks a grand strategic vision for confronting the Islamic State. The President’s external priorities have been all over the map, diluting the ability of the U.S. to comprehensively and effectively confront the challenge being posed by the Islamic State.  While al-Baghdadi was building up strength, training his cadres and formulating his strategy, America’s  foreign policy and national security agenda has been globally dispersed. Obama and his key advisors, in particular John Kerry, were simultaneously retreating from the Middle East while seeking to have the other anti-American Islamic theocracy in the region, Iran, serve as a substitute for protecting U.S. regional interest through concessions on the nuclear issue; devoting massive allocations of time and effort towards “resolving” the Palestinian-Israeli issue when  all the known facts indicated that this was at present a fool’s errand that was also a marginal factor in the continuing disarray  in the region; pivoting towards the Asia-Pacific region in  a manner that signaled that China, America’s principal financial creditor, was being viewed as a future threat; and restarting the Cold War with Russia through miscalculations and ill-advised intervention in the political turmoil in Ukraine.

If the Islamic State was an insignificant threat, perhaps the United States would have the luxury of engaging in multilateral policy endeavors that would add to Washington’s list of adversaries and estranged allies. However, in the kind of contest of wills that the Caliph has unleashed, I don’t think a wise policymaker would characterize the threat being posed as insubstantial. That being the case, a more coherent presidency would be focused on defeating the threat, and building the alliances that would maximize the ability to crush the Islamic State. Russia and China are both viewed as enemies by the Islamic State, along with the United States. Obama should be reaching out to Moscow and Beijing as potential and powerful allies in the war against the Islamic State, rather than engaging in policies that create tension in the relationship with these two counties, while diverting attention and resources away from the confrontation with the Islamic State.

4. Thus far, the President does not appear to fully recognize the nature and scope of the threat being posed to America by al-Baghdadi and his army. In essence, everything that President Obama has said and every decision he has made in connection with the Islamic State reveals that Obama views it as a phenomenon in continuity with the general “War on Terror,” which actually began prior to September 11, 2001. The very conceptualization labeled as the “War on Terror” betrays the strategic disconnect and intellectual vacuum within the decision-making apparatus in Washington. Terror, per se, is a tactical means employed by a hostile entity, and not the entity itself. Obama apparently sees the conflict as one involving a  confrontation with “terrorists” as opposed to a structured entity, the Islamic State, with an army, battlefield commanders, an effective military staff and strong leadership. Furthermore, this structured entity is clearly at war with the United States, and there is no ambiguity or lack of clarity by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his leadership regarding their intentions towards the United States. This is made clear in a propaganda film released by the Islamic State, “Flames of War,” which concludes with a message from the Caliph aimed directly at the American people:

“Finally, this is a message we direct to America. Know, O defender of the cross, that a  proxy war won’t help you  in Sham [Syria] just as it didn’t help you in Iraq. As for the near future, you will be forced into a direct confrontation, with Allah’s permission, despite your reluctance. And the sons of Islam have prepared for this day, so wait and see, for we too are also going to wait and see.” (

The Islamic State wants the United States to once again deploy a large field army in the heart of the Arab world, and will seek to provoke President Obama to undertake what his enemy knows he is reluctant to do. How will they achieve their objective? In all probability, by launching a massive attack on American soil, at the level of September 11, 2001, at a minimum. And why do they seek the return of large ground forces from the U.S. to the Middle East? In the short term, this will aid in their recruitment. Long term, the leadership of IS are convinced that they can wear down the U.S. Army in grinding battles of attrition in urban combat, in the process crippling America militarily and economically.

A President who truly understood the threat facing the nation would not be expending time on the golf course or fundraising expeditions; he would be devoting every waking moment he has available in defending the United States from perhaps its most dangerous enemy since the Second World War.


If Hillary Clinton runs for President of the United States  in 2016, see the video about the book that warned back in 2008 what a second Clinton presidency would mean for the USA:



Hillary Clinton Nude

Hillary Clinton Nude





Will Barack Obama Be A One-Term President Due To U.S. Economic Crisis?

December 10th, 2010 Comments off

Over that past century, only four elected U.S. presidents have failed to win a second term in office. America’s 27th president, William Taft, succumbed to an insurgent challenge from his White House predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, whose third party candidacy  doomed Taft to defeat at the hands of Woodrow Wilson. The three other single term elected presidents of the past 100 years were victims of economic crises; Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H. Bush. Gerald Ford, the unelected successor to Richard Nixon, is an anomaly in U.S.. political history, being in effect Nixon’s surrogate and taking the heat for the Watergate scandal.

Will Barack Obama be fated to join the ranks of the one-timers? Though there remain nearly two years until the next presidential election, the prognosis on Obama is becoming increasingly guarded. Absent a severe economic or political crisis, an incumbent president seeking a second term normally enjoys an unassailable advantage over his opponent. Even amid the unpopularity of the Iraq war, George W. Bush was still able to convincingly defeat his Democratic Party challenger in the 2004 presidential contest, Senator John Kerry. However, unless a miraculous economic turnaround occurs, President Obama is likely to enter the 2012 presidential campaign  with baggage which may leave him highly vulnerable to a strong challenger from the GOP.

Almost all serious economic forecasts project that America will still be experiencing historically high levels of unemployment in 2012. The Republican Party’s midterm election triumph, in particular regaining control of the House of Representatives, points to the acute vulnerability Obama’s reelection campaign will face. In addition, the themes that generated excitement  in 2008 for Obama’s candidacy, such as “change you can believe in,” will not be credible factors in 2012, leaving him as the incumbent forced to defend a questionable record in managing the economy, and any defensive posture is unlikely to elicit a memorable theme that will excite the Democratic Party’s base and attract independent voters, the latter category crucial for any presidential candidate. In contrast, we are already seeing convincing evidence that the GOP will have an effective grass-roots movement that is excited and motivated by the prospect of ending  the Obama presidency in 2012, as evidenced by the phenomenon of the Tea Party.

As dismal a factor as the economy is likely to be in calculating the odds of Barack Obama winning a second term, there are other elements that weaken the prospects of his winning a second term. The unending war in Afghanistan  is rapidly being transformed into Obama’s version of the Iraq debacle, with a growing proportion of the electorate losing faith in this costly overseas commitment that has become the center of gravity for Obama’s war on terror. The continuing war and perception that President Obama has compromised too easily with his Republican congressional opponents has estranged  some of his supporters within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. It is not inconceivable that Obama will face a Democratic challenger when he seeks re-nomination  as the Party’s presidential candidate in 2012.  Should that happen, the odds still favor Obama being the Democratic presidential nominee in 2012, however a divisive primary battle would further weaken the 44th president’s odds of winning a second term in the White House.

Increasingly, there is talk within Democratic Party circles regarding the steep challenge and mounting obstacles Barack Obama will face in campaigning in 2012 for a second term as president. Among these doomsayers there remains one hope; that the Republican Party will nominate Sarah Palin as its presidential candidate in 2012.  Looking at Palin’s current level of high negative poll numbers, they see her as a potential gift from Saint Jude, the patron saint of desperate causes. However, as former Labor Secretary  Robert Reich pointed out in a recent blog in the Huffington Post ( “Sarah Palin’s Presidential Strategy, and the Economy She Depends On”  ), Palin may be a far more formidable challenger to Barack Obama than Democratic strategists  recognize, especially if America’s economic woes persist.

Though undoubtedly campaigning in 2008 with the noblest of intentions, it is looking increasingly likely that Barack Obama will enter the history books as not only a one-term president, but also a valiant but deeply flawed failure.

The Demonization of Barack Obama

October 7th, 2009 Comments off

On November 22, 1963, as a fateful motorcade headed into downtown Dallas, leaflets were circulated throughout the city featuring profiles of President John F. Kennedy and headlined, “Wanted for Treason.”  On the day JFK was assassinated, there were factions from within the extreme rightwing of the American political spectrum expressing the most violent hatred for President Kennedy, accusing him of being soft on communism, a betrayer of anti-Castro Cubans  and an ultra-liberal supporter of civil rights for African-Americans. Before the bullets ricocheted  in Dealey Plaza on that violent day, they were preceded by words of violence. It is that historical context that connects directly with the unprecedented verbal venom being projected at the 44th President of the United States.

Even before the historic election that placed Barack Obama in the White House, crowds at several of John McCain’s rallies openly called for Barack Obama to be “killed.” Since Obama’s inauguration, the rhetoric has far from dissipated. If anything, the vitriolic contempt stemming from rightwing extremists in America has grown more strident. There are the “bithers,” who are convinced that Barack Obama is not a native-born American citizen, and therefore his presidency is inherently illegitimate. Far more ominously, there are those who are not content with just denouncing the “foreign occupier,” as some extremists refer to Obama; at rallies and on talk radio, a noisy contingent has talked about Obama representing tyranny, and have engaged in language that approaches the level of incitement towards violence.

President Barack Obama is not above criticism, as is the case with any politician. However, those who are pouring out hate and contempt towards Barack Obama, on a scale that approaches irrationality, actually drown out and delegitimize those who have genuine, thoughtful criticism of the policies of the Obama administration, especially with regards to the economic crisis and America’s exploding national debt and rampaging deficits.  While wrapping their vituperation in the American flag, these extremists masquerading  as patriots are actually damaging the heart and soul of the conservative movement in the United States, while stoking the flames of violence within America that can prove more destructive to the national interest than the threat posed by any external foe.

While listening to the joyous celebrations that erupted among many forums connected with the Republican Party when Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympic games, despite the personal intervention of President Obama, I had a feeling of déjà vu. Imagine, supporters of a U.S. political party that claims to be patriotic erupting in paroxysms of ecstasy over the defeat of an American Olympic bid, only because this somehow denigrates Obama. Where have I seen this before?

In France, just before World War II. For a brief period, a left-wing coalition government came to power in France, and for the first time a French Jew, Leon Blum, was that nation’s Premier. The rightwing went ballistic. Under no circumstances would they cooperate with Blum and his government. When Blum’s coalition, known as the Popular Front, reached out to conservative circles in France, they were rebuffed at every opportunity. Extremists attacked the Jewish Premier with violent verbosity, even when Leon Blum went against his own party’s agenda, and actually supported conservative policies on foreign affairs and military expenditures. The rightwing in France chanted in response, “better Adolf Hitler than Leon Blum.” In 1940, thanks in large part to the disunity and political polarization they had sowed, they got their wish, when the nation they claimed to love collapsed in a humiliating defeat.

Before the anti-Obama pathology that has gripped America’s rightwing has gone past the point of no return, are there any conservatives of conscience and civic courage willing to speak out? If not, their collective silence may prove more destructive to the United States than any plot being hatched by Al-Qaeda.



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Obama Versus JFK on Corporate Greed: The Comparison is Not Flattering

July 26th, 2009 Comments off

Amid the surreal and boastful bonuses the Wall Street tycoons have been paying themselves after being  rescued by the American taxpayer from their own reckless follies, there is an eerie silence from the Obama administration. That this “they can eat cake” mentality flourishes among the financial elites while the economic catastrophe they engineered through their unmitigated and reckless greed sends the U.S. unemployment rate into double digits is an immoral affront to basic human decency. Yet, except for an occasional sermon on corporate excess in a time of profound economic crisis, President Barack Obama has thus far failed to exercise decisive leadership and put a line in the sand on this defining question. To paraphrase a former Republican presidential candidate, where is the outrage?

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy was also confronted with corporate greed and excess. However, in sharp contrast with Obama, he demonstrated both moral outrage and decisive leadership. Does anyone remember when JFK took on the excess greed of the U.S. steel industry? It is instructive to look back nearly half a century ago.

In the second year of his administration, President Kennedy faced two wars, just as Obama reminds us constantly he is currently confronted with. True, only one was hot, in Southeast Asia, while the other conflict was referred to as the Cold War. Yet the Cold War posed a serious threat to the United States of nuclear extinction, a danger that came perilously close to reality later that year during the Cuban missile crisis. Prior to that, the danger of a military confrontation with the Soviet Union over Berlin was very real. All these factors required compulsory military service for hundreds of thousands of Americans, and  vast expenditures on national defence. This was all occurring at a time of economic crisis, requiring the Kennedy administration to confront both recessionary and  inflationary pressures.  To prevent prices from spiralling out of  control, the President sought the cooperation of both labor and management in key areas of the U.S. economy in order to keep the lid on prices. This was important both in terms of preserving the American standard of living at home, while promoting U.S. exports abroad. A major test case for the Kennedy administration was the U.S. steel industry, where large price increases, should they occur, would have a highly negative ripple effect throughout the U.S. economy.

President Kennedy personally intervened in the question over price hikes for steel. His first step was to obtain concessions from the steel unions. He was successful in winning agreement for a new union contract that would have no effect on steel prices, taking into account both wages and productivity. Kennedy expected  management to now do its part. Instead, first U.S. Steel, the nation’s largest steel producer, followed by its competitors, announced a substantial rise in steel prices. This action, if left unchallenged, would clearly have unleashed  a damaging bout of inflationary pressures throughout the economy.

JFK was outraged. He decided to take action, and bring his voice on the importance of the issue directly to the American  people. He conducted a news conference, and in his opening statement he did not mince words. Kennedy said:


“Simultaneous and identical actions of United States Steel and other leading steel corporations increasing steel prices by some $6 a ton constitute a wholly unjustifiable and irresponsible defiance of the public interest. In this serious hour in our nation’s history when we are confronted with grave crises in Berlin and Southeast Asia, when we are devoting our energies to economic recovery and stability, when we are asking reservists to leave their homes and their families for months on end and servicemen to risk their lives–and four were killed in the last two days in Vietnam– and asking union members to hold down their wage requests at a time when restraint and sacrifice are being asked of every citizen, the American people will find it hard, as I do, to accept a situation in which a tiny handful of steel executives whose pursuit of private power and profit exceeds their sense of public responsibility can show such utter contempt for the interests of 185 million Americans. If this rise in the cost of steel is imitated by the rest of the industry, instead of rescinded, it would increase the cost of homes, autos, appliances, and most other items for every American family. It would increase the cost of machinery and tools to every American businessman and farmer. It would seriously handicap our efforts to prevent an inflationary spiral from eating up the pensions of our older citizens, and our new gains in purchasing power…The Steelworkers Union can be proud that it abided by its responsibilities in this agreement, and this Government also has responsibilities which we intend to meet. The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are examining the significance of this action in a free, competitive economy. The Department of Defence and other agencies are reviewing its impact on their policies of procurement. And I am informed that steps are underway by those members of the Congress who plan appropriate inquiries into how these price decisions are so quickly made and reached and what legislative safeguards may be needed to protect the public interest. Price and wage decisions in this country, except for a very limited restriction in the case of monopolies and national emergency strikes, are and ought to be freely and privately made. But the American people have a right to expect, in return for that freedom, a higher sense of business responsibility for the welfare of their country than has been shown in the last 2 days. Some time ago I asked each American to consider what he would do for his country and I asked the steel companies. In the last 24 hours we had their answer.”


The leadership Kennedy demonstrated back in 1962 shamed the senior executives of the steel industry, leading them to rescind their unwarranted price increase. Afterwards, JFK is said to have remarked, “my father told me businessmen were SOBs. I didn’t believe him, until now.”

In the past six months, President Obama has revealed his towering intellect, basic decency and sophisticated world view. However, we have yet to observe the toughness and passion required to take on the forces that drove the U.S. and global economy into a ditch. Except for periodic and overly-mild rebukes, we have witnessed excessive conciliation that is underserved. I hope I will be proven wrong, but despite initial hopes by many that President Obama would become the “Black Kennedy,” more and more I am reminded of what the late Senator Lloyd Bentsen once told Senator Quayle during the Vice Presidential debate back in 1988: “You’re no John Kennedy.”


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Why Barack Obama Cannot Prevent America’s Next Great Depression

May 19th, 2009 Comments off
Barack Obama, America’s 44th President, is one of the most brilliant, hard working and innovative politicians to occupy the White House. If the current economic crisis were a typical post-war cyclical recession, there is no doubt that President Obama would be up to the challenge, and lead the United States to renewed growth and prosperity. Alas, we are in different times, with a uniquely devastating and dangerous economic disaster of worldwide scope. Not even as gifted a leader as Barack Obama, I fear, will prove sufficient in arresting the rampaging Global Economic Crisis.

No one can accuse Obama of not recognizing that the U.S. faces a severe economic recession. Most of his administration’s initial activity has centered around crafting policy responses to the recession, primarily involving the unprecedented expenditure of borrowed money in an attempt to revive growth. However, the very character and essence of his administration’s economic policymaking reveals the lack of comprehension of how dire and unique the Global Economic Crisis is on the part of President Obama. At his core, Obama believes that the American economic system is basically sound, but slid into a severe recession because of irresponsible behavior on the part of some actors within the financial oligarchy. Hence, by restoring growth through deficit spending and enacting a new regulatory regime to restrict the destructive greed of some Wall Street tycoons and bankers, we can return to the happy economic days of yore. In effect, Obama is acting like a nostalgia buff, hoping that the correct policies will recapture the solid economic model of pre-George W. Bush America. Unfortunately, this view of America’s political economy is mythological. The U.S. economy was unhinged under the presidency of Bill Clinton as much as it has been under Bush, yet Obama has chosen Clintonites to serve in the most important economic policymaking positions in his administration. Cheerleaders for a failed model will not lead America to a new economic Jerusalem.

A major part of the problem Obama is facing is philosophical. He is following a conventional view of counter-cyclical economics; when a recession occurs, the sovereign can go into debt and use borrowed money to artificially increase demand and thus arrest the decline in growth. Once the recession is arrested, government fiscal policy can return to a more prudent policy of balanced budgets, as restored economic growth eliminates the need for the government to maintain demand. Sounds simple, as this has been enshrined as the recession-fighting bible created by economist Maynard Keynes. The only difference, the Obama administration would argue, is that this recession is much bigger than previous economic downturns, and therefore requires much more significant deficit spending. Otherwise, the Keynesian model remains unaltered.

This perspective by the Obama administration, in my view, is myopic. Like many contemporary politicians and economists, President Obama and his senior economic advisors have misread Maynard Keynes. Contrary to public perception, Keynes was no economic radical, but a centrist in dealing with the challenge of managing economic cycles within a capitalist system. Though Keynes did believe deficit spending was justified as a means to stimulate economies in deep recession, he also advocated budget surpluses during times of relative prosperity. In effect, Keynes believed in “rainy day” economics; in times of plenty you put away a little fiscal cushion that can then be spent during a recessionary period to enable the sovereign to maintain economic demand during a time of private sector contraction and declining tax revenues. This is actually a conservative philosophy that many farmers are familiar with.

In the United States, even during times of sustained economic growth, massive government deficits have been de rigeur during the past nine years, in the process doubling the national debt. There is no rainy day fund to speak of, so the staggering deficits that are now being enacted by the Obama administration are, in my judgement, fiscally unsustainable. Already, the projection for the current fiscal year’s deficit has risen by $200 billion to a stratospheric $1.8 trillion; my own estimate is that it will top $2 trillion. Looking into the future, the current Obama fiscal agenda foresees annual deficits of $1 trillion or more for several years into the future, gambling that the recession will be short-lived, with growth returning as early as the last quarter of 2009, leading to increased tax revenue and declining deficits.

But are we in a recession? The current downturn is already the most protracted and destructive since World War II. However, there is another ingredient that has been added into this toxic economic stew: globalization. We are in a Global Economic Crisis in which synchronized contractions across the world create multiple negative feedback loops that reinforce the underlying negative causation. The subprime collapse in the United States crippled banks in the U.K. and devastated Japan’s export machine; the Eurozone economic contraction is now impacting America’s export driven manufacturers. When China’s exports to America decline, commodity exporters and peripheral economies that supply value-added components to China’s export goods get whipsawed. This phenomenon is occurring at an accelerating pace, despite attempts by the Obama administration to portray minor statistical anomalies to the prevailing trend as “rays of hope” and “green shoots.” Reading tealeaves is no substitute for critical analysis.

The ongoing Global Economic Crisis has proven to be so severe, sustained and virulent that if it is not yet a global depression, it is embarked on that dangerous trajectory. However, another flaw in the Obama administration’s approach is its failure to recognize that a substantial part of the financial system is rotten to the core, and not merely a fundamentally sound system with a few bad applies populating it, who can be restrained by improved regulation. More importantly, the Obama economic team seems to have convinced themselves that “mind over matter” is the best palliative for the nation’s stricken banking system. When a sovereign’s private banks are essentially insolvent and not engaged in normal loan activities, this is another manifestation of an economic depression. Rather than admit the truth, the Obama administration cobbled together a make-believe series of bank stress tests, which supposedly show that America’s banking system, with a few minor problems, is essentially sound and fiscally healthy. This conclusion is an utter fraud, designed to artificially create a climate of economic confidence. It won’t work, and by delaying an honest approach towards the nation’s crippling level of bank insolvency, the policymakers are insuring that the final cost of the inevitable day of reckoning will be far more costly to the taxpayers.

The economist Hernando de Soto has captured the essence of the Global Economic Crisis as few others have. In his view, the Western world, and principally the United States, who have for so long railed against Third World inefficiency and corruption, have created the largest, most toxic shadow economy in the history of human civilization. More than one quadrillion dollars in unregulated financial derivatives paper, according to de Soto, has destroyed inter-bank and financial counterparty trust to such an extent, credit flows have largely frozen despite unprecedented levels of taxpayer-funded borrowing to bailout the global financial system. Nothing short of an honest accounting of the true value of the toxic assets underlying these colossal derivatives products, which equal twenty times the entire world’s GDP, can put the global economy on the road to recovery. Until these unregulated “unknown unknowns” become fully transparent, all other government interventions, including Obama’s massive borrowing binge, are doomed to failure. Sadly, as the bogus bank stress tests reveal, President Barack Obama and his Clinton-era economic advisors have financial transparency as the least important objective on their agenda.

It seems that President Obama, despite his obvious leadership gifts and towering intellect, has chosen to place his faith in a team of advisors who are tied to the Wall Street oligarchy by an umbilical chord than cannot be severed. In a sense, Obama is following the path of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who also sincerely wished to resolve his country’s economic problems, but believed that the system was fundamentally sound and only required a modicum of reform to correct its distortions. Only after the collapse of the USSR did Gorbachev conclude that the system itself was unsustainable. Now it appears to this observer that President Obama may be fated to travel the same path as Gorbachev, and like him end up as a valiant failure.

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President Barack Obama Confronts The Global Economic Crisis

January 27th, 2009 Comments off
As the global economy implodes, there remains the “audacity of hope,” or rather the author of the best selling book with that title, now 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. If anything, the whole world, not just the U.S., is placing its hopes-and bets-on President Obama to provide the change in leadership believed necessary to bring the raging Global Economic Crisis under control. Will these global hopes in Barack Obama be realized?No doubt, President Barack Obama is an exceptionally intelligent man. He has a flexible mind and superb communications skills, essential for inspiring confidence in times of crisis. However, it must be recognized that the global financial and economic catastrophe that began in America and is now consuming the globe may be of such virulence and persistence, it is beyond the powers of any single mortal man, no matter how gifted, to vanquish.

We must remember that not even Barack Obama walks on water, though a miracle worker is perhaps the only human being that can terminate the Global Economic Crisis with rapidity and no further pain. The approach adopted by Obama so far in confronting the economic crisis, though manifesting a clear realization of its seriousness, is also impeded by a conventionality that may be his biggest obstacle.

As with the other boilerplate responses from political leaders across the globe, the Obama administration is proposing a massive stimulus package, dubbed the “American Economic Recovery Plan,” financed with borrowed money. This follows a previous injection of borrowed money, $700 billion for TARP, supposedly essential for rescuing the banks. It is now clear that the $700 billion TARP spending frenzy was a fiasco. As has since been admitted by top Treasury Department officials, Hank Paulson, former Treasury Secretary, pulled the $700 billion out of thin air, because he wanted a “big number” to impress the markets. Such a cavalier attitude towards stampeding Congress into borrowing a staggering amount of money, equivalent to roughly $2,500 from every American man, woman and child, without any strings attached on the part of the banks receiving the money, explains its total failure to resuscitate the clogged arteries of the U.S. credit system. This example is not an encouraging harbinger for another dose of heavy deficit spending in a hurry by Washington.

The Obama Plan envisions $825 billion in borrowed money for a variety of projects and tax cuts. Though Obama promises a much higher level of accountability with his stimulus package than with TARP, that is not even the most crucial issue. It is the whole premise of Obama’s economic plan. What are the parameters and assumptions that led to a figure of $825 billion? On top of the already ballooning federal budget deficit, can the U.S. government raise another $825 billion from largely foreign credit markets (e.g. China), and at what interest rates? What if the Obama Plan has no significant impact on rapidly eroding macroeconomic indicators, while the exploding national debt and structural deficits remove any other fiscal options from consideration?

The proper context for President Barack Obama to view the Global Economic Crisis is not just as a catastrophe for the U.S. and world economy, but also as the gravest danger to American national security. If the Obama administration had a broad enough intellectual horizon to comprehend that the erosion in American geopolitical power that would inevitably result from the implosion of its economy is a far greater threat than what emanates from a non-state actor with a few thousand adherents, namely Al-Qaeda, it would review the irrationally excessive U.S. military budget.

The question Barack Obama should be reflecting on is if the U.S. should continue to spend a trillion dollars a year on its military establishment, and hope that the global credit markets will finance unfunded government liabilities in other categories in perpetuity. Ultimately, the global economic and financial tsunami cannot be combated by bloated military budgets. It is critical that there is a radical restructuring of U.S. budgetary priorities, or else Imperial overreach will finish what is left of U.S. economic power, after the meltdowns on Wall Street and Main Street have added their unique contributions to the deconstruction of the U.S. economy


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Why The Global Economic Crisis Will Be Worse Than The Great Depression

January 15th, 2009 Comments off
Eight decades ago the stock market crash of 1929 sparked the Great Depression, an economic crisis without parallel-until now. The 1930s were dark times of economic contraction, only alleviated to a modest degree in the United States by the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It would take the massive public works project known as World War II to bring the Great Depression to a close in the United States. The postwar economic boom in the U.S. ultimately revived the economies of Western Europe and Japan.
Now that the world is engulfed in a global economic crisis of staggering ferocity, does it mean another Great Depression is underway, and will it match the 1930s in its incessant demand destruction? The very bad news is that the Global Economic Crisis will ultimately prove far more devastating that the Great Depression. That is my projection, and I base it on a number of assumptions that appear to be supported by rapidly emerging macroeconomic data.

The American consumer has been the driver of the global economic expansion that impacted the Eurozone, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Southeast Asia and Japan and emerging markets. The capacity of Americans to consume was not based on intrinsic productivity but rather on debt from overseas creditors, further lubricated by irrationally loose monetary policies enacted by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The American consumer has been leveraged to a level that is unsustainable, and that bubble has burst.

The first symptoms were manifested in the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. A complex architecture of financial engineering exported toxic securitized paper investments based on these non-performing sub-prime loans. The result has been the virtual destruction of the financial world as we knew it, with the extinction of many of the largest American investment houses, some of which had been in existence for more than a century, having weathered the Great Depression.

While the financial world and now sovereign governments are currently inundated with the consequences inflicted by the sub-prime meltdown, which have cost trillions of dollars, much worse is about to be set loose on the global house of financial cards. There are other asset bubbles that will be popping with lethal force.

While sub-prime mortgages continue to devastate the American housing market, near-prime and prime mortgages are about to get hammered, as the over-leveraged American consumer becomes financially debilitated by rapidly rising unemployment rates, restricted access to credit and collapsing value of their retirement funds and household equity. Car loan delinquencies and credit card defaults will also accelerate, while consumer spending in the United States plummets, leading to the next asset bubble: commercial real estate. Retail trade declines will bring about a horde of commercial bankruptcies and foreclosures, creating vast square footage of vacant offices and storefronts. Shopping malls will become deserted, leading to unpaid commercial mortgages that will rival the sub-prime disaster in intensity.

An American Government that is already consumed with mountains of debt may promise to bail out every American consumer and business, however this is just not possible in the real world. Yet, this is the course the incoming Obama administration seems determined to follow. And leading the charge will be Tim Geithner, Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Hank Paulson as Treasury Secretary.

Paulson of the $700 billion TARP debacle, preceded by his numerous wrong assumptions about the direction of the U.S. and global economy, was clearly a disastrous Treasury Secretary for coping with the onset of the Global Economic Crisis. However, will Geithner be an improvement? A revelation just released raises disturbing doubts. It has now been disclosed that the man President-elect Obama wants to entrust the Treasury Department to, at a time of the gravest economic crisis, failed to pay $34,000 in back taxes. Failure to pay $34,000 in back taxes? This is the genius supposed to run the Treasury Department, which supervises the IRS, and strategize our way out the current global economic disaster? This leads to another signpost on the road to global economic catastrophe. When excellence in leadership is essential for coping with the Global Economic Crisis, throughout the world the political establishment is represented by mediocrities. Mister Thirty-Four-Thousand in back taxes is a metaphor for this failure by the global political elites to identify and select the most competent professionals to confront the world’s most chronic economic disaster.

When one aggregates the cumulative affects of the asset bubbles about to burst with incendiary destructiveness, factoring in mediocre decision makers, the case for a crisis as bad as the Great Depression is solidified. There remains another element that will make it much worse.

In the 1930s the world was not as financially interconnected as it is today. Globalization has massively increased the vulnerability of the world’s financial and economic system. To take one example, a corrupt stock or bond trader in Singapore or Paris can, by manipulating his computer, gamble away billions of dollars of his company’s assets, undiscovered until calamity has struck. Every day trillions of dollars is transacted at the speed of light, much of it unregulated, particularly with those mysterious entities known as hedge funds. The derivative products they have engineered have accrued to the stratospheric level of hundreds of trillions of dollars, unmonitored by any governmental authority. In essence, a vast global financial superstructure has been erected on a foundation of quicksand as fragile as the worst of the sub-prime securities. As the global economy sinks, hedge funds will begin to deleverage and liquidate, in effect multiplying the already catastrophic global economic downturn. The result: global economic Armageddon.

The Great Depression led to the most destructive war in the history of human civilization. Will the Global Economic Crisis so disrupt social stability and international relations that an even more terrible global conflict erupts? It may be that however calamitous the financial impact of the Global Economic Crisis becomes, it will be the inevitable geopolitical consequences that will exceed our worst nightmares.



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