Sunday, August 31, 2014

President Obama's 'malaise' moment

In the summer of 1979, a frustrated President Carter made that famous "malaise" speech that probably sank his presidency:
"On the evening of July 15, 1979, millions of Americans tuned in to hear Jimmy Carter give themost important speech of his presidency. After sharing some of the criticism he had heard at Camp David -- including an unattributed quote from the young governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton -- Carter put his own spin on Caddell's argument. "The solution of our energy crisis can also help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country," the president said, asking Americans to join him in adapting to a new age of limits.   
But he also admonished them, "In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns." Hendrik Hertzberg, who worked on the speech, admits that it "was more like a sermon than a political speech.
It had the themes of confession, redemption, and sacrifice. He was bringing the American people into this spiritual process that he had been through, and presenting them with an opportunity for redemption as well as redeeming himself."
Though he never used the word -- Caddell had in his memo -- it became known as Carter's "malaise" speech."
Fair or unfair, the speech and the word he didn’t use defined President Carter.  He spoke of a "new age of limits" and that just exposed him to attacks from then Governor Reagan, the ultimate optimist about the US.  The US is not a country of "limits."  It does not seem to like leaders who tell them to "downsize" their dreams.

Last week, President Obama looked weary and almost irritated that reality had intruded on his vacation.  I'm not sure who told him to face the press prior to the holiday weekend because he had nothing new to say.  He admitted that we didn't have a strategy to fight ISIS in Syria, a stunning statement given that his Secretary of Defense had warned about the dangers days before.

The Washington Post, a newspaper that endorsed him twice, reminded President Obama that he keeps talking about what the US can not do rather than what we can do:
"Throughout his presidency, he has excelled at explaining what the United States cannot do and cannot afford, and his remarks Thursday were no exception. “Ukraine is not a member of NATO,” he said. “We don’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine.” If Iraq doesn’t form an acceptable government, it’s “unrealistic” to think the United States can defeat the Islamic State.  
Allies are vital; the United States overstretched in the Bush years; it can’t solve every problem. All true. But it’s also true that none of the basic challenges to world order can be met without U.S. leadership: not Russia’s aggression, not the Islamic State’s expansion, not Iran’s nuclear ambition nor China’s territorial bullying. Each demands a different policy response, with military action and deterrence only two tools in a basket that inclu"des diplomatic and economic measures.
It’s time Mr. Obama started emphasizing what the United States can do instead of what it cannot."
Just as Mr. Carter doomed himself when he talked of "limits," Mr. Obama is dooming himself by acting like the US is not longer relevant or has no role to play.

Yes, the public is opposed to sending troops here, there, and everywhere.  But they want the US to project power and to behave like the superpower that it is
Mr. Obama has a couple of "hellish years" ahead of him, especially if the US has to confront ISIS in Iraq and Syria.   Nevertheless, I think that pundits will look back at this week and say that it was the beginning of the end.  

It was this week that confirmed what a growing number of Americans have been saying around the table:  Mr. Obama is in over his head!

P. S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.


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"No strategy Obama" with Jim Yardley




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Saturday, August 30, 2014

We remember Ingrid Bergman, 1915-1982




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Let's meet Nilda Cepero, Cuban American poet, author & singer




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Friday, August 29, 2014

Whatever Obama's Syria strategy, he will need congressional permission

President Obama's presidency sunk to a new low today. 

When was the last time that you heard a president say that he didn't have a strategy?  I mean that he doesn't have a strategy to deal with a threat to our national security brewing for months?

President Obama tried to put a pretty bow on the package but it did not work. It's a bit too late in the game to say that "I don't have a strategy yet!"

My guess is that President Obama's lack of a strategy is rooted in two problems:

1) It will be very difficult for Democrats to support President Obama's war in Iraq.  It could turn the Democrats of 2016 into the Democrats of 1968 who fought like cats and dogs at the Chicago convention; and,

2) President Obama will have to go to Congress for a resolution and funds, It won't be easy as Mark Landler wrote today
When President Obamasummoned his closest advisers to the Oval Office a year ago this week to tell them he was holding off on a missile strike against Syria, one of his arguments was that if he acted without Congress, he might not get congressional backing for military intervention the next time he needed it.
“He can’t make these decisions divorced from the American public and from Congress,” a senior aide said at the time. “Who knows what we’re going to face in the next three and a half years in the Middle East?”
Now, Mr. Obama knows what he is facing — rampaging Sunni militants who beheaded an American and have declared an Islamic caliphate across a swath of Iraq and Syria. But as the president considers airstrikes in Syria against the group, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, seeking a congressional imprimatur remains a politically tricky undertaking.
Yes, it will be tricky to go to Congress. It should always be difficult to ask Congress to approve a war. It's very serious to send young men to war.

At the same time, other presidents have gone to Congress and passed resolutions, such as Bush 41 & Bush 43. They got them because they made their case to the public for months.

President Obama has not made the case for war and Thursday's press conference won't help one bit.  

P. S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.


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WORLD WAR I, part 4, WITH BARRY JACOBSEN




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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don't look now but ObamaCare's troubles are starting again

We've been focusing a lot on President Obama's foreign policy, from Ukraine to Libya to Syria to Iraq to Israel and Iran.

However, get ready for ObamaCare to make a return engagement to our front pages, and politics as well.

Sally Pipes posted some numbers yesterday that won't make Democrats happy, especially those in tight elections:
"Get ready to pay more for health insurance next year, compliments of Obamacare.   
A new analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers projects that average premiums for policies sold through Obamacare’s exchanges will increase 7.5 percent in 2015.   
In nearly one-third of the 29 states that PwC investigated, premiums will rise by double digits. In Indiana, the average increase will be 15.4 percent. In Kansas, it’s 13.6 percent. Florida’s insurance commissioner says premiums are set to climb 13.2 percent."
It's interesting but the critics of ObamaCare have turned out to be right:

1) The people who signed up were older and sicker.  At the same, the young just didn't show up;

2) President Obama's promises of "lower premiums" just isn't going to happen; and,

3) ObamaCare's regulations, taxes, mandates and subsidies are distorting the marketplace and raising costs.

So we can say this morning that Iraq may not be President Obama's biggest headache in the near term.

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Wednesday: Gloria Strassburger and Fausta Rodriguez Wertz




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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mr President: What are you thinking about Iraq?

Over the last few days, we've heard some confusing messages from the executive branch. 

Defense Secretary Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dempsey sounded pretty hawkish but then Gen Dempsey put his hawk back in the cage by saying ISIS did not present an immediate threat to the US.

The bottom line is that we are confused, especially after reading stories like these from the UK:
"Barack Obama has paved the way for airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria after spy planes started operating in the country on his command, according to U.S officials.   
While the White House says military action inside Syria has not yet been approved, additional intelligence on the militants is considered vital before any move can be made - especially in the northern city of Raqqa, which ISIS has named the capital of its self-declared caliphate.   
The move comes despite warnings from Syria's embattled president Bashar Assad that any airstrike in the country not given his express permission would be considered an act of aggression.  
Obama has so far sought a limited military campaign in neighbouring Iraq focused on protecting American diplomats and Iraqi civilians under direct threat from the brutal Islamist militant group. 
But officials have not ruled out escalating military action against ISIS, which has increased its overt threats against the United States in recent weeks."
So President Obama is ready for an escalation? Wouldn't it be nice if President Obama told the American people his plans?

I have never seen a more "aloof" president than President Obama. 

I recall President Bush-41 and President Bush-43  preparing the nation for the war coming ahead. 

In 1990, President Bush-41 persuaded a reluctant public that Iraq invading Kuwait was bad for all of us.  

President Bush-43 spoke about Iraq at the UN and throughout the country.  

Why isn't President Obama doing something similar? Doesn't he understand that presidents have to explain national security issues to the nation?

P. S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.



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TUESDAY: THE TEXAS RANGERS & DFW SPORTS WITH DAVID BUSBY AND CARLOS TORRES




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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Finally, a museum for the victims of communism

They hope that it's ready for 2017, or the 100th anniversary of The Bolshevik Revolution that started communism.   This is from James Kirchick:
"The museum would include witness testimony, artifacts, and interactive exhibits registering the toll communism has wrought in some 40 countries throughout history.
Such an institution would join the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in teaching future generations about man’s capacity for inhumanity. "
Of course, no one needs to tell me about the evils of communism. It is something that I saw with my young eyes and heard from my parents' stories of how communism was imposed on the Cuban people. I also read of the gulags, the Cambodian Killing Fields and Mao’s famine.

To say the least, communism is responsible for 100 million deaths.  It means that communism is the deadliest ideology of the 20th century. Of course, the prisons are still locking up people in Cuba, North Korea and demonstrators are attacked by police in Venezuela.

The Cold War is over and communism does not represent a nuclear threat to the US anymore, i.e. the USSR is over. However, the ideas behind communism are still around and polluting young minds here, there and everywhere.  

It would be nice if every school kid in the US visited the "museum" once it opens in 2017. Like the Holocaust, communism was a deadly ideology for the people forced to lived under its thumb.

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MONDAY: "THE TRAGEDY OF FIDEL CASTRO", A BOOK BY JOAO CERQUEIRA




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Monday, August 25, 2014

How does President Obama tell his base that Cheney was right about Iraq

How disillusioned is the Dem base?  I exchanged a few emails with some old high school friends. They voted for Obama.  I would not describe them as "cultists" but they clearly drank the Kool Aid.

We started talking about Iraq and it did not take long for the conversation to turn into Bush-bashing.

I said:  "Guys we're in year 6 of the Obama presidency......"

Reply:   "Well, Bush broke Iraq....."

I said:  "Get back to me when you want to have a serious chat about Iraq and ISIS...."

The left is down to Bush-bashing, a clear sign that they are desperate about their current situation. 

My guess is that President Obama has already decided to take ISIS head on but does 
not know how to explain it to the Democrat base. He has to address the nation, explain the risk, tell us that ground troops will be going to Iraq and ask Congress for a resolution.  

And then he will have to say that Cheney was right about Iraq without actually saying those words.

This is not the place that he thought that he'd be in late summer 2014.

He is also concerned about the "unknowns" of starting a war with ISIS, and there are lots of "unknowns" as Richard Fernandez wrote:
"Like a man in a swimming pool who belatedly realizes that he can’t swim, his first step must be to extend his foot to see if he can reach bottom. If not, then where is the nearest gutter?  The problem is the floundering man in the pool had introduced himself as the next Michael Phelps.  Now he has to save himself without letting on."
The other "unknown" is starting a war that could very well consume the remaining 30 months of his presidency. I'm sure that he's read about LBJ and Vietnam in 1967-68, how it divided the party and handed the presidency to Nixon.

What if you get into a war with ISIS in Iraq and end up fighting in Syria?  What if ISIS turns out to be a more difficult fighting force that we anticipate? 

Also, you can't "half fight" with ISIS.  Instead, you have to be willing to go the distance and destroy them as much as possible. 

None of that is going to be popular with a base who was told in 2012 that the wars were over.

P. S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.


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SUNDAY: THE WEEK WITH MELANIE STURM & BILL KATZ



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Sunday, August 24, 2014

A 'very lonely man' about to get even lonelier

There is something to be said for "vetting" our presidential candidates, or the often used phrase of the "anal exam" that the media used give them. It tells us about the men (and women) seeking the presidency. It reveals their past associations, their highs and lows.  

It acquaints us with their work histories, much like references tell a future employer about the person that they are considering to hire. For example, would you hire a plant manager without knowing how he deals with adversity or personnel issues?  Wouldn't you want to know if he has good people skills or isolates himself from reality when the "you know what" hits the fan?

In politics, we learn all of that from serious reporters who look at the candidate's resume or ask him fair but tough questions about their past.   The process is not always fair, as some of The NY Times' attacks on Senator McCain in 2008 or the silly article about Mitt Romney's high school days.  However, most of the articles do tell us about the candidate and what to expect from them. 

Unfortunately, candidate Obama never got that "anal exam." The media allowed a man that we knew very little  about to campaign on the basis of slogans and platitudes. In a sentence, we allowed a man who had never run anything to walk into the most difficult and complicated job on earth.

Reality has caught up with President Obama and all of those who cheered him in the media.

From Maureen Dowd ("Alone again naturally") to Democrats quoted in The NY Times, Howard Kurtz is reminding us of just how isolated from his own party President Obama is:
"President Obama has few remaining friends—either in his own party or in the media.    
That’s the unmistakable conclusion of two pieces this week in the New York Times. Just about everyone, it seems, is down on his single, solitary nature. 
I’ve been saying for a year now that the president’s liberal media allies have soured on him. It started with the ObamaCare debacle and continued through his seeming passivity or slow reaction time in the wake of the VA scandal, the Bowe Bergdahl mess, the military collapse in Iraq and so on. At this point they’re basically Waiting for Hillary.   
What is striking now is a growing sense, fairly or unfairly, that Obama is not capable of rising to the occasion, that he just doesn’t like politics, that he’s disengaged, that despite his soaring rhetoric in 2008 he has a passion deficit. 
All the criticism about him playing golf and being at Martha’s Vineyard is kind of a code for his supposedly being unplugged from the job."

So we learn in year 6 of his presidency that he does not really the job after all?   Or that he can't rise to the occasion?  Or that he does not like politics?

Sorry but why didn't we hear that in 2008?  It would not have taken a lot of "investigative reporting" to determine that a man who never had an executive position maybe wasn't quite ready for an executive position.

I just hope that the liberal base understands that Mr Obama is going to get even lonelier in the near future. 

Wait until he tells them that we are going back to Iraq and bombing Syria as well.

He is going to be really lonely then!

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Current Politics Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Silvio Canto Jr on BlogTalkRadio




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Iraq, ISIS in the US and other issues



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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Yes, ISIS could easily cross the porous US-Mexico border

Let me paraphrase The Temptations, i.e. "maybe it's my imagination running away with me".
 
Maybe it's my imagination but could the "kids" showing up at the US-Mexico border be part of a major distraction to have ISIS walk into the US?
 
Don't you find the timing a bit interesting?  
 
Over in Iraq/Syria, a huge and extremely well funded army of terrorists announces its intentions to destroy the US, i.e. "see you in New York"!
 
Over in Central America, thousands of kids go north and find their way to the US border.
 
Who paid for these trips?  You can not hitchhike your way from Guatemala to Texas.  Someone had to pay the bus fare, the train pass or the "bribes" that had Mexican authorities looking the other way.
 
 
"Joshua Katz, an Army veteran and former CIA operations officer who served as Senior Policy Advisor to the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said it is “very, very, true” that ISIS may have crossed the southern border.    
Katz reported that Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) recent comments that it was a “very real possibility” that ISIS had already crossed the southern border were “very, very true” on Friday’s “Fox and Friends” on the Fox News Channel.  
“ISIS is a group that will do whatever it takes in order to accomplish its goals. It's very brutal. It's very aggressive. They're going to do anything, and if that means working with cartels, if that means working with other enlisted groups in order to attack the homeland, they will do that. Other groups like Al Qaeda, or other terrorist groups who have a desire to hit the homeland will also use that ... we have this sort of this double front aggression toward American borders” he added."
 
Yes, ISIS is on a mission to attack our homeland.  They have the desire and the money.   We have a porous border.   I hope that I'm wrong but we are very vulnerable again to a 9-11 type attack.  We let our guard down and ISIS didn't get the memo that the war was over.
 
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The story of World War I , part 3, with Barry Jacobsen..





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Friday, August 22, 2014

President Obama’s Iraq problem keeps getting more problematic

Am I the only who thinks that President Obama wants to wait until after the mid-terms to escalate our involvement in Iraq?  My reasoning is that he does not want to turn off his base anymore than it already is.
Now or later, President Obama will have to go to the nation and give this mission a name and an objective.  He needs to do it because we are “mission creeping big time”, as Robin Wright wrote this week:
“The U.S., however, is already doing more than containing the Islamic State. Washington has now dispatched warplanes to aggressively push back the Islamic State, and the pretense of doing anything less should end.  
But so should the illusion about what  it will take to achieve that goal. The Operation Without a Name should not be an operation without a well-defined mission ��” or without a “winning” exit strategy. 
Given the human heartache and political headache from the last Iraq intervention, not to mention the mess left behind, Washington needs to be honest upfront in answering basic questions.”
Yes, and let me suggest a few questions:
First, it starts with President Obama explaining what our mission is.  All of this stuff about “doing what we have to do to protect our people” is too vague and sends out a message of weakness;
Second, President Obama needs to stop talking about the Iraq War that he opposed or ended as promised.  ISIS is a problem now and it requires a president who is living in the present; and;
Third, stop telling me that the public is “war weary.” We have a volunteer army and most Americans don’t know a single veteran.   Our #3 son is serving in the US Army.  He graduated with about 500 kids from high school. The overwhelming majority are not doing military service!
Robin Wright is here.  President Obama needs to be “upfront” about Iraq.
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IRAQ, SYRIA AND OTHER NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES




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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Canal turned 100


A little history today.   The Panama Canal opened for traffic 100 years ago this month:
 
"In 1906, American engineers decided on the construction of a lock canal, and the next three years were spent developing construction facilities and eradicating tropical diseases in the area.
In 1909, construction proper began.
In one of the largest construction projects of all time, U.S. engineers moved nearly 240 million cubic yards of earth and spent close to $400 million in constructing the 40-mile-long canal (or 51 miles long, if the deepened seabed on both ends of the canal is taken into account).
On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal was opened to traffic."
 
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WEDNESDAY: US-LATIN AMERICA ISSUES OF THE WEEK




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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mexico on right track with energy reforms

For years, we've been calling for energy reforms in Mexico. Thankfully, they are here, as Allan Wall reported this week:

“On April 30th, President Enrique Peña Nieto had submitted the proposed reforms to the Mexican Congress.  The package was eventually passed by both houses of Congress, and sent back to the President on August 6th.  
So on August 11th, 2014, President Peña Nieto signed the 21-part reform.  “This is the moment to put the energy reform into action,“ he announced when signing.  
The signing ceremony was held at the Palacio Nacional, Mexico’s ceremonial capitol building, where President Lazaro Cardenas had signed the decree establishing PEMEX back in 1938.  
This is a major reform, opening up Mexico’s energy sector to investment by private, even foreign companies, which can bid for the rights to drill in specific fields and share in the profits.  In the past companies could only be subcontracted.  
The reform also allows the private production of electricity.  
And it involves a lot of legal structure to make it function, including regulatory and oversight agencies.  The goal is to make Mexico’s oil industry more transparent, which is important to investors.  
Mexico’s state oil company PEMEX (Petróleos Mexicanos) still exists, but the reforms are intended to make it more autonomous and more competitive. ”  
It didn’t just happen.  It took some incredible leadership by President Pena-Nieto who put together a coalition of the willing and had to fight the left at every step.
The reforms will allow Mexico to drill for more oil and refine more gasoline.  It will also open up some incredible opportunities for US energy companies.  In fact, the biggest beneficiaries of these reforms are US energy companies who will now have access to a market closed for almost 80 years.
Best of all, it’s nice to see a president get together with members of the legislature and solve a problem. 
Wouldn’t it be nice to see some of that in Washington DC?
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OIL & PEMEX REFORMS IN MEXICO WITH ALLAN WALL




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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

From "loco to muy loco": Argentina bets on price controls

As our readers know, Argentina is in bad shape.  It should not be.  It is a rich country with an educated population, strategic location and the 4th largest GDP in Latin America.   

Great tango, delicious beef but lousy politicians.

So what do you do when your economy is a mess and investors are concerned about the country?
In a serious world, you would sit down with banks, creditors and potential investors and try to deal seriously with the collapse.  You’d provide these folks a sign that the country is serious and ready to tighten its belts and move forward.
Sorry, I’m talking Argentina, or the land with a political class that does not understand the word serious.
According to news reports (via Fausta’s Blog), the “politicos” are going further to the left than a kick from their beloved Messi of World Cup fame.
This is from PanAm post:
In yet another aggressive move against private enterprise, Argentinean officials introduced a new bill to the Senate on August 5: the New Regulation of Production and Consumption Relations.  
This legislation aims to replace the current governing Law of Supply by establishing limits on prices, production levels, and profit margins, and has already received harshcriticism from certain industries.   
The Kirchner administration’s goal with this proposal is to “prevent abuse and the misappropriation of the value-chain surplus.”
The existing law has been in place since the military dictatorship of 1974, which established prison sentences for business owners convicted of “induced shortages.” The principal difference with the government’s new proposal is that it provides further state control over the market in the form of price controls. Once signed into law, it will legally codify the government’s current agreement with suppliers and distributors of products subject to the Careful Prices program. 
“It is essential to observe the behavior of the price system and the extent to which economic concentration allows certain economic groups to abuse their dominant position,” reads the proposal. 
In addition, the bill further defines the state’s role in “defending the interests of consumers in order to make the price and quality of services consistent with offers proposed by companies.”
I guess that a couple of thoughts are in order:
1) Did anyone in Buenos Aires tell the politicos that this system failed in the USSR, Cuba, Venezuela and now Bolivia?  What economists are these people talking to?
2) What investor in their right mind is going to come in and subsidize this crazy place any longer?  Do the politicos think that investors will keep investing because they like tango, good Buenos Aires beef or love Messi?   (By the way, Messi plays in Europe so the peso problems are foreign to him!)
They are going from “loco” to “muy loco”.
Maybe the next version of the movie “Dumb & Dumber” will be about the people running Argentina.
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