Archive for June 2010

Lessons Never Learned

Just before the Great Crash in 1929 and again in 2008, what exactly were the Markets doing?  They were frantically buying and selling and trying to get in on the good deal.  Markets know nothing but greed and they respond to short-term gains and rumor.  But Markets are now demanding that we reduce our debt and the majority of “financial experts” are now recommending that action (World Leaders Agree to Timetable to Cutting Deficits).  And yet history is staring us in the face telling us it is the wrong policy and will simply extend the depression we are in.  Stagflation is the term.  Too much cutting, too soon and for the majority of us, the economic consequences will be dire.  Herbert Hoover here we come.

So with all this history telling us this is the wrong policy, what in the world is driving this thinking.  Well first and foremost, the people making these decisions, much like the Washington Press Corps, live in a bubble where group think is self-reinforcing and the reality of life outside conference rooms is distant.  Second, most of these experts are economically unaffected by the current problem.  Oh, their 401Ks went down, but they aren’t looking for a job or losing their homes.  Those realities are simply ink on a graph.  Third, and I really want you to focus here; these are the people who did not see the crisis coming.  And trust me on this, they do not see the crisis they are creating.  Finally, they see healthy Markets as a healthy economy.  But there is a classic flaw in this kind of thinking.

I would argue that with healthy markets (stock prices up) you can have either high or low unemployment.  In other words the measure of economic security is not “healthy markets”, but low unemployment and secure jobs.  But they are focused on high stock prices and their way to get there is to abandon the average guy and gal.  You hear phrases like, we have to tighten our belts or necessary economic pain.  What they are talking about is the ink on their graphs.  They don’t see this as real people really suffering so it is acceptable.  But even more importantly, it is the wrong policy to reach both goals of a healthy market and low unemployment.

We are kind of trapped in our own small thinking.  We all know that as individuals, if we rack up too much debt, we are heading for ruin.  But economies are not individuals and that is where our analogy fails us.  When economies spend money, there is a ripple effect as the money gets recycled.  This creates demand (individual don’t reap a benefit from overspending except in the junk they have piled up in their garage).  This demand creates more jobs and more spending, and we have a growing economy.  Over simplified because what economies are spending on makes a difference, but there it is.  And the critical point is just the opposite.  If they stop spending, they restrict growth and it is a repeating cycle spiraling downward. And that is where these folks are sending us.

I have to really laugh at Republicans who claim that government spending is restricting private spending which is what will sustain the economy.  Just cut taxes more and private spending will take off.  If there were any private spending we would not need government spending. Also keep in mind that back in the Bush years taxes were historically low and yet our middle class was losing ground.  Government spending is what is keeping us afloat and now to restrict it is to fail to learn the lesson of the Japanese in the lost decade.  No government spending cannot go on indefinitely, and sure we need a plan for controlling our debt.  But to jump ship to soon is a recipe for disaster and that is exactly what we are doing.

One last thought.  The conventional wisdom of the conservatives is that with low taxes, the rich will get richer and will invest allowing for capital to invest in new businesses and a growing economy.  Trouble is that is not what happened during the Bush years.  All the money migrated to financial instruments, the rich got rich and bought high end stuff, and the real available capital for investment in venture capitalism did not exist.  The Market no longer works as the instrument to most efficiency allocate capital to new and growing industries.  Keep that in mind as we judge our economy on how the Market is doing.

Vine/Wine Friday (Saturday Again)

Very Rapid Growth the Last Two Weeks

Vine: I’m back and the vineyard is a mess of new growth.  Thinning and pushing the vines up through the wires started today as Ron Mansfield (my vineyard adviser) sent a crew up to get started.  It will take 8 of them about a day and a half to go through the vineyard, remove unwanted shoots.  Those are the ones growing out of the trunk or cardon that are not from last years wood that are poorly positioned and would not be fruit bearing.  Then each spur (last years grape producing shoots that were pruned back in the Spring) will be trimmed to two fruit bearing and well-positioned shoots.  For the Syrah and Viognier that are on trellis systems, the shoots will be pushed up through the wires.  By the way, trellis systems just support the vines and allows the plant to “spread out” and give the foliage and grapes air and sun instead of being a jumbled mess.  For the Grenache and Mourvedre which are head trained (grow up a single stake), the process is the same except no wires.  The plant is carefully pruned and thinned so that the new shoots grow out in a balanced way like an opening umbrella.  See pictures.

Before Thinning on the Left, After on the Right

Thinning on the right and those waiting to be thinned on the left

What remains is to mow and spray for mildew.  I will start the mowing on Monday (I still have some consulting work to finish up this weekend).  This is a fun filled activity.  For the upper vineyard (assuming I can get my mower started) it is fairly straight forward as I pull the mower through the vineyard behind my ATV and it is relatively flat.  On the lower vineyard things get a little more dicey as it is very steep and hauling a 1000 pound mower behind the ATV on steep slopes is more problematic.  I have learned a route that works (always turning uphill), but it is always adrenalin producing.  We have had some more moisture up here and right now the conditions are ripe to develop powdery mildew so it is time to start spraying.  I usually spray with a mix of sulfur and a herbicide called Ralley or Pristen. Powdery Mildew is one of those things you simply can’t risk since it will destroy the whole crop.  Don the Tyvek coveralls, mask, gloves , and goggles, using a hand sprayer and tank pulled behind my ATV.  It’s lots of fun.  Kind of like spray painting a fence.  Takes me a couple of days and I sweat out about 15 pounds.  Well that is my fun filled week.

Wine: Well one last Hawaiian adventure to relate.  As I noted last week, I had read about the restaurant Azure, which is in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel so on my last night I made reservations for a romantic one.  One of the guys I was working with asked if he could join me and I warned him this was not going to be cheap because I planned to make the most of this opportunity. When I got there, I was told that two more had joined my party.  I went to the Mai Tai bar to have a beer and watch the surfing and ponder who the other two could be. Was it some beautiful admirers who had watched me from afar?  Had my wife flown over to join me?  Okay back to reality. When the reservation time rolled around I was greeted by Paul Sabharwal, the owner of the company I work for.  What a nice surprise especially when he told me I could not pay for anything.

Two Shoots per Spur

I argued about the wine because I was not going cheap, but he was firm.  I owe him.

Before I describe the dinner, let me recommend the bar (Mai Tai).  It overlooks the beach (outside of course, this is Hawaii).  So you can sit and sip your beer or wine (I always have a beer first to quench my thirst so I can savior my wine), listen to a wonderful combo play Hawaiian music, and watch the surfers tame nature with a lovely breeze blowing in from the water.  Did I mention beach bunnies?  All and all a very relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Okay on to dinner.  Overall I would have to say it was very, very good, but not great.  Here is a lesson I have to learn over and over again.  Only order fresh and local, which I did for my main course, but I ordered six Kumamoto oysters as an appetizer with an absolutely lovely Chardonnay/Viognier blend.  By the way, that choice for wine was a big hit.  The oysters were a disappointment.  They stuck to the shell and had no juices.  I think they must have been shucked earlier and then left in the refrigerator.  To me this was unforgiveable and I was greatly disappointed.  So I drank some more wine hoping for things to get better.

For dinner I ordered the Mong Chong (a local fish with very delicate white meat with a rich flavor). You could have it cooked two ways, high heat roasted with wine, Meyer lemon, and fresh herbs, or a special island preparation.  I ordered it Hawaiian style (steamed).  With it I ordered a Patz and Hall Pinot that was mind boggling.  I was a tad disappointed with the fish as this is a fish that screams sautéed in a butter and white wine sauce and it lost something being steamed, but it was still very, very good.

Syrah Thinned, Up Through the Wires, Debris on the Gound

The other thing I noticed was that my wine choice for the way this was cooked was poor.  They did not compliment each other and it must have been the seasonings in the fish, but the wine lost something when paired with the fish.  I would have to have a piece of bread to cleanse my palate then drink the wine to bring back all its complex flavors.

So all in all I would say a very good meal, but not great (maybe due to my choices), but the wine and the company were wonderful and it was another experience in life on the great quest for perfection.  Carpe Diem.

Another Win that is a Defeat and They Don’t Get It

Well Democrats are doing the fist pump about the Banking Reform Bill while the rest of us understand that it was gutted.  If you want to see how out of touch our legislators are, watching them claim this a victory when we will see no change is the best example I know.  I don’t know why they can’t get this, but the Health Care Bill, and now the Banking Reform Bills were wins by the Republicans.  Americans will see no real change and they will vote accordingly.  I guess they think that some regulation is better than none, but if it doesn’t fix the basic problem, what’s the point.  In Health Care the only solution is a public option and they caved.  In the Banking Reform Bill they needed to limit the size of banks and make all transactions transparent.  They didn’t and analyst say banks can quickly take advantage of the loopholes.  What’s next, a gutless Energy Bill?

If President Obama had a clear vision, he would veto this bill, layout what needs to be done and why, and then fight the good fight (something he has never done).  That is not what he did on Health Care and it is most likely not what he will do on Energy.  What they are totally missing is that things out here in the hinterlands are tough and with all these bills passing, nothing changes.  In fact the Democrats are allowing the Republicans to paint them as totally ineffective because the compromises they made to get that magic 60 votes is what makes these bills toothless.  So while all the fist pumping is going on, most of us are just getting angrier.

Look at yesterday’s Senate failure to extend jobless benefits.  Here is where the President can stand tall.  Might want to ask yourself where is he?   Democrats must understand that Republicans will destroy this country to regain power.  If they put millions out of work and block anything that will help them in the belief that this only sticks to the Obama Administration, they will do it.  And they are.  So when will Democrats finally adopt a take-no-prisoner attitude and end the collegial we can work together?  It so far has been their Achilles Heel and when they lose seats this fall to morons who have no solutions but what got us here, all they have to do is look in the mirror.

The point is that we are going backwards and unless Democrats start to stand for effective government, take on Republicans as though they are the devil, and not compromise away what works, we will continue our slide.  If nothing changes, the Democrats are a doomed party because they are hurting this country as much as Republican nihilism with their compromise to nowhere strategy to call it a win.  The stakes could never be higher and they keep folding.


Well I have asked it before, but Thomas Friedman asked it better yesterday, why the hell are we in Afghanistan (What Second Prize?)?  Al Qaeda doesn’t exist there anymore and we are fighting the Taliban.  Ah, aren’t Taliban Afghans?  So we would be involved in a civil war?  Here is the real question you might want to ask yourself and I think it should be basic to any conflagration we fight in someone else’s country:  Why can’t they fight it themselves?  If enough of their own people are not willing to join the fight to throw out the Taliban, why should we bother?  Let’s face it, if it becomes another training camp for terrorist attacks on the U.S., we simply bomb the hell out of them just like we did before.

But I think there is even a more profound question here.  Can we win a guerrilla war with our military?  I don’t think so.  There was an article recently about how some soldiers were griping about the limits on lethal force to avoid civilian casualties.  Well welcome to a guerrilla war and they don’t get it.  More importantly we have to be willing to take casualties for years to come.  And finally, we may always be the foreign invader and as such continue to foment the war.  Mr. Friedman, in the article cited above, made the point that they must solve their own problems, we can only be facilitators after they have taken ownership.  In my mind we should draw way down and let events in Afghanistan play out with Afghans.  If foreign bad guys show up we take them out, but the real fight and ownership of the solution has to be by Afghans.

So throw out one General and bring in another, it will make no difference.  It is just a game of wasting resources and precious lives in an effort doomed to fail.  It is beyond me why with a President who stole the election,  a government run by mobsters, a people unwilling to fight their own battle, we can’t just say enough.  How is being smart and saving lives, being weak?  Ask your Neocon Republican friends because at the first hint of finally washing our hands of this mess they will come out of the woodwork claiming we are weak.  Ask them if they have signed up their kids to go yet.

When the Going Gets Tough, Americans Lie Down

A New York Times/CBS poll released today showed that, “Overwhelmingly, Americans think the nation needs a fundamental overhaul of its energy policies, and most expect alternative forms to replace oil as a major source within 25 years. Yet a majority are unwilling to pay higher gasoline prices to help develop new fuel sources.” (New York Times).  And there my friends is all you need to know about our future.  Americans have all drunk the Republican Kool-Aid that the market place, just left alone, will solve all problems and it will cost you nothing.

I have no doubt that the market place works and eventually it will force us to go other sources of energy, but it will be too late.  We will be buying it from the Chinese while our standard of living just continues to decline.  What is amazing to me is that the same business mentality that can see seizing the advantage and being ahead of your competitors is totally lost on them when it comes to government action to do exactly the same thing.  For those of you that are brain dead from a lack of reading, we pay very little for energy compared to the rest of the world.  So it keeps us addicted to the status quo of money making, petroleum.  The obvious way out is to raise prices to world standards (about double what we pay now) and then let the market place work its wonders.

What that study tells you is why America is a doomed country.  Americans are no longer willing to sacrifice for the future.  If there is pain, well then screw gain.  We have become the “entitled” people.  We just expect everything for free because we deserve it.  Americans know there is a problem, they know it has to be fixed, but well, it is too painful.  Look at that moronic judge today who issued a stay against the off shore drilling moratorium.  The economic impact would be too great he said.  He has no concept of what the impact of this spill is.  “A federal judge Tuesday struck down President Barack Obama’s six-month ban on new deepwater drilling, siding with oil companies that argued that it would harm their businesses, eliminate jobs and weaken the economies of Gulf Coast states.” (McClatchy News.)

It amazes me that many still don’t get the extent of the disaster, both ecological and economic, that is unfolding.  But what is even more astounding is their inability to suffer a short term pain to hopefully solve a long term problem.  We have no idea what caused the blow-out yet let’s continue what we were doing because why?  For short term gain and then maybe even more destruction?  This is just moronic and we are addicted to it.  And by the way, as I listen to reporters talk about not knowing what caused this accident, I realize that this is another lie we tell ourselves.  We don’t know technically for sure what went wrong, but we know what caused this disaster, greed.  Why did BP not take more precautions, heed warnings, use more redundant systems?  Because the money incentive was to ignore these things because they had gotten away with them before.

So Americans, you want to be strong and independent?  No gain without pain.  We just don’t have the stomach for it anymore.  Well actually we have the stomachs to show we no longer have any self discipline.  We are becoming a selfish little sniveling country that doesn’t deserve to survive.  Or as Pogo once famously said, “We have met the enemy and He is us.”

Vine/Wine Friday – Saturday Edition From Waikiki

Vine: I am in Hawaii on another consulting trip from hell.  Oh, I know you say, Hawaii, and what wonderful times you can have.  Not!  Usually the work days are 10-12 hours and then you go home and crash.  It is almost like torture because there are all those beautiful sites to see and all these people going here and there, hand in hand.  I could hold my own hand, but it gets sweaty.  I do sometimes go out to eat and will discuss in Wine.  Anyway the vineyard has taken off. We are approaching shoot growth of an inch or more a day.  I have shoots that are up through the top wine.  So what all that means is that the stuff I usually accomplished in 3 months has to be done in one, June.  First and foremost, and what I got done before I left was to spray out weeds (back pack sprayer and spot spraying).

Next, and it needs to be done right now is suckering (removing growth in places you don’t want) thinning to two shoots (then removing shoots on each spur to pick the two best positioned and fruit bearing) and pushing the shoots up through the wires before they get too long and you will break them.  But I am here in Waikiki so I have asked Ron Mansfield to send a crew up.  He is also buried so we will see if anybody shows.  I would hate to get home and find I am still further behind.  For sure when I get home, the cover crop has now gone to seed and it is time to mow.  Still think we are about a month behind so we will see when we get efflorescence (flowing) and set.

Wine: Well I have eaten in many restaurants in Hawaii and I have a couple to recommend (we are talking Waikiki).  The other night I went to the Moana Surfrider Hotel and ate at their Beachhouse restaurant.  The setting is exceptional because you can sit on the porch surrounding the hotel facing the ocean.  They are really known for their steaks, but in Hawaii I usually try the fresh catch of the day.  I ordered the Ulua, a local fish recommended to me by my waiter that is similar to swordfish, and it was quite good but just a tad over cooked.  Over cooking fish in my mind is a cardinal sin because you loose so much of the flavor.  I had a Caesar Salad with it that was very good, but lack a little crunch in the Romaine, maybe the humidity.  The wine was superb with an excellent by the glass wine list.  I order a Cote de Rhone Rouge and it was remarkably good and loyal to good French Rhones.  So meal was good, wine was excellent, service was excellent, and the setting was spectacular.

Okay if you want beef, there are some awesome steak houses, but there is the little place I found called Chuck’s Cellar that has a prime rib to die for.  It is a little place with live music, very informal, but their cuts of beef are fabulous.  There is also a restaurant called Chucks Steakhouse in the Outrigger Hotel and I had Mong Chong (another local fish) that was cooked to perfection and served in a lovely butter, white wine, and garlic sauce that perfectly complimented the fish (a delicate white fish).  Service was excellent and wine by the glass was very good.

Finally here is the find of a century.  I was yearning for a glass of good wine and there is this little place called Wine Bar tucked on the second story of a two story building next to a Thai Restaurant.  It is an Italian place run by a very Japanese server, pourer, bar keep, and cook named Matsa.  He remembered me from my last visit and broke out the big wine glasses.  He cooked me a rack of lamb to die for.  I could hear in the back grinding up garlic and basil for the bruschetta appetizer and for cooking my lamb.  I drank part of a bottle of Insoglio Toscano 2007 that he recommended and left the rest for him at the end of his long day.  Everything was magnificent.  This little place is the find of the century and it is a gathering spot for locals later in the evening.  Matsa is a wonderful host and I could not recommend this place more.  It is on Lewers street toward the canal right off Kuhio Avenue.  Anyway that is the eating scene.  I will try to get to Azure in the Royal Hawaiian before I leave.  Carpe Diem.

Say What?

I guess everyone heard Joe Barton yesterday apologize to BP for being forced to “show us the money”.  There it is.  That is in naked action, what Republicans stand for.  Business is king, and the American public is simply a fund to cover their risks.  Why do you think they are fighting so hard against banking reform?  This whole escapade of the oil spill has pretty much demonstrated who Republicans represent and how hypocritical they are, and yet at least half of Americans turn a blind eye to it.  Let’s look at the three most telling examples of who they are that occurred during this oil spill.  Oh, and don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Democrats have all the answers since most of them appear spineless when it comes to political courage.

When this first happened, many Republicans were concerned about the “bashing” of BP.  They are a responsible company and this is only hurting their stock prices they lamented.  Ah, protecting your biggest donors bottom line is a full time job in Washington.  But what about the “stock prices” of the fisherman whose livelihoods are wiped out, or the tourist industry and all the small business that will go out of business, or for that matter the quality of our environment and a whole ecosystem?  To tell you the truth, I don’t think they really cared and like environmental messes they can’t see, out of sight, out of mind.

But then the oil starting flowing onto the beaches, these wonderful Republican politicians started screaming where is the federal government and why isn’t there a total mobilization of all resources.  Now I agree with their question, but these are the guys who have told us over and over that the federal government is the problem, it is too big, and we need to get it out of our lives.  Now they are upset because they have successfully marginalized it and it is not there when shit happens?  The level of hypocrisy has set a new all time record in our glorious South. At least most are old fat white men who will die off pretty soon from clogged arteries and brain atrophy from lack of use.

Finally we come to Congressman Joe Barton, the ranking member on the House Energy Committee, outburst (Texas Republican).  In commenting on the $20B set aside to pay claims, he said, “”I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words — amounts to a shakedown, so I apologize.”  Let’s see if I have this right.  BP has lied about just about everything from the amount of oil flowing, to the fixes “that have never been tried before” (they were and failed in Ixtoc 1 blowout in 1979), and we are just going to take them on their word that the $75 million dollar liability limit that is the current law and those prince of Republicans won’t lift, will not affect their payouts?  When you and I buy a house we put money in an escrow account in good faith.  So in Joe’s mind, why doesn’t this apply to BP?  Let’s face it, $20 billion is not even going to get close and the environmental damage and the loss of a way of life, has no price.

So there it is.  It is clear as a bell what Republicans stand for:  Moneyed Interests.  You like the way things are screwed up and you want to continue down this path, these are your boys.  But remember, for the average guy who can’t pony up a quarter million in campaign contributions, well take a hike.  Sooner or later we have to understand that where the market place will take us if left to business as usual is very, very good for a very, very few, and is a disaster for the rest of us.  Continuing to support conservatives who see no role for government is a path to destruction.  But let’s keep on this path because it has works so well hasn’t it?  I have to think that at least half the nation is brain dead if they cannot see what is going on and who these guys present.  But then I live in El Dorado County where they keep voting in some nut case right of Atilla the Hun.  Maybe there is something in the water up here that damages their brains.

A Message From Heaven

Apparently a lighting bolt struck a giant six story statue of Jesus Christ at Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio. The statue was set on fire and all that is left is the smoking skeleton. If you believe in God, then here is a message to chew on.

Leadership, What Leadership?

I am winging my way to Hawaii again on another foray into consulting hell, but I cannot stop thinking about President Obama’s speech from the Oval Office on the oil spill.  I have written over and over again about my disappointment in this man and his seemingly total inability to seize a moment, and last night he did not disappoint.  The speech said the obvious about the disaster, how this is a great moment in time to seize the opportunity to do something about energy policy, and then he never said what that something was.  He was still stuck in the mode that out of the debate a synergy of new thought will appear and we will have a better plan.  Bring on those good ideas, because we all know, the Republicans have great ideas.

It is the same fatal flaw he has made on every issue.  Healthcare without a public option, toothless banking reform, an energy bill wasting away in the Senate, he seems to think that the only way to lead is by consensus.  I have called that management style in the past compromise to nowhere.  Make no mistake about it.  The Republicans want things just like they are.  With cries of how we will hurt business, we leave business unreformed to hurt us.  Then it hit me.  President Obama does not know how to lead.  He cannot change gears from consensus management to leadership.

Consensus management may be mistaken for leadership, but it isn’t really.  It is the easy way out.  Now sometimes consensus management is a good idea, but that is assuming everyone is coming to the table seeing the same problem and wanting to fix it.  But that is not the case.  How many times did Republicans tell us our health care system is not broken?  Or as they are telling us now, oil companies need a cap on liabilities so they can stay in business (read the tax payer subsidizes their risk).  They will not allow a carbon tax, yet subsidize the oil industry with your money for billions of dollars.  There is also the element that they don’t really want him to be successful, so when he looks for consensus all he gets in never ending delaying tactics.  But he seems to have learned nothing from all this.

Leadership on the other hand is much more risky.  You have to make a decision and stand for something.  You have to take ownership for the direction and then lead.  As near as I can tell he simply either doesn’t know what that should be, or does not have the courage to stand on his own convictions.  Last night was a case in point.  We know the challenges we face.  We know we need to all pull together.  We know we have overcome big challenges in the past.  But what, pray tell, Mr. President is your plan?  Commission reports and consensus management?  As soon as we all agree, we will move in that direction?  What if it is the wrong direction?  What is the direction you think is right?

I remember way back in the 70’s I went to a leadership school in the Air Force called Squadron Officers School (believe it or not I was a distinguished graduate much to the chagrin of the Air Force).  One of the things they had us watch was the Gregory Peck movie 12 O’Clock High about a bomber squadron in World War II.  The movie was really a character study about styles of leadership.  One that was not working, being one of them and identifying with their pain, and one that was taking the responsibility for decision making and setting an example whether they liked him or not.  Their was a personal price to pay for that second style of leadership, but it turned out to be the one in those kinds of situations that brought back pride and a sense of ownership in what they were dying for.  Well the lesson for President Obama is it is now time to change gears.  It is time to layout a path and tell the country not only where we are going, energy independence, but specifically how we are going to get there, carbon tax.  He needs to be unafraid to attack opponents and call them what they are, unpatriotic obstructionists.  But he seems unable to make the shift.

It may be that real leadership is not in his veins.  Maybe being a politician all his life has taught him that accommodation is the way to get ahead, jettisoning your own values for what the most number of people will vote for.  Tell them what they want to hear and make inspiring speeches about change, but then don’t define that change in enough detail to understand what it really means.  That may be a great path to political success, but maybe it taught him nothing about real leadership.  The course ahead is clear.  He can either find his compass and set a course, or he continue to wallow in consensus management and be one of the biggest disappoints this nation has ever seen.  If that is his course, he will not only set back the Progressive movement, but this nation, for many years to come.

Tomorrow:  The return of the Secretary of Reality

In the Bubble

Back in the Katrina Days we watched as President Bush was totally oblivious to the fate of the hurricane victims.  It wasn’t because he didn’t care, he simply did not know about it and his staff finally had to show him video the rest of us had seen watching 24/7 news.  I have come to the conclusion watching President Obama that maybe this is a systemic problem for Presidents and they need a new cabinet position, Secretary of Reality.  Since almost everyone in Washington is a toady to power, and sooner or later falls into the trap of telling them what they want to hear, the only way this would work is that this person be totally detached from the whole Washington scene.  Just call in on Skype wearing shorts and a t-shirt from time to time, beer/wine in hand, and just launch on a “What the f@&k, over” diatribe.  Here is how mine would go:

Oil Spill – Yo, Mr. President, I understand you are now “in charge” of the oil spill so where is the national mobilization?  How come we still have all these different agencies giving different directions?  What is our long-term plan?  Is there a backup plan if, as some scientists have suggested, the well pipe may be compromised and a relief well won’t work?  There are reports of dead animals being rounded up and hidden from public view, press being prevented from access to many sites, and scientific data being withheld. So are you in charge of this?  You think money is going to fix this damage as if a price could be put on what is lost?  Nice to know you are unafraid to eat the local fish caught before the real damage hits the beaches.  Hey, the water is fine, come on down, just don’t breath the air or swim in the water.  If you are in charge of this train wreck, I want another train.  Oh by the way, while you are down there talking to those Southern governors, why don’t you remind them that they want the federal government out of their lives and you are just doing your part.

Republicans – You know the guy/gal who keeps trying to pet a rabid dog and gets bit every time?  At what point do you get it?  They are tilting more and more to the crazy side and you still treat them like they are not foaming at the mouth, pretending that this is just politics as usual.  Time to call a rabid dog a rabid dog and put them out of their misery.  Drool is drool, not responsible public policy.

Wall Street – Are you nuts?  These guys are the enemy and you keep painting yourself in a corner with them.  Ask yourself, does Wall Street make money playing Russian Roulette with derivatives or lending money to innovative start-ups?  Hello, are you there?  Everybody in country gets it that to continue these guys in power is to kiss Main Street goodbye.  Quickly and with great since of purpose, walk away from this bunch and support real reform.

Energy Policy/Global Warming – Okay Mr. President, say the words, Global Warming.  All your scientists tell you it exists yet you still bow and scrape to the deniers.  Tolerating morons just begets more morons.  We are looking at the result of oil as our only alternative and if the spill tells us anything, the risks are too high.  The one thing your opponents have right is that the market place does work sometimes.  Time for the old carbon tax to make alternate energy price competitive.   Set the money aside to rebuild the planet after the oil guys have destroyed it.  This is the real cost of oil.  Get a grip.

Gays – I thought you were a constitutional lawyer.  Heard of civil rights?  You have been hanging around fat old white guys who are afraid of their latent feelings and want to study this thing to death.  Most of us out here in the real world could give a flip about sexual orientation.  It doesn’t threaten us normal people, so just get on with it and do the right thing.

Secrecy – Oh, Mr. President you are such a fool.  Stuff about our torture tactics just keep coming out so why not just get on with it?  Right now you are aiding and abetting conservatives who want to return to those good old days of George Bush so why don’t you just expose those days for what they were.  Oh, and this witch hunt you are conducting for “leakers”, what ever happened to an informed electorate?  You are starting to look like a paranoid Republican.  Oh, I am sorry, that was below the belt.

Well I could go on, but you get the drift.  They are so busy calculating the political consequences, they lose sight of what is really going on and what is really good for the country.  I like that: Secretary of Reality.  Maybe I will change my blog to Secretary of Reality and see if I can register it as a .gov site.