Monthly Archives: September 2011

“Confidence Men” Author Ron Suskind Responds to Obama Administration’s Fiery Denials About Financial Crisis

The interview is split up into a 30 minute video clip and a 12 minute concluding video clip.

An explosive new book that draws a searing portrait of the Obama administration’s failings, and early management of the economic crisis, has been met with sharp objections from officials within and outside of the White House. We speak with veteran journalist Ron Suskind, author of “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President.” He writes that U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ignored an order from President Obama to consider dissolving the debt-ridden banking giant Citigroup as part of a reconstruction of major banks in March 2009. Suskind argues that Citigroup was one of several incidents where President Obama’s authority was “systematically undermined or hedged by his seasoned advisers.” In the book based on interviews with more than 200 people, including former and current members of the Obama administration, as well as the President himself, Suskind also says the White House is a hostile workplace for women.

In part two of our interview with veteran journalist Ron Suskind about his explosive new book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, Suskind discusses the challenges faced by President Obama and his evolution as a leader. “You see the President grappling…to try to get his arms around what is often an untenable situation,” says Suskind. “He has a team around him with long Washington experience and long histories with one another. The President, meanwhile, is ramping up at Mach speed on very difficult, and often very complex, national issues, economic issues, for which there is no recent precedent.” According to Suskind, Obama muses he has “policy wonk’s disease” and now aims to be more dynamic in telling the American people “who we are and where we’re going.”

It looks like I may have to slog through this book. Economist Brad DeLong seems to like the factual content of the book, but thinks Suskind has drawn the wrong conclusions. I am particularly focused on the view that Obama had that the high level of unemployment is caused by the rapid growth in productivity and there is nothing the government can or should do about this, He specifically rejects the advice of Romer and Summers on this issue. None of this comes up in this interview.

My previous posts Errors Dealing With Economic Recovery Originate With Obama and Riffing on Obama’s Economic Follies cover Brad DeLong’s take on the book.

Mullen Pakistan Critique Shows US AF/PAK Policy Unraveling

The video below discusses Admiral Mullen’s recent testimony before Congress.

I was looking for an explanation of why the Obama administration is now pulling back from the Admiral’s testimony. That was not discussed in the video.

How could the administration send the head of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense to testify before Congress if that testimony had not been very carefully vetted? They claim that Mullen deviated from what the White House cleared. That is just not a credible claim. The Secretary of Defense was sitting right beside him when Mullen gave his testimony.

Analysis: Model planes as weapons of terror

In researching an idea to post, I found the CNN story Analysis: Model planes as weapons of terror.

Ferdaus was arrested Wednesday in Ashland, a small town just to the west of Boston “in connection with his plot to damage or destroy the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol, using large remote controlled aircraft filled with C-4 plastic explosives,” according to a press statement from the Massachusetts U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

For the point I want to make, it doesn’t really matter that Ferdaus was arrested in Framingham although he lives in Ashland.

On WBZ News, I saw an expert in radio controlled planes say that lifting 5 pounds of explosives with the planes Ferdaus had might be pretty difficult.

That was small comfort when I started to think about the possibility of someone buying U.S. military drones on the black market.

The above CNN article does all the analysis for me.

My Better Federal Budget

The above budget doesn’t show that in addition to this budget I suggest the following:

  • A financial transaction tax to make excessive and rapid trading cost extra
  • A tax on unrealized capital gains for those making more than $5 million
  • A wealth tax for those with more than $1 billion net worth

What Is Hugo Chávez Up To?

The article What Is Hugo Chávez Up To? by Joshua Kucera appears in The Wilson Quarterly.  The sub-headline is:

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has set alarms ringing with his efforts to create a global anti-American coalition.

I may be naive, but the article does seem to be fairly even handed.  It can talk about the pluses and minuses of Hugo Chávez without getting overly hyper in either direction.

I wouldn’t say that there is any startling or breaking news in the article.  However, there is useful information for  keeping track of Hugo Chávez and what is happening in South America that you probably won’t see in the lame stream media.  Unless Chávez does something startlingly anti-U.S., you aren’t likely to read anything about him.

Republican Saboteurs Go After The Post Office

The article I finally decided to read after passing it up many time was headlined Postal Service Employees Rally to End Manufactured Crisis. Perhaps the following is the money quote from the article:

Brechin says Congress has successively demanded that the USPS run itself more like a business since making it a quasi-corporation in 1971. “For the free-market fundamentalists, the idea that anything should be government, anything should be in the public domain is absolutely anathema,” he says. “They want to get rid of everything. I think the postal reform act in 2006, which most of us never heard about, was a back door way to destroy the postal service. It seems to be deliberate.”

I have been passing up reading stories like the one with the headline above because I figured I already knew what was in them.  Of course the union is going to complain about the job cuts, not news.

For some reason I did look at the story in my previous post, Who Woulda Thought – A Manufactured ‘Crisis’ At The Post Office which pointed to an article with a more innocuous headline A Manufactured ‘Crisis’: Congress Can Let The Post Office Save Itself Without Mass Layoffs Or Service Reductions.

In that previous post, I did a little leg work to see who was in power when this legislation was passed.  I just wanted to be sure, but it came as no surprise.   The Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the Presidency.

I am hoping the headline of this post will finally be enough to alert people that there is actually a story here that they might not have imagined.

Who Woulda Thought – A Manufactured ‘Crisis’ At The Post Office

File this under the category, “Who woulda thought …”

In the article A Manufactured ‘Crisis’: Congress Can Let The Post Office Save Itself Without Mass Layoffs Or Service Reductions, we have:

Major media coverage points to the rise of email or Internet services and the inefficiency of the post model as the major culprits.

This is so obvious that it goes without saying, right?  Oh wait, “major media coverage” is a dead give away.  What if the obvious weren’t so true?  Here is the rest of that paragraph or two:

While these factors may cause some fiscal pain, almost all of the postal service’s losses over the last four years can be traced back to a single, artificial restriction forced onto the Post Office by the Republican-led Congress in 2006.

At the very end of that year, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA). Under PAEA, USPS was forced to “prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span” — meaning that it had to put aside billions of dollars to pay for the health benefits of employees it hasn’t even hired yet, something “that no other government or private corporation is required to do.”

Who would have thought that Congress would purposely sabotage a quasi-government program just to prove that government doesn’t work?

H.R. 6407: Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act

109th Congress: 2005-2006

Senate House
Congress Years Total Dems Reps Others Vacant Total Dems Reps Others Vacant
109th 2005–2007 100 44 55 1 435 202 231 1 1

I wonder if the Democrats realized what a booby trap was in the bill?

Christie Says He’s Not Running as He Slams ‘Bystander’ Obama

The Bloomberg News article Christie Says He’s Not Running as He Slams ‘Bystander’ Obama, says:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he plans to sit out the 2012 presidential race and then used a nationally broadcast appearance to assail President Barack Obama as a “bystander in the Oval Office.”

“We continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office,” Christie said yesterday. “We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things that are obvious to all Americans.”

Even President Clinton has marveled at how Obama’s Whitehouse sits back and waits for the Congress to give him some legislation on a topic he suggests.  President Clinton contrasted this to his administration and every other one that he was aware of.  In all those other administrations, the Whitehouse was writing detailed legislation and sending it to Congress to act on.  These other administrations were actively setting the agenda and terms of debate.  Obama seems to sit back and wait for the Congress to set the agenda and terms of debate before he even has much to say about the topic.

Of course the article also quotes Gov. Christie as saying:

“Insisting that we must tax and take and demonize those who have already achieved the American Dream — that may turn out to be a good re-election strategy for President Obama, but is a demoralizing message for America,” Christie said.

According to the WikiPedia article Give ’em Hell, Harry!,

During the speech a supporter yelled out “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”. Truman replied, “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it’s Hell.”

Obama tells the truth about the need to tax the wealthy and the Republicans think that is demonizing.

How To Sign a Petition

My previous post, Regain the governing mandate of the 2008 election, asked you to sign a petition that was located at Some people have had trouble signing the petition.

When you click on the link to the petition, you will see a page with the following buttons below the petition:

You cannot sign the petition until you log in to your account.  You must click on one of the two blue buttons to either sign in to an existing account or to create a new account.

The “SIGN THIS PETITION” button is greyed out.  It behaves like a link when you hover over it, but no amount of clicking on it will get you anywhere.  You must first choose one of the two blue buttons.  When you finally go through with all the rigamarole, then the “SIGN THIS PETITION” button lights up and you can click on it.

In a well thought out web design has also put some greyed out buttons below the ones that I have shown. These are for promoting the petition on Twitter or Facebook. Having gone through the problem with the greyed out “SIGN THIS PETITION” button, you might think that the greyed out “twitter” and “facebook” buttons are also inactive. You would be wrong in making this natural assumption. If you click on either of these two buttons, they will take you to either Twitter or Facebook.

With a user interface design like this, you have to wonder if the Whitehouse really wants any petitions.