Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Cabinet

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece proclaiming our freedom from The Regime of political families – Bush and Clinton alike – that had run the country since the 80s. And, alas, I counted my chickens before they hatched. Change is coming. But it seems the motives are not as pure as they seemed. For most, the change promised by President Obama painted a picture of progress; a new America; a return to glory. So why is our President turning to the leadership of the 90s when we need change for today?

This was my initial opinion with regard to his selections for cabinet. But after careful consideration and reading, I realized that many of these politicians carry one important trait: experience. And not only are they experienced, but they are also highly educated. Take, for example, Obama’s selection for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner. He is the president of the Federal Reserve of New York, he has worked for the International Monetary Fund and has studied Chinese. Or, consider Robert Gates, the current Defense Secretary, who will keep his position in the new administration. Though both fall on opposite sides of the political fence, they are well educated and experienced in their field - making them prime candidates to serve in the cabinet.
And, to also ease my fears, Obama is planning to attack this economic crisis head on. How? He is making, or leaking, his cabinet faster than any President in history. On Monday Obama said, “"If we do not act swiftly and boldly, most experts believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year.” I am confident that if he follows through with this ethic throughout, that my fears will dissolve into trust.

President Obama has chosen many cabinet members with whom I have disagreed in the past. Particularly, Hillary Clinton – his chosen Secretary of State (still yet to be confirmed by the Senate, though). This is the one selection of which I am unsure. I feel that Clinton is not experienced enough with foreign policy. Not to mention the bitter relationship they have from the campaign trail. And, I am also fearful that the Clinton administration has too many familiar faces returning to office. So my hope must rest in Obama. I am hopeful that Obama will maintain control over these powerful political players, being that he is the least experienced politician of them all. In this statement, my hopes are strengthed:

To become Secretary of State, Sen. Clinton and also former President Bill Clinton have accepted restrictions. Ultimately, she must defer to the White House on policy. He [Bill Clinton]has agreed to list contributors to his foundation and also have his public speaking schedule approved by the White House. (Arthur I. Cyr)

Thus far, I am not sure what to make of his cabinet, but I respect it -- it has gone through one tedious job application. Though, with additions like Senators Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary (though he may not be as clean as he seems) and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State you can absolutely expect former-President Bill Clinton to have some influence in the White House.
Former-President Clinton has many international business and political connections through his global foundation. Since exiting the office eight years ago, he has raised over $500 million for the foundation and has created relationships with many top ranking foreign officials and businessmen. Not to mention, he has relationships that still exist from his days as our President. So, the question arises: What, if any, are his business interests, and will they interfere with Hillary Clinton's abilities in office? Yes, he does offer foreign experience to the side of Hillary Clinton, but he also adds some potentially unwanted or misguided direction to her decision making.
President Obama’s cabinet is a very interesting mix of Republicans and Democrats. There are Senators, professors, and former cabinet members. There are well respected military leaders and carryovers from the Bush administration. The truth of the matter is that Obama is, seemingly, unconcerned by party lines. He is, though, interested in fixing the crisis that we face today in America. Regardless of whom the cabinet members served under in the past, they now serve a new President. And as such, the responsibility falls to Obama. His job is not easy. He must hold tight the reigns of these experienced politicians or else we may see the return Bill Clinton to power in American Politics. Barack Obama, as Your Daily Snitch notes, did do well to win America over during the campaign. But now he must follow through.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday = New Guitar (and apparently a lot of other stuff...)


Black Friday is the most intense shopping day of the year. Though it may be full of greed and overconsumption, everyone hits the mall. Some stores open as early as 3am on the day after Thanksgiving. And, most can count on people sleeping outside the door before opening. But this year, with the economic crisis and all, will Black Friday fall flat?
I found myself as one of these shoppers. At 8am, I was already in my car and on the 8 East freeway towards east San Diego. My destination? Guitar Center. Lucky for me, Christmas came early as I grabbed a new Fender American Standard Strat. It’s white on black – but I replaced the pick guard with black. It plays beautifully. And man, is it nice to go shopping – especially when everything is 15% off. It would seem that I wasn't the only one racking in the great deals this weekend.
Based on the economic crisis, I assumed that consumers will halt spending – regardless of the deals offered by Black Friday. And it seems only rational. When the economy enters recession, spending slows. It is natural – less money in the bank means less money spent at the store. Yet, Black Friday, and the weekend that follows it, is not a normal shopping day. It is THE shopping day. But my optimism can only stretch so far.
Though, as I entered Guitar Center at 8:20am on Friday, my assumption lost ground. The store was packed head to toe with guitars. Less was I surprised by the quantity of guitars than by the number of people waiting at the register this early in the morning. Apparently 15% is enough of a discount to draw in the crowds. No wonder I had to park three blocks away.
After leaving the store and making it home past the mall traffic, I realized that this weekend was now an American tradition. Regardless of the economy, you can expect Americans to show up for the great holiday shop-a-thon.

As weekend spending totaled over $41 billion, it would seem that I was not the only winner. Statistics show that sales rose 1.9% on Friday and Saturday combined – surprising most. According to the 2008 National Retail Federation survey, over 172 million shoppers went shopping online or in stores during Black Friday. This is an astounding 25 million more people than last year. And, shoppers spent 7.2% more money on items – totaling an average of $372 this weekend.
The interesting note is that Wall Street didn’t do as hoped. Wal-Mart went down 1.4%, Target was down 3.9% and Best Buy lost 1.8%. But, overall, the DOW finished up 102 points (about 1.2%). What is key, though, is that over four trading sessions, it was up about 9%.
All in all, for consumers and the markets alike, it was a green day for our economy. Hopefully it will continue this good trend, but these hopes do rest in the clouds. As we now descend from the largest shopping day of the year, let us hope that Americans did not buy things that they couldn’t afford. Otherwise this crisis may just get worse.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Car Troubles

The American auto industry has hit rock bottom. And today, three of the major Detroit auto makers appealed to the government for emergency assistance. The industry is nearing the edge of collapse. Executives from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were turned down in their bid to receive $25 billion from the governments $700 billion economic bailout.
According to Senator Michael B. Enzi, a Republican from Wyoming. “We have little evidence that $25 billion will do anything to promote long-term success.” And after four hours of testimony, the outcome remained bleak for the industry – two of the three major auto makers has stated that they could run out of money by the end of the year.
This is a sad time for America. The auto industry is not just an industry, it is a part of our culture. Henry Ford and the American auto industry led the country during the Industrial Revolution. Cars were symbols of the American Dream and a job in the auto industry was often where the dream began for American immigrants. And now, as it is teeters on the edge of the cliff, one question remains: Will the government save this industry again?

The auto industry is one of the leading job providers in the country. And as we face a growing recession in 2008, it would seem that a collapse in Detroit could only worsen the fall. They auto leaders are stuck in the middle of their own recession and adding the current economic crisis broke the camels back. It is necessary that the industry survive - necessary for American culture and the American economy.
The industry hosts 105 automobile plants in twenty different states. And, including the 14,000 car dealers, the automakers employ several million American workers. For the government to refuse assistance to a major industry in this economic crisis is unacceptable. It is the government playing favorites – and that is not what the government should do. Why bailout one part of the economy and not help another sector that is equally important?
Further, it is political suicide that our politicians are refusing to assist the industry, its workers, and therefore their constituents. Yes reforms are necessary, and the future of the industry may seem bleak. But it is better to keep the industry alive than to let it collapse in the midst of our already-unstable economy.

Now, of course there are major issues in the auto industry. The unionization of workers has assisted the failure of these auto makers. Half of the $50 billion that the industry asked for early in November was to be directed to healthcare alone. When a union such as the United Auto Workers (UAW) forces the hand of a company too far, the industry cannot compete successfully in a global market. Remember, Japan produces more cars than America. And being that as it is, American automakers must create business strategies to compete within the global market.
Changes are necessary. We cannot ignore the current crisis – we must assist the auto industry or else face worse economic downturn.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Top of the League Baby!

The best team in football? You may disagree, but that just means you're wrong. Don't worry, tons of people are wrong. Anyways, Chelsea reclaims first in the Premiership after defeating last place West Brom. We picked up an awsome striker, Nicholas Anelka, during the trade period. He picks up two wonderful goals in the match.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith

The best part of this election cycle, for San Diego at least, is the victory by Jan Goldsmith over Michael Aguirre for city attorney. Aguirre, the man who turned the position of city attorney into a grossly powerful treasure hunt, was ousted after only one term. Having unnecessarily attacked Mayor Jerry Sanders and leading city councilmen, as well as having caused havoc during the October 2007 fires, Aguirre turned his position into a political madhouse. No longer will San Diego have to deal with a city attorney who wastes money on probe after probe without producing any results.
Jan Goldsmith represents a change that San Diego has been waiting for. With only 56% of the votes counted, he was already leading 59% to 40% over the incumbent. Being new to office, Goldsmith sent out a memo to all members of the city attorneys office. He is starting off on a good foot – being straightforward about his plans for the office:

Over the coming months, there will be a transition period. I will be straight with you -- there will be changes and some staff will be let go. I understand the anxiety, but I promise and commit to building a stable and positive work environment.
He has asked each staff member for a resume as well as:

a. A description of your work, which includes specific examples
b. A description of what you have accomplished while employed in the office
c. A highlight of cases or matter on which you are currently working
d. What you would like to do in the future, either in the office or elsewhere.

Finally, we have an attorney who knows how to run an office. The inner-circle of Aguirre will quickly be ousted for less-partisan lawyers. The former judge, Goldsmith, is the right man to help turn San Diego around.