Month: November 2013
MUNICH AND IRAN
Many observers see striking similarities between the recent US-Iranian nuclear weapons agreement and the treaty between England and Germany in 1938? Who can forget Neville Chamberlain’s delusional declaration of “Peace in our time.” Students of history will recall that England’s appeasement of Nazi Germany failed miserably and exacerbated the climate that led to WWII. One can argue that this deal is worse. To be sure, England sold out Czechoslovakia, but Mr. Obama has sold out Israel, Saudi Arabia, and, perhaps, us as well. No wonder the Israelis are wary of Mr. Obama. Regarding Saudi Arabia, although we cannot always trust their motivations, technically they are our allies in the region, and they rely on us for security in return for their maintaining an ample supply of oil.
We gave up our strongest weapon against Iran – economic sanctions, which were having a significant effect, and got very little in return. Iran will still be able to continue its uranium enrichment program, although at a reduced level. Moreover, there appears to be ample opportunity for Iran to cheat, and does anybody doubt that they will? Supposedly, the deal is for 6 months after which time a final agreement is to be struck. Good luck with that.
The nuclear threat posed by Iran still remains. Iran has sworn to destroy Israel, and there is a good chance it will attempt to do so as soon as it is feels it is able. Israel knows this, and may, at some point decide to protect itself by launching a pre-emptive strike. A regional war would surely destabilize the Middle East and disrupt our oil supply.
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
Once again, Mr. Obama has been outsmarted by a foreign government, first the Russians, then the Chinese and now the Iranians. This has further degraded the level of respect for the US throughout the world. It seems that Mr. Obama is willing to appease everyone, except for the Republicans in Congress.
A cynic would say that Mr. Obama agreed to this deal because he needed a perceived victory to offset the Obamacare fiasco and his falling approval rating in the polls. In addition, he is no doubt counting on the apathy and disengagement of a large segment of voters who are unaware of the dangerous situation unfolding in Iran or don’t see how it will affect them. (I bet many Americans could not even find Iran on the map.) In this, he may be right.
My prediction is that, despite this deal, or maybe because of it, tensions in the region will ratchet up in the coming months. At some point, we will have to consider reinstating sanctions. Furthermore, we will have to reassure Israel to dissuade them from acting unilaterally. That should be an interesting conversation.
Many of you have commented that you have enjoyed my previous quizzes and requested additional ones. Below please find a Thanksgiving Quiz. Good luck, and, as always, no peeking at the internet.
1. Which President established Thanksgiving as a formal, annual holiday?
c. Teddy Roosevelt
2. What day did he designate?
a. Last Thursday of November
b. Last day of November
c. 4th Thursday of November
d. First day of December
3. Which President changed the holiday to its present day?
b. Teddy Roosevelt
4. When was the first Thanksgiving celebration?
5. According to AAA approximately how many Americans will be traveling 50 miles or more away from home to celebrate the holiday?
a. 10 million
b. 27 million
c. 42 million
d. 55 million
6. When was the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade?
7. What character has appeared in this parade the most times?
b. Mickey Mouse
c. Porky Pig
d. Sponge Bob
8. When was the first Thanksgiving Day NFL game?
9. What teams played in that game?
b. Packers- Steelers
10. Which state produces the most turkeys?
d. New Jersey
11. Which state was the first to adopt Thanksgiving as an official holiday in 1817?
d. New York
12. Approximately what percentage of Americans eat turkey of Thanksgiving?
13. When was the last time Thanksgiving and Chanukkah overlapped?
14. Approximately how many years until the next overlap?
15. Which of the following is not a hybrid term currently in use with respect to the overlapping holiday?
16. When is Canada’s Thanksgiving holiday?
a. Same as the US’s
b. Last day in September
c. Last Thursday in October
d. Second Monday in October
17. When was the first one?
18. When was it declared a national holiday?
ANSWERS: (1) b., (2) a, (3) d., (4) c., (5) c., (6) c., (7) a., (8) b., (9) d., (10) a., (11) d., (12) c., (13) b., (14) c, (15) d, (16) d, (17) a, (18) c
This is a difficult one. Anyone getting more than half right is a Thanksgiving scholar. Three or less, the Thanksgiving police say “no turkey for you.”
THE BUCK STOPS (W)HERE?
Former President Harry Truman was famous for declaring “The Buck Stops Here.” Hyperbole aside, what he was conveying was the belief that, as President, he was ultimately responsible. He believed that it was irrelevant whether or not he or a member of his administration had made a mistake; the fact that it had been made at all meant that he was ultimately responsible. President Obama and his staff could and should take a page out of Mr. Truman’s book.
I have never understood how a leader, such as the President or any chief executive or, for that matter, any supervisor could absolve himself of blame by stating that he was not aware. “No one told me.” “I read about it in the newspaper.” That notion is patently absurd, and any President expecting to get away with that excuse is insulting the intelligence of the American people. I half expect Mr. Obama to tell us next that he has a bridge to sell.
Anyone with any experience running any enterprise knows that, as the boss it is your responsibility to be aware. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, nor should be ignorance of wrongdoing by a subordinate. In my former position as chief compliance officer of a financial services organization if I were to tell my boss or a regulator that a particular wrongdoing was not my responsibility because I was not cognizant of it, two things would likely happen. (1) I would be laughed out of the room, and (2) I would lose my job. As boss, it is your job to know; ignorance is simply unacceptable.
To be sure, other Presidents have used the ignorance excuse, e.g. Ronald Reagan and Iran-contra, but under this administration it seems to be occurring repeatedly. There has been a pattern of behavior that is undeniable. President Obama has taken the feigned ignorance excuse to a new level. Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS’ politically-motivated audits, the NSA’s illegal snooping, and the Obamacare rollout come to mind. Moreover, following these revelations Mr. Obama’s stock answer has been “we will investigate;” “we will get to the bottom of it,” or words to that effect. Well, have we “gotten to the bottom” of any of the above mentioned scandals? Do we know who told the security people in Benghazi to “stand down?” Who pushed the video excuse? Who scripted Susan Rice’s talking points at the UN? Do we know who authorized the IRS audits? Has anyone at the IRS been held accountable? Why does Kathleen Sebelius still have a job? Why did no one know the finer points of the Affordable Care Act until after it had already been passed?
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
In view of the above, it is no wonder that Mr. Obama’s approval rating has been hovering at around 40%. Furthermore, Democratic senators who are running for re-election in 2014 are beginning to distance themselves from his policies; late night comedians are mocking him and his policies; and the mainstream press has begun to criticize him. Have the previously-inattentive, self-absorbed voters finally caught on to Mr. Obama’s act, or will he wriggle his way out of this yet again? Stay tuned. 2014 and the Obamacare implementation are just around the corner.