Thursday, July 31, 2008


Anyone viewing footage of the Republican campaign’s recent ad showing Obama waving to a sea of people should wonder if this really achieves its negative intent. Comparison to Spears-like stardom doesn’t make Obama look bad. The video footage does quite the opposite.

One gets the feeling that McCain's sense of envy is palpable, but so is the sense that the McCain campaign is confused. Both candidates have taken cheap shots at one another, and the onslaught will get nastier ramping up to election time. If he really wanted to win this election, McCain would be reversing the process of political polarization that so evenly split the country in the last two elections.

It is entirely possible that McCain just does not understand his opponent’s popularity or how to campaign against it. It is also possible that his support system is guiding him down the path to oblivion. Anger and emotional outbursts don’t look Presidential against a candidate whose backdrop is a mob of attentive listeners. Where is the cool, calm and collected demeanor of a naval aviator McCain who once captained the helm of a fighter jet? What is inciting his pugnacious reactions?

McCain and his handlers are missing or ignoring the fact that voters have taken a reserved and cautious liking to Obama. Voters are not yet convinced because they still are looking for confirmations that his definition of hope is in tune with their own. Obama's non-existent political voting record remains his overwhelming Achilles heel. Voters are fully aware that he was launched into the stratosphere of stars by Oprah’s powerful endorsement. That’s just a fact of life. McCain should get over it and take the high road.

The electorate doesn’t deserve, nor is it presently in any mood, to tolerate much that doesn’t bring solutions to its serious economic concerns. The American taxpayer is looking for substance. If it wasn’t, Obama would have long ago been well ahead and on his way to winning by a landslide. This race is not over because on this election, voters are seeking both a vision for their future and a plan that will bring about peace of mind. Only specific, clear, insightful and bold actions, will lift the blanket of anxiety hovering over the Nation. Petty bickering only deepens the apprehension. The Republican Party may be receding from the challenge.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008


In the reality of continuing negative economic news, American taxpayers are looking for signs of relief. With mortgages sliding under water, automobiles getting yanked out of garages and taken back to lenders, food costs becoming a sobering family burden, and with commuting to work becoming a deep breathing exercise as fuel gage movement becomes a source of anxiety, America is anxiously seeking leadership out of its mess. Obama’s thumbs-up on Bernanke is a depressing sign.

Bernanke has shown no capacity to forge a path different from the one Greenspan followed for a whole generation under four presidents. The restored economic health of the country is the principal concern of all voters. The Fed has implemented decisions, and has been supportive of economic policies that brought America its housing bubble, as well as unfathomable National and personal debt levels. Fed policy led a majority to view their homes as repositories of wealth. Homes became piggy banks, and to make things worse, the lack of regulations or restrictions on lenders turned trillions of dollars worth of real estate into a Wild West Show.

America not only yearns for, but badly needs new, knowledgeable and judicious leadership. The next President doesn’t have to be prescient, but should at least demonstrate some grasp of economics enough to pick the best of the brains around him or her. Obama directing a vote of confidence toward Bernanke disturbingly demonstrates a complete lack of familiarity with the complexities of the beast that America needs taming. His economic advisors should all be replaced, and he should close himself off in a room somewhere, and spend some serious time getting educated. It doesn’t matter that McCain isn’t any more economically literate since America isn’t looking to him for change or innovation. If Obama wants to inhabit the White House, he needs to brush up on the source of America’s most critical concern.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008


What has been happening inside the McCain campaign bus? In an election where his competition has absolutely no record of accomplishment from which to proclaim evidence of policy position, or statement of fervent compassion, McCain is flailing like a novice rather than a confident career statesman.

Silly and awkward jabs at Obama's positions, whether these are flip-flops or back-trackings, … or not, make McCain look unbecoming. Most of the electorate probably forgives his momentary lapses when he says Iran while meaning Iraq, or vice versa, however his appearing out of touch with the sentiments of taxpayers is unlikely to harvest votes. His stance on Iraq has shown a particular lack of sensitivity to his public’s sentiments. The deep feelings of American taxpayers, which have been sensed by everyone from Hong Kong to Dubai, seem to have skirted the neurons of most members of the Republican Party.

Admittedly, Obama presents a fresh face for consideration by the body politic, and his rhetoric of hope is obviously a performance that resonates with most media and a broad base of taxpayers. Even with the Republicans’ peculiar and almost idiosyncratic lack of perception, the polls indicate that McCain is close to Obama in support, and gaining, even leading in some critical states. Given current attitudes toward the Bush White House, a closeness in the polls brings into question Obama's ability to win this election. Strangely, it also brings into question the Republican Party’s intent. Does the Republican Party really want McCain to win?

The national debt, the public’s debt, the war, and a sagging economy, all present the next Presidency with a no-win position. Republicans may have decided to surrender the next four years in the knowledge that they will have a much more receptive audience in 2012. In the meantime, McCain is enjoying the ride, although he should enjoy it with a little more evidence of the mettle his reputation was founded on.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008


Hillary Clinton is reported to be massaging her finances, redirecting donations from her 2008 general election campaign toward her 2012 Senate reelection fund. Is that really going on, or is she simply making sure that moneys raised pay down her debt, … or, could she be expecting a severe turn in the road ahead?

Following her raising of the white flag and cheerfully announcing her support for Obama, Hillary recessed into the background. She has laid low and not really campaigned for an Obama win. Her comments have been few and far between, although today Bill Clinton suggested that he was ready to campaign whenever the Democrats need him. That is a perfect politically correct statement to make and leaves decisions on the Clinton clan’s involvement in the hands of the Obama organization. It is unlikely that relations between the two camps have thawed.

Meanwhile, some polls have been showing a disturbing trend for Democrats as Obama’s lead against McCain has slipped in the past few months. It depends on what pole one relies, however, in an election where the Republican Presidency has recorded all time low approvals, Obama should be trending the other way in no small measure. He should be heading for a landslide victory, yet this does not appear to be the case. Things would in all likelihood be different if he had chosen Hillary Clinton as his Vice President.

Hillary might very well be realizing that her run for the White House may not be as over as it appeared only one month ago. There is discontent amongst Democrats. Many who once supported Obama, now feel that he has not shown enough strength in leadership, and has demonstrated indecision on core national concerns.

Hillary Clinton is remaining silent in anticipation that a remotely possible event might occur. For herself, as well as for the rest of America, the Democratic convention may yet provide a surprise when all votes are actually taken and counted. It is not impossible, therefore holds some odds of occurring. Obama’s Presidency is not a foregone conclusion. Hillary is not planning her 2012 Senate run at all. She is eyeing an address for next year that she has already inhabited.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Ben Bernanke delivered a bleak message to Congress today with the usual waffling and back door escapes on any firm statements related to the Nation’s economic future, even its near term prospects. Although, in fairness, we should note that with as much aplomb as he could magnetize from Greenspan’s past performances in front of Congress, he emphatically stated, “accurately assessing and appropriately balancing the risks to the outlook for growth and inflation is a significant challenge for monetary policy makers.” No kidding? How long did his staff stay up to come up with such vapid pronouncements?

How does someone with so little spine get to such position of power and influence? Even as a front man for back room boys he comes off badly. At least when Greenspan double-talked his way through the halls of Congress we could admire the extent of his obfuscating turn of phrase. He said nothing, but he said it with a nonchalance, even a sang-froid that made you smile in wonderment questioning if this guy was human.

America looks for leadership out of the mess it finds itself in, and the best the Fed Chief can do is warn Congress against doing anything about the futures markets, but he does tell lawmakers to tackle the uncertainty in the housing market. So now, Congress, as confused as ever, will head to the commissary for a free meal on the taxpayers, and mumble to itself over the perplexing state of affairs with no answers in sight, and no one to turn to for guidance.

Inflation continues to advance, although to what degree is unclear since it very much depends on what one measures, but the price index is expected to exceed 4%. The food staples are seeing much higher increases however, but since non-food finished goods and services are in the calculation mix, the numbers that have the most impact on the average family are distorted.

The millions of small businesses at the core of the economy are being affected by the credit crunch, but their plight is ignored while they watch major Wall Street firms getting bailed out. Have no fear though, the SEC is actively investigating the subprime meltdown, stock manipulations and short sales, as well as false rumors tainting brokerages and hedge funds. …And heads will roll. OK, well, maybe not. Effective scapegoating is an extremely difficult art to practice. Where is Eliot Spitzer when the Nation needs him?

The recent blame for the housing market deterioration placed on the hapless borrowers who indebted themselves beyond their capacities has not been very subtle. Policy makers’ only planned action is to set restrictions preventing borrowing by the great unwashed. Credit quality standards will be raised. Oh, joy. Is Congress asking the guys who ran those disasters called Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into bailout territory to return their million dollar bonuses? Congress is mute. Is anyone on The Hill or the White House raising an eyebrow over the usurious interest rates being charged by banks and credit card companies to a majority of clients? Bernanke’s tarot cards predict a late fall interest rate increase to 2.25%, which is a number as foreign to most borrowing taxpayers as the number of stars in the sky.

We cannot expect superhuman talent to accurately read crystal balls, and obviously economics is not a science, but leadership imbued with some common sense is not too much to expect from Washington and its expensive hired help. Leadership, plus some effectively placed oversight.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008


McCain embarrassingly strains at the altar of speech giving, the teleprompter, like a schoolboy forced to stand at the front of the class to explain how he spent his weekend with the family. Cut to Obama, giving a speech, anywhere, doesn’t matter where, and the contrast in presentation is peculiar given that both are running for arguably the most important office in the world. Presentation shouldn’t matter but it does. McCain’s lack of presence makes him seem weak and appear out of his element. That doesn’t mean he is weak, but he is not helping his image in the public’s consciousness.

Even in his attempts to deliver emphatic points, McCain can’t muster conviction. Middle America is feeling uncomfortable on too many fronts and that discomfiture expects some appearance of conviction in a candidate. Only conviction will lead the American taxpayer out of the economic trench currently slowing progress. Only conviction will chart a new course away from the path that for the past eight years has been led by what has become the most despised resident of the White House in the history of that seat of power.

America needs its sense of confidence back. New blood, new thinking, and new ideas will forge a road back to that feeling of confidence. Obama has been able to present such a dream. Real or not, he is the new hip kid on the block who becomes vested with the hope of a nation urgently looking for change. Deep change. Obama becomes anointed as the savior who will rebuild the nation’s current economic mess and international stature.

America is a leader, and America makes its leaders. It dreams them up. They are a product of America’s illusions and aspirations as it goes about its business of working, raising families, and enjoying or stressing about life. America injects the White House with its expectations. America also forgets that the leaders it chooses are human, often with more frailties than the average American, and the expectations are often misplaced. The last two Presidents are examples to remember. Clinton had the potential to become one of the country’s greatest, yet he lacked a profound sense of history and his frailties rendered his Presidency impotent. Bush contrasted Clinton’s intelligence and appeared to be “everyman,” presenting a clean contrast that would not soil the stature of the Oval Office. Bush rapidly devastated both the image and the economy of the country with a lack of understanding on too many elements to be delineated here. Nevertheless, on he marched with confidence that his beliefs, fervor, and convictions were absolute, and that debt financing was his earned capital to be spent. This generation’s great-great grandchildren will be paying for that earned capital.

Obama is the only candidate in whom America can inject an expectation of a refurbished sense of glory. He is a blank canvas that America needs to inject with its anxious anticipation of a positive tomorrow. The actualization of Obama fulfilling expectations, his own or America’s, is an unlikely eventuality. He has set his own bar impossibly low, since he has refrained from making firm and definitive commitments, and has a record of abstaining from making difficult decisions in his short life as a sitting politician. Obama’s backpedaling on Iraq, for example, and announcing that he doesn’t plan on rushing out of the war, further blurs the lines that differentiate him from the competition. We understand. He's running for office and needs to stay neutral and polished, ... however, where's the passion for something specific? Where are the principles?

Bush has pushed America into a corner from whence it expects to be led toward lighter days. The new and overwhelming expectations are foisted on another human being with all the limitations and baggage we would rather not notice. As always, the average middle income tax payer will continue to do the heavy lifting. And also as always, in that expectation, America will not be disappointed.

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Friday, July 4, 2008


For well over two centuries, America has celebrated that fateful event in 1776 when members of the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to adopt the final Declaration of Independence. It was however, not until 1941 that July 4 was officially declared by Congress, a federal secular holiday. John Hancock, was the first to sign the historic document with his famous and prominent signature, leading 56 men to commit an act of treason punishable by death. More than a statement against King George III of England, The Declaration of Independence is a philosophically powerful statement and declaration on the nature of man.

Greatly influenced by philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke, Thomas Jefferson created the document that held at its core the belief that human beings are basically good by nature. Rousseau’s and Locke’s sentiments that all men are born free and equal, inspired, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights.”

A product of the Age of Enlightenment, the Declaration of Independence sought to protect the rights of the individual and resoundingly renounced the divine right of kings and tyrants. It affirmed that power over government rested in the people who, through social agreement and general will, granted rank and privilege to rulers.

Rousseau’s, “Du Contrat Social, ou Principes Du Droit Politique,” affirmed that government should protect the rights, property and equality of all citizens, and not just that of a powerful few. Consistent with Rousseau’s thinking, Jefferson’s Declaration contends that the right to govern is compromised when it is abused, at which point the government loses its moral and political authority.

Baron de Montesquieu, whose “L’Ésprit des Lois” delineated the separation of powers between legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, greatly influenced America’s founding fathers, leaving a permanent imprint on the constitution. This influence of moral obligation has, since then, spread to other countries anxious for a balanced democratic model of governance that assures freedoms and rights.

As America celebrates the most significant day in its history, and one that has since 1776 influenced societies around the world, it also celebrates the revolutionary minds and philosophers of the Renaissance who so influenced and enlightened it’s own creators 232 years ago. In that celebration and its significance, America extols Rousseau’s affirmation of man’s natural tendency for, and manifestation of, compassion.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Get educated, get trained, maybe get a degree, get a job, get a car, buy a home in the suburbs, make sure it has a picket fence, and life on the North American landscape continues the dream of the 50’s and 60’s. Is the current economic wake-up call a sign that the dream is evaporating?

We have entered a cycle, which will see a vast cross section of people that make up the working poor increasing as automation, or off shoring further eliminates jobs across North America. This includes the U.S. and Canada, although Canada is being indulged by a temporary delay in its economic contraction fuelled by the strength of natural resource prices and wealthy foreign residencies driving up real estate prices to unsustainable levels. The Canadian trades are still kept busy but this will turn, … however, that too will be temporary.

Most households where there are two potential income earners, find both of them out the door at 7:30AM to slay dragons. They even each work multiple jobs. The work force isn’t afraid to work and work hard. The work just hasn’t paid off as it was supposed to, and expectations did not materialize as real income shrunk. The past twenty years saw easy credit accelerate the acquisition of unaffordable material goods to levels unseen in any past generation. By unaffordable, I mean costs that could not be met with cash. In time we will have to overcome our “I-see-it-I-like-it-I-deserve-it-I-buy-it” attitude. The current correction brings with it invaluable reality checks and adjustments on perceptions. We’ll make do with that stove and its malfunctioning burner. As we endure the current recession, there is a brighter road ahead though it make be rough for another three to five years.

While many factories have moved offshore, it remains that North America, the U.S. and Canada, is an extremely efficient breadbasket, and maintains leadership in the advancement of intellectual properties on most fronts including software and hardware. High value components such as microprocessors remain products of North America even if the assembled components are made offshore. The U.S. is the principal purveyor of entertainment, and rightly or wrongly leads the world in the management of most fiscal matters, and in the evolution of financial derivative schemes. With the world now forced to adopt alternate energy sources to wean itself from the oil spigot and in search of clean air, most countries will follow France’s lead. Nuclear energy power plants will become the principal U.S. export since countries will demand the latest-greatest safe and reliable technology. American leadership in the development of medical equipment and electrical machinery will continue to strengthen the export numbers as the softened dollar makes them even more attractive today than they were five years ago.

Aging baby boomers have already begun clamoring for increased health care, and the surge in home health provision will accelerate for another ten years. Demand for doctors, nurses, and all related supportive tasks and services will grow accordingly. Along with expectations of physical wellness, baby boomers will seek intellectual, emotional and spiritual well-being.

The U.S.’s internationally venerated capabilities in the business consulting services sector will accelerate as all industries will strive to discover new competencies and efficiencies. The most critical sector will be education. Post-secondary education - getting it, and providing it. Education in all areas of interest, and whether university, college, or online training, will enjoy increased pursuits of specialized faculties.

There will be need for creativity, artistry, and a greater appreciation for and value in emotional intelligence. Who would have thought a decade ago that life coach would actually be a career? Much of the technology we use daily, for example, is void of any user friendliness. Your TV’s remote control, the design of which hasn’t changed in a generation, is hardly intuitive, nor does it provide much in way of tactile feedback and baby boomers need glasses to see the buttons. That will change. Such change will be brought to us by soft thinking rather than by the hard thinking which has historically been more expedient. Soft thinking, as example, brought us object oriented programming and more specifically tools like Apple’s Macintosh platform.

This soft thinking and it’s ability to flourish in a free thinking environment will lead North American society to continue its leadership and position, setting the globe’s high-bar to be aspired to. North America will continue to be where dreams can be realized, with or without picket fences.

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