Friday, December 27, 2013

Here's Hoping


As the final hours of 2013 wind down we should reflect on all our New Year’s resolutions from last year. Of course, it’s the rare bird that at year’s end is fluffing their feathers having made good on all their personal promises: to quit smoking, lose weight, learn a new language or instrument, or try to be more tolerant and show patience with the many little annoyances of daily life. 

We should take solace on the achieving of some and try with greater fortitude in the upcoming year to achieve the rest. Likewise as a  nation  in the family of nations, we should strive for the betterment of those here in the U.S. and those around the world. Here’s hoping that:

·         Politicians the world over stop spinning rhetoric and act in harmony with their citizenry for the benefit of all. Instead  of greedily grabbing with both hands everything that is not nailed down.

·         People of faith, atheists and others who  worship whatever they think important co-exist without the need of ridiculing or exterminating each other.

·         Every fringe group stop feigning offense at every little thing especially those things, that for millennia, have been accepted tradition. For a twist, how about they be a bit more tolerant.

·         We hear a whole lot less about young people in America being gunned down every day.

·         Bombs and  religion become mutually exclusive.

·         Our leaders in America realize the toll of our men and women  in foreign conflicts is a price we no longer want to pay.

·         World governments cooperate fully with each other to stop human trafficking and put an end to poverty and hunger.

·         World scientists make dramatic inroads in the fight against disease and in predicting natural disasters to stave  off vast destruction in lives and infrastructure.

·         Real world peace can be achieved. Sounds like a pipe dream but let’s hope. Solving the Israeli-Palestinian quandary  would be a great first step.

·         The  Chinese compel their leaders to avert military spending in favor of domestic projects; and the  government give up their expansionist dreams.

·         President Obama use the remainder of his time in office to fulfill his very first promise to bring our nation together and take the necessary steps to create jobs for all who want one.

·         Personal health and happiness.

·         We don’t have to list all these hopes again next year.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Commissioner

With the last days of his tenure as New York Police Commissioner winding down, we have much to thank Ray Kelly for. And not only those of us who live the New York/New Jersey metro area. He and his team have thwarted countless terrorism plots that would have had widespread consequences for the entire nation.

  After the horrific attack on 9/11, Ray Kelly began his second stint as New York City Police Commissioner and  created the first anti-terrorism bureau of any municipal police force in the country, even going as far as stationing his officers in foreign countries to mine leads and gather data on possible nascent plots.

 Some of us may have taken  our security for granted since we have not been attacked in  New York going on 13 years. But New York remains  the number one target of all jihadists. Because of the commissioner’s vigilance  our enemies have focused their efforts elsewhere as evidenced by the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year. It’s hard not to point fingers at the Boston PD but I suspect things could have gone differently had Commissioner Kelly been in charge there.

Ray Kelly has always been a public servant. He was a  Vietnam combat veteran;   he has served 43 years in the NYPD; and in 1994, Ray Kelly headed up the Multi National Force (MNF)  to help restore order and democracy in  Haiti.

Under Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, crime in New York has consistently decreased while having to deal with a dwindling  police force. But these successes have come at a cost, in at least, public perception. The so-called “stop and frisk” policy which targets minority men has been roundly criticized. And its overall effectiveness has been questioned. In the recent NYC mayoral election several of the candidates expressed their unhappiness with the policy and their intent, if elected, to replace Commissioner Kelly. And Mr. Kelly’s comments during that campaign that not one of the candidates had asked for a  terrorist  briefing didn’t win him any friends. Mayor-Elect de Blasio has already appointed Bill Bratton to succeed Kelly.

There was some talk that Mr. Kelly might be a candidate for the vacant position of Homeland Security Secretary. Despite the senior Senator from New York  Chuck Schumer’s glowing endorsement of  Kelly, President Obama selected Jeh Johnson for the position. But it’s hard to believe anyone could be more effective than Kelly in that role.

Ray Kelly leaves a great city in great shape and I’m sure Commissioner Designate Bratton will continue to uphold his high standards.

Ray Kelly will now ride off into the sunset making lucrative speeches for 5th Avenue Greater Talent Network. Our heartfelt thanks, Commissioner.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Self Righteous and the Selfie

The one talent any American should feel proud about our president is his ability to give speeches. At times he can conjure up memories of “The Great Communicator,” Ronald Reagan; or John Kennedy. There are times when I hear the florid phrases that roll off the president’s tongue and I think of Ted Sorensen, JFK’s brilliant speechwriter and aide-de-camp.

The one difference among the three orators, besides, style, is the message. Presidents Reagan and Kennedy espoused American Exceptionalism.  Obama adheres to the theory that we’re just as ordinary as everyone else and, moreover, we  are guilty of taking advantage of those less fortunate. After all we didn’t build the country or the great industrial  machine that created the middle class  as he so foolishly said in the run up to the 2012 election until, one assumes, focus groups dissuaded him from doing so.

At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela he was his predictable self, praising Mandela for reconciling with and forgiving his oppressors. But interspersed were lines from his usual script, usurping the spotlight for himself with his diatribe of rampant inequality, injustice and the  intransigence of his Republican opposition at home.

This played well with the South African audience much like it does when President Obama does his domestic tours. And I wonder, is it the same audience that follows him around university campii and other democrat strongholds who wildly applause as if an applause light goes off at the venue. They stand there as an attentive backdrop like a pack of trained seals waiting for a mackerel to be thrown their way.

The president spends too much time in his comfort zone. Whether it’s with the well heeled Hollywood crowd who can’t thank him enough for being our president or the likes of “Hardball” journalist, Chris Matthews who toughest question for our chief executive is along the lines of what he had for dinner the previous night. Even when the president is seen doing something inappropriate like taking a “selfie” at the Mandela memorial, some journalists  equated that to his being “just like us.”

How sophomoric was that picture of President Obama with Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt? The Danish Prime Minister looked like a high school cheerleader captivated by her team’s quarterback. While PM Cameron looked like the equipment manager straining his neck for inclusion in the picture. The only adult in the photo was Michelle Obama who didn't look like she was going to be invited to the malt shop afterwards.

And I wouldn’t be surprised by the  expression on the first lady’s face if there was another Obama speech in South Africa – this one by Ms. Obama.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mending Fences with Hillary


With some interest I saw an advertisement for Hillary 2016 in the Sunday NY Times of December 1. Of course it was disguised as a real news story about how Madam Hilary is trying to assuage the bad feelings with the African-American community  from her last  presidential run.

It seems unfathomable in hindsight  that the Clintons actually thought the African-American community would support Hillary when then Sen. Obama was running with her neck and neck in the primaries. As soon as the smallest excuse arose, in this case, a nebulous characterization by former President Clinton about Mr. Obama’s anti-war stance being  “a fairy tale”  and an allusion that Jesse Jackson had won the South Carolina primary twice, a frisson developed. So her first order of business is to mend fences with the African-American community.

It’s inevitable that no group can be mad had the Clintons for too long. Looking to repair the bad feelings caused by some of her husband’s statements during the 2008 campaign, Hillary is out in front of the pack trying to position herself for 2016. It’s too early to declare but you can bet she’ll run. If you had as stellar a record as Secretary of State like Madam Clinton wouldn’t you think you deserve to be president and return the country to the halcyon days of her husband.

She has supported  President Obama  since he was elected. But as his poll numbers continue to sink, will she stand by him or will she distance herself. If she decides on the latter, will it hurt her with the black community and open up opportunities for possible candidates within the administration  like Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry; or, perhaps as some people have intimated, Sen. Warren of Massachusetts. All three figure to stick with the president to the very end.

A lot, obviously, will have to do with fundraising .The Hollywood money machine already seem ready to back Madam Clinton. But the success of Hillary and the Democrats with all constituencies will depend on the success or fallout from the Affordable Care Act and  the outcome  of immigration reform – very dicey issues moving forward.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Good News is Bad News

When someone tells me they have some good news and some bad news for me, I usually opt for the  good news first. Not knowing my degree of  good fortune I might not have to worry about the bad news. It looks as though the president adheres to the same principle.

The Obamacare website fix has improved a great deal over the last month. The White House announced on Sunday that it had met its goal for improving so the website “will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.” Purportedly the website is working   90% of the time. In government speak that’s a grand slam. To think the government can run anything  at full efficiency is a contradiction in terms. But alas, now the bad news: The Obamacare website is working 90% of the time.

Some very important issues remain. Many insurers are not getting the requisite data from consumers needed to accurately assess coverage, premiums and subsidies where appropriate. “Until the enrollment process is working from end to end, many consumers will not be able to enroll in coverage,” said Karen M. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group. In addition security issues have not been resolved.

So in the very near future, expect the Insurance companies to be demonized by the administration as the bad guys in this noirish tale. And the Democrats, like an army of Charlie McCarthy  dummies, will bobble their heads  affirming the misconception.  President Obama is adroit at rationing out blame for his failures and quite frugal sharing victories.

But I don’t think the website fix and all the glowing reports from administration officials as well as the spin from the president’s adoring, sycophantic,  Pravda-like press will move his poll numbers in a positive direction. Because no matter how much sweet smelling perfume  you  splash on  a pile of steaming dog  excrement it doesn’t change the effluvia.

 In the next phase of this Edsel of a piece of legislation, people will begin  to get a much clearer  picture of the horrors that await them and their families. Higher premiums and deductibles; and networks that will preclude  the possibility of being able to continue with the doctors to whom  they have entrusted their family’s health. And the kicker is that it will be much more expensive than the rates they paid in the pre-Obamacare era.

In this case the good news is also the bad news.