Obama surprised “again,” now by latest VA scandals
Was Barack Obama surprised “again” by latest VA scandal? Whether it was ominous absence during and deceptive reporting following the Benghazi attack; or his disingenuous distancing from the obvious IRS election-year scandal; or the embarrassing failure of the Obamacare web site launch, how many times can the leader of the USA claim to have been surprised and upset?
One has to wonder how many times the American people will believe that their president learned of yet another failing in his administration long after the fact, by reading or watching the latest news. The Veterans Administration medical situation is not a new problem. In fact, president Obama supposedly brought Secretary Shinseki in to clean up the mess almost six years ago.
The president is surrounded by those whose job it is to keep him informed of the important events of the day. Why does he keep being “surprised” by one scandalous fiasco after another? Is he totally out of touch? Is he simply incompetent? Or is this behavior a denial-based defense mechanism triggered by the realization that the man who was once proclaimed to be “the smartest man in any room” is totally and hopelessly in over his head.
The litany of examples hardly needs much explanation. Simply listing them brings to mind the many presidential denials, feigned outrage, unfulfilled promises to take action, and promises that were never kept–period!
A partial list should jog your memory: Fast and Furious gun sales, the ill-fated Obamacare web site launch, the pre-election IRS targeting, theAP & NSA snooping cases, the Benghazi terror attack and deaths, theSyrian red-line debacle, and most recently, the evidence that the VA is “cooking the books” to look good while thousands of veterans waited, suffered and died.
“Barack Obama has demonstrated a horrible habit of lying. The level and depth of his deceit get worse and worse with every scandal that surrounds his administration. Earlier this week, Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney told the White House Press Corps that Obama first heard about the issues regarding the secret waiting lists at VA hospitals from a CNN report. We have learned since then that Carney’s claim is a flat-out lie.” —www.TPNN.com
Certainly, no one should expect the President of the United States to know the intimate details of everything that goes on in his incredibly complex position. That is what his Cabinet is responsible for doing. It is, however, a sign of failed leadership when numerous hand-selected members of his immediate staff fail miserably—and the president constantly acts surprised (and of course outraged too) when he supposedly learns (later) about the enormous errors. Part of the problem might be that Obama selects people like himself: they talk a good game, seem to have theoretical knowledge but are inept at truly getting things done, unless it is to shift blame and coverup their mistakes.
Eric Shinseki may be a highly decorated, retired four star general and is probably a competent military leader. The question is whether his background prepared him for managing the complex VA medical institutions and organization. He could be a good man and a “loyal soldier” who took a job he simply could not do, and would not or could not admit that. After six years, he failed to fix the VA’s problems, and someone decided to try deception to hide that failure. The layers of management below Shinseki who were likely part of the cause of the problems were also ill-equipped to admit or fix them. In fact, the people who cause problems are seldom or never the ones who know how to fix them. If they were, they would have done it better in the first place.
President Obama has not yet resorted to blaming Secretary Shinseki — not yet anyway. That is beside the point, and secondary to the real problem. The president is once again, “surprised,” and out of touch, a sure sign of poor leadership. This kind of failure has become epidemic in the Obama administration. Seemingly talented people (talkers, theoreticians, academics and politicians) are elevated into key spots and then fail miserably and become embroiled in what appears to be scandalous coverups. This is just a partial list of Cabinet members who fall into this category: Ciinton, Sebelius, Panetta, Shinseki, Holder, and Miller, all of whom had a hand in one or more misdeeds, big mistakes and coverups.
Someday, somehow, the broad range of Americans must recognize that the President of the United States, Barack Obama, is failing miserably on both executive/managerial leadership and ethical behavior. His top managers are failing, and when the headline reads: Obama surprised “again” by latest VA scandals—either he is totally “out of the loop,” and uninformed, or simply incompetent, and once again, deceives the American people about what he knew and when he knew it, and why he did little or nothing about it–whatever “it” was.
Such behaviors are unacceptable for any leader and chief executive. It cannot be stated any more clearly than that. Could this immense and inexcusable VA scandal be the one that finally crashes the Obama administration’s credibility once and for all? Maybe so.
Believe it or not, "Truth or Fiction" and Snopes confirmed this is True. It was positioned as a school class/educational trip. That's probably why 25 Secret Service agents were needed--to make sure the schoolwork got done. (http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/maliamexico.asp)
Where is America's News Media?? MUZZLED--that's where. If Obama thought his daughter's life would be in danger, he shouldn't have send her there at all. (There was an earthquake in Mexico around this time.) Plus she's beeb back a long time by now, so what's is the reason for keeping it from the general public now?
After driving the U.S. more deeply into debt than any other President, this should make you shake your head. If George Bush's daughters or Bill Clinton's daughter had done this, it would have been all over the news and the voter's would have been calling for heads to roll 24/7.
But with the chosen one, you heard nothing on the major media. Want to know where Obama's 13 year-old daughter went with 12 friends two years ago. On "spring break" in Oaxaca Mexico , on your dime. She took two jets, 12 friends and 25 secret service men.
A thirteen year-old? What? Why haven't you heard about it? All English-speaking media were 'requested' to kill all stories/copy of this costly trip to Mexico .
WHEN IS ENOUGH GOING TO BE ENOUGH, America????????
The Obama Administration had the Secret Service scouring the web ordering that any website mentioning this be taken down because letting the travel plans out could have endangered the president's daughter's security. Nonsense, the "royal couple" just want to hide the way they are ripping off the U.S. taxpayer. Only a few Canadian Web-sites still have it up. This trip Probably cost more than most Americans make in their entire lifetimes!!!
China leadership: power, poverty and poisonous pollution
Reports abound claiming that China is rapidly overtaking the U.S. as the world leader and largest economy. Given the vast difference in population and policies, that outcome could still be inevitable, but there is more to consider than economic statistics. Three major points are best considered as key parts of China leadership: power, poverty and poisonous pollution.
Power: China is the world’s workshop for manufactured goods, consuming vast amounts of global commodities, making them into exports, heavily for the U.S. market. This has led to China’s $3 trillion current account surplus. Exports to the U.S. (net of imports from the U.S.) add about $250+/- billion to China’s surplus each year. Recently however, that trend has begun to shift. China’s balance of payments dominance has plateaued and may soon start to decline. This is not surprising since China’s growth rate has also declined from 10%+ in the past decade, to 7.5% recently.
What makes this decline even more concerning for China is that a substantial part of recent growth has been fueled by debt-based construction—over-building—inside China. Entire cities sit vacant. Empty high-rise buildings fill huge tracts of land. The money to build them came from government debt financing, resulting in China’s widely publicized “ghost cities.” Some of these ghostly empty buildings will fill up—eventually—but many will not. For now, this debt financed, unneeded/unused construction boom has artificially pumped up China’s GDP —and its standing in world economic rankings. China’s wealth and debt capacity allow it to do the something similar—create illusions of powerful growth—in many other areas, including military might. Developing new weapons systems quickly is easier when the technology is “stolen,” or “used” hardware is purchased (built with older generations’ of technology). Both are common Chinese practices. Notwithstanding the means China uses to build its military might, it is becoming a powerful force, both militarily and in space exploration. It is also willing to exercise that might, as seen in the South China Sea.
U.S. cutbacks in military and space spending and its multiple conflicts—in the Middle East, Russia, and even North Korea—opened the door for China to grab a global image of military prominence. This is a huge concern as China ascends into its vision of world leadership, depending on how it uses its newly developed power.
Poverty: It is hard to believe that a country of 1.35 billion people could have labor shortages, but China does—especially skilled labor. A large part of the shortages are geographic—too few people where jobs are located (nearer the coastal parts of China), and too few jobs where the less skilled people are located (in the interior of the country). Regardless of the causes, the country suffers from chronic shortages of skilled labor. However, even discussing China as a single entity is misleading, since its topography, population distribution and cultural/social conditions are so unevenly spread across its vast area. Some parts are very developed (think “Westernized”) and others are either rural or almost primitive. Within many areas, especially large cities, stark contrasts exist side by side.
Shanghai looks like a movie creation of Disney or Star Wars for a city of the future. Marvelous architecture and skyscrapers abound, and some city amenities are fabulous. The nighttime skyline and lighting is dazzling. But you cannot drink the water—or even cook with it—without boiling it to sterilize it. Toilets in major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, etc., range from a few 21st-century-modern facilities (mostly in high-class hotels) to mostly mid-20th century crude. Many are far worse, with little or no privacy, sometimes just a series of holes in the floor (as a Chinese guide said, “We are good at squatting.”). This makes one wonder where the waste goes, and how—or if—it is “treated,” before being dumped into China’s waterways.
China is also becoming a land of the haves and have-nots. The economic/poverty gap is growing rapidly. The rich are becoming richer and a well-to-do middle class is developing. However, the have-nots in China often live in abject, primitive poverty, almost unimaginable to most Americans.
Poisonous pollution: Air: China’s growth and breakneck development has come with a terrible penalty and brought a deadly legacy. China’s air, water, and land are fouled with poisonous industrial wastes of the most noxious kinds. In Beijing the air pollution is so bad that air and even auto traffic are impeded or interrupted due to low or no visibility. Face masks are a virtual necessity for Chinese city dwellers.
From the World Health Organization (WHO) and Reuters: WHO reported …”Beijing’s city government began publishing hourly PM2.5 [dangerous small particulates] data in January 2012. A year after it started publishing data, Beijing’s air quality hit the “worst on record” according to Greenpeace, with a PM2.5 reading as high as 900 on one occasion [Ed. Note: This is 1500% higher than "safe standards."]. Beijing’s government said last month that PM2.5 concentrations stood at a daily average of 89.5 micrograms per cubic metre in 2013, 156 percent higher than national standards. … The WHO says there is NO safe level for PM2.5 pollution.”
China finally admitted the magnitude of its obvious air pollution problems in a recently released report. Only India has equally bad or worse air quality. Health problems (respiratory, mostly) from polluted air are growing rapidly. Poisonous pollution: Water “China’s eco-crisis: 60% of underground water polluted”screams the headline of one article. This report is not uncommon. Increasingly, the magnitude and consequences of China’s water pollution are being publicized. The Draconian comments in that article’s excerpt below speaks about China’s pollution—in all forms.
Meanwhile, China is not only affected by water pollution. According to a report released earlier in April on the website of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, one-fifth of Chinese farmland is polluted as a result of the country’s dramatic industrialization, overuse of farm chemicals and minimal environmental protection. The report was originally a state secret and names heavy metals such as arsenic and cadmium as main pollutants.
The smog that covers the majority of Chinese cities, including its capital, Beijing, has become so thick it is impeding photosynthesis, potentially disrupting China’s food supply. According to an associate professor at China Agricultural University, He Dongxian, if air pollution continues, China will experience something akin to a “nuclear winter.”
Poisonous pollution: Land: A recent The Wall Street Journal article described a third leg of China’s deadly pollution poison: arable land is contaminated too. Considering China’s huge area as a country, the percentage of its land that is arable (crop-bearing) is rather small, at only 12%, and a substantial part of it is now contaminated with poisonous heavy metals.
“The extent of China’s soil pollution, long guarded as a state secret, was laid out in an official report that confirmed deep-seated fears about contaminated farmland and the viability of the country’s food supply. Nearly one-fifth of the country’s arable land is polluted, officials said in the report, shedding unexpected light on the scale of the problem—a legacy of China’s three decades of breakneck economic growth and industrial expansion.”
Thus the concluding question: Are these the images of a global leader? China’s wealth may be immense, but its advantages are slipping. China’s power may be imposing, but is due mostly to its policy of spending as much as it wants to achieve its goals, and being willing to use stolen technology and older, obsolete equipment to deceive the world about its true sources and military might. Its real advantage is its massive People’s Liberation Army, almost 2.5 million strong.
Form your own conclusions. What constitutes a world leader? Is it economic statistics or this three point version of China leadership: power, poverty and poisonous pollution? You know the true answer.
GM culture change: unlikely or impossible
Anyone who has worked in a large corporate or government organization can’t be surprised at the rash of recent stories about GM “burying” its pervasive ignition switch problems. Even new CEO Mary Barra had to know how things work at GM. Her daunting self-appointed task, might be restated as GM culture change: unlikely or impossible. Human nature, history, and the behavior of people in large organizations leads to that pessimistic statement.
The same statement could be made for the enormous US Federal government bureaucracy. It’s little wonder that scandals like the IRS, Benghazi and others bounce about hither and yon, but somehow never clearly get to the person at the top—the one who is responsible. In the government case, it may be that the person at the top doesn’t want to know about the problems (this is called “plausible deniability.”)
In corporations, this is not usually the case—sometimes, but not usually! Akio Toyoda, head of Toyota Motors, was blind-sided by that car company’s “sudden acceleration” problem a few years ago. It matters little that the retrospective view is that the problem was more one of user behavior and media hype than actual defects. The larger problem was that the organization had prevented the problem from being known and understood at the top until too late.
Senior executives receive almost 100% filtered information—sanitized, homogenized, and cleansed of all but the most limited amount of the “ugly truth.” Why? Because the people delivering it are afraid of the “kill the messenger” syndrome, or they believe it’s their job to “clean up such messes” before the boss hears about them. In many cases (such as the government), they fear causing an adverse effect on the boss’s next election or his/her term in office.
Change consultant Rick Maurer (Rick@RickMaurer.com) commented on the GM issues in his recent newsletter.
Troubles at GM and the Challenge of Leading Change
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, appeared before a House subcommittee this week. In her opening statement, she said things that I thought were important to addressing the issue of the faulty ignition systems, working with families and victims, and creating a culture in GM that does not allow such things to happen.
Let’s say that she is 100% sincere, she still will have enormous challenges. General Motors is a hidebound culture that has faced the future warily over the years, and it apparently is a place where it is risky to give bad news to people up the chain. These two things will likely make culture change very difficult. I wrote an open letter to the CEO.If you’d like to read my suggestions to her: click here.
For decades GM’s ingrained cultural behavior supported the belief that GM knew best, and even the harsh reality of massive problems didn’t change that; neither did the government bailout, which simply connected one huge, insular bureaucracy to another. Culture is like an invasive vine (think of Kudzu) that is very tough to eliminate, and even goes “underground” to live on and come back year after year.
However, nothing is completely impossible as Alan Mulally proved at Ford. His single-minded pursuit of openness, transparency and collaboration worked, and changed enough of the old Ford culture to make it successful—far more so than GM in the same time frame—and without a government bailout. Only time will tell if Mulally’s successor Mark Fields can sustain the new Ford culture.
One thing is certain: Change is difficult. One need only read the various works of Rick Maurer to realize how difficult change is, and how to overcome the many forms of resistance to change that are part of these large bureaucratic organizations. Do not be surprised if Mary Barra’s term as CEO is not long enough for her to make the necessary culture changes. Most CEO’s in pressure-packed situations only last a few years at most—but long enough to understand her challenge: GM culture change: unlikely or impossible.