Thursday, February 04, 2010

Showtime for Obama

President Obama, shaken by the Massachusetts upset in which the most liberal "blue" state in the union sending an unknown Republican to the Senate, is now taking a number of "I am a new man" steps across the board.

He finally is taking a strong stand in facing down Wall Street promising very tough regulatory measures. He obviously didn't appreciate sufficiently that his voters across the nation had been terribly angry at his velvet glove treatment of Wall Street allowing them to use zero cost, Federal guaranteed money to play the market and won big and then paying themselves silly in bonuses.

Who can blame them if Obama and his Wall Street friendly cabinet hadn't put in conditions before handing out those blank checks? You can accuse Wall Street of political insensitivity, which by the way is not illegal, but you can't blame them for driving a container truck through those loopholes the Obama presidency has provided for them.

You can however definitely blame Team Obama for ignoring the nearly ear-spliting protests by folks across the land that they had first dropped the ball in not putting in appropriate controls and then turning a deaf ear to those who were telling them they should do so quickly before the billions got lost in the shuffle. Now, the billions had all been legitimately "laundered" as if were so long after the final bailout checks had been mailed.

Better late than never you say? So, now it is High Noon on Wall Street? Can Obama really finish this game of chicken? Gary Cooper managed to shoot the villain in the movie. What can Obama really do now?

Paul Volcker, long ostracized by Obama's team, is now back in vogue. Is it too late? Wall Street folks are already telling the press this: you can hand down Volcker rules Friday, by Monday we will figure out how to get around them.

The mainland Chinese working under a heavy Visible Hand for decades have a famous saying: Policies from top, we have counter policies from bottom. Wall Street and mainland Chinese have lots in common.

Now, Obama is even playing tough with China on seemingly a full court press.

Having rejected Dalai Lama's request to visit before Obama's China trip, a first presidential rejection ever, he is now making a widely publicized point of seeing him. As if deliberately to pick a bigger fight he is loudly upgrading Taiwan's weapon system and has sent Hilary Clinton to wage a PR war against Chinese hackers. Of course they are official hackers to have access to powerful computers. China has high quality IT institutes to groom hackers. These institutes are directly under the military or national security departments.

Obama had shown weakness by first acceding to China's pressure not to see the Dalai Lama. He should have stood up to them in the first place.

The China US relationship is importantly influenced by the indebtedness of the US to China, the largest single lender. Obama should have done what any large debtor should do -- since now I owe you, the bank, so much, you need me more than I need you. So, I dare you to "punish" me. Ha. Instead, Tim Geithner went to Peking University and promised the students (!) they could have faith in US credit. The only response, and a proper one, was laughter by the students. The fact that Obama continues to place stock with that incompetent man is mindboggling.

Re hacking.

The proper response is to keep quiet and to wage a powerful counter hacking war. Here, the US has been playing catch up for decades. A famous Newsweek cover story a few years back documented how Chinese hackers had infiltrated the Pentagon servers for years and had been downloading files for at least a decade if not more, like you and I having access to George Soros's private ATM machine. It was a painful article to read because it showed how clueless the brass had been at the Pentagon.

If cyperspace security is so important to national security, then Washington should mobilize Silicon Valley to stand firm to commercial blackmail. Those firms have been selling just about every security related hard and software to China hurrying the country to become a top IT country at accelerated speed.

So far the profit motive of Californian IT companies has been dismally shameful. They would rather hang onto this market even if that meant cutting away from their own country's national security.

The question remains. Can Obama/Clinton playing rough with China leveraging off Google's problem lead to any where or is it yet another path to nowhere.

There are consequences of doing too much of "nowhere" exercises. If one day your enemies figured out your pattern of behavior, you will lose credibility in future policy initiatives, and pretty soon, backed into a corner, both sides can easily miscalculate with disastrous consequences.

Oh, just to make your day, you must be aware by reading today's headlines that US troops are now directly involved in open military clashes with Al Queda and their sympathizers in Pakistan.

The US is now fighting in 3 fronts: Iraq, Afghanistan and in Pakistan. The war is spreading. Have a good day.


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