Saturday, November 29, 2008

Intelligence briefings the President receives daily are counterproductive

The new president must as a priority change the thought process of intelligence gathering. While it would be too controversial to scrap the current system, he must set up a small but focused team to gather information using an alternative strategy to counter global terrorism, and especially the type inspired by the Islamic world’s anti US ideology. This can run in parallel with the existing set-up so comparisons can be made.

In order for the fox to enter the chicken coop, the cocks should be recruited from within the coop, as no doubt has already been tried. However the recruitment method must change from that of money to ideology, to match the same recruitment methods of the terror groups.

The US indirectly funds the terror groups as a result of the way money circulates, and the way the terror groups use blackmail to fund themselves. The Saudis by paying protection money to the terror cells get surety that they will not be harmed. Their money comes from the oil that they sell to the US etc. It is therefore important that this same route is used to identify and infiltrate the masterminds and recruit committed Moslems even with an anti US bias to carry out US intelligence work and not use the current but dated techniques of vetting their intelligence recruits. This method eliminates the possibility of getting the best sources to your side at the lowest cost.

Additionally, the bureaucracy within the intelligence community dissuades the highest caliber of operatives, due to hierarchical interests. All this can be broken down if a team is set up with direct reporting access to the President, bypassing the traditional routes and even the Director of the CIA who by definition has to toe the line to run his behemoth.

I am absolutely sure we can then get to the bottom of some of the real culprits engaged in planning and executing terror, much more accurately and speedily, preventing the sort of mayhem that occurred recently in Mumbai. I am sure Obama must be mad that US intelligence yet again missed the boat on informing him in advance of the distinct possibility of this and therefore now is an opportune moment to set up this top secret mission.

Those entrusted to protect the Nation are the very same people who sometimes unwittingly assist in doing just the opposite. Lets immediately set up this new approach, before it is too late. There is just no alternative.

The bailout of the auto industry

Lets first try and understand the logic. In this time of recession, if the auto industry, by which we just mean the big three are not bailed out they could actually go bust and the repercussions with all the suppliers is that hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost. Lets not forget that the Japanese brands that manufacture in the US make more vehicles than the big three and are have not asked for help.

The package while helping to save jobs must have some purpose, as well as a potential upside to the government who is funding the bailout. Lets not forget that the government is the people. So along with the funds, an equity stake with a lot of upside potential is a must as is a restructuring that levels the playing fields. It is no secret that the Japanese automakers have been successful because they have not been hidebound by the very expensive benefits especially with regard to the health benefits of retirees that the big three have to pay out. The new companies did not have old retirees, which the current profits had to fund, neither did they get saddled with the most expensive healthcare plans. So this has to be reformed along with any bailout.

It is also very important that some synergy be instituted to ensure the industry is more productive, and produce recyclable and more energy efficient vehicles. If the government has an equity interest they will be able to more easily impose conditions that will be beneficial in the nation’s interest. It is important at the same vein to realize that they should not pander to the vote base by giving concession to the unions, which will then become counterproductive.

One must also be aware of being fair towards the companies that are efficient and which have not asked for help. So an agreement that will not upset them needs to be made, so discounting due to government subsidy does not become an issue.

It is important that a well considered plan be set up that not only covers the short term need for job retention but for the long term interests of achieving goals that are beneficial to all. There is no free lunch for the management or the unions, and so there will have to be a price paid for this help, which will accrue to the state. This will therefore ensure that the people at large feel this is no subsidy for inefficiency but an investment for the future.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Financial Crisis

A possible way to resolve the financial crisis in the United States

I propose we home in our focus on the individuals directly affected by the fallout of the current crisis. We then analyze how they can be fairly assisted without penalizing those who have not contributed to the crisis. Therefore those primarily affected most seriously are those who are likely to foreclose on their homes, those who are likely to lose their jobs, and the retired and those about to retire in the next two years, whose pension funds have fallen in value drastically.

On home foreclosure, the initial proposal for a 90day moratorium on repossessions is a good one. Then I propose a revaluation be done on all homes and where outstanding mortgages are more than the revised value, the banks be assisted by way of a debt to the government of the difference. The homeowner is thus given a revised mortgage (at 100% of valuation) to repay at a now revised rate of interest. The homeowner then has the chance to walk away or accept the revised mortgage. No tax will be assessed on the difference in loan amounts. For those likely to lose their jobs, one can extend unemployment benefits for a further 6 months, but also give a subsidy to the employers for worker retention, so that unemployment benefits are not needed when a job is saved. This would only extend to some industries such as autos, where it is decided in the nation’s interest to protect them. In construction, where this cannot be done, these workers to be offered alternative employment in public works projects, if they so wish, that are much needed, such as schools and road building, repair and renovation. For retirees and immediate retirees, some sort of income supplement for a few years, to ensure they are above the poverty line, would be an adequate method to cover this sensitive section of the population.

The crucial point here is that all these proposals will directly put money in peoples pockets or prevent them losing consumption funds. This will go directly to stimulate consumption, which is in danger of falling, with the attendant job cuts in sectors such as retail and restaurant services. This will be politically acceptable, and will be a real stimulus package. Of course tax cuts for the middle classes will also help in this consumption led recovery.

It is also as projected a good time to begin giving aid to industries in the so called Green Job sector so that a structural change can take place to prepare the economy for environmentally sound and sustainable, renewable energy.


November 27, 2008 Thanksgiving Day a unique American Holiday

Today is the Thanksgiving Holiday, celebrating the arrival of all immigrants to this country, a capitalist bastion, and defender of democracy, where equality of opportunity is afforded to all citizens, no matter whence they came and what beliefs they adhere to or what race they claim to belong to.

I can finally say that after the election of Barrack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, that this statement finally can be verified by action and not by mere words. In more senses than one it is historical, that is both Obama’s election, and today’s Thanksgiving. It is also very important not to forget what lies in store for most Americans in the coming two years.

Though they may not know it, they are in for a rude shock of having to go without things they have taken for granted, and will finally bring some sense into a materialistic world that it is not just money and things money can buy as well as having a job that can give one satisfaction and happiness.

Let us also not forget this day, that one person’s Thanksgiving is another person’s eviction. Whether barren lands were purchased, acquired by force, or colonized, the Native Indians were annihilated and there possessions taken or burnt, so that only a handful of them remain albeit now of mixed blood, many in Reservations, overcome by alcoholism and social problems which the rest of America does not appear to want to face and solve. It is more than slavery, America’s still festering sore that must be healed if can call ourselves truly free of guilt and forgiven for our ancestors sins.

I say this being more American in some senses than most Americans, having traveled to more of the country than 95% of those who live in it and being more aware of the conditions of the rich and poor with solutions to solve most of their ills than most people who live there.

I therefore on this Thanksgiving day have decided to dedicate this blog solely to address issues that directly relate to the American people, and how they can solve some of their real problems without prejudice so that they can regain that pioneering spirit and sense of moral authority that has been lost. Most people who live in the US just like those who live in any other country cannot fluently and eloquently provide the answers to their pressing problems, as they like the rest of the world are engaged in the act of living and prefer to spend their earned leisure in relaxation than in contemplation.