Archive for January, 2009


January 31, 2009

A lesson to myself.  I started out this postas a rejoinder to a James Joyner post making the argument that the Republican Party is at least politically smart for opposing everything Obama proposes.  I then went to his post to select a juicy morsel to rebut with my infinite wit.  And upon re-reading realized that he had not made that argument at all.  In fact, his analysis was basically the same as mine.

So I’ll just focus on the one thing I think he has wrong – the idea that Republicans will in the end vote their conscience.  What has been astounding is that the individual Republicans continue to vote against their localized self interest (and, I would assume, their conscience too), seemingly because they are more afraid of Rush Limbaugh and Boehner (of all people) than they are of their own voters.  I guess its because those two guys can kill them in an instant but it will take two years for the voters to get ’em.


Obama girls and the cold

January 30, 2009

Obama said something the other day that really hit home.  His daughters were astounded that they had a school day off because of a little snow and ice and remarked that in Chicago, they not only wouldn’t have even checked the radio for closings, but they would have gone outside at recess.  And Obama made a half joking comment about how we might have to toughen up a bit.  Thank You! Growing up on the south side of Chicago,  I actually did walk a mile and a half through blizzards to reach school.  I remember the smell of the wet clothes lasting until two or three hours after school opened.  When I lived in Rochester, NY there were days when my car was literally just a white lump after a foot of snow had fallen overnight.  I dug it out and went to work.  The roads would be bad, so I left early.  I think the mass exodus to the warmer climbs over the past fifty years has seriously wimped out the country.  If you want to open a business needing tough, can do people, you couldn’t do better than upstate New York, or Chicago, Wisconsin or Michigan.   Good airports, great schools, plenty of major highways, and not a wimp in sight.

Post Partisan Republicans?

January 29, 2009

I always read James Joyner over on Outside the Beltway pretty carefully, as he usually makes a lot of sense.  In a recent post, he mentions that he feels there is evidence the Repblicans were acting in an honorable fashion over the stimulus package.  Curious, I asked him his reasoning.  Here is his reply:

The antecedent for “it” was having voted against the Bush stimulus.  That strikes me as pretty strong evidence that it’s not partisan — that is, done to spite a Democratic president — but rather done because they don’t believe in the idea.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t political calculations going on — there always are, for members of both parties — but it’s not pure obstructionism.

Autism and Vaccines

January 29, 2009

Kevin Drum has a post up about the frustrations of the autism=vaccination crowd and I couldn’t say it better myself.  I’ll just add that it is incredible to me that after years of howling about Thimerasol, which actually had a proposed mechanism behind it, there is a now a new movement to blame autism on the sheer number of  vaccines.  No mechanism proposed and no evidence other than the number of vaccines delivered has increased at the same time the number of cases of autism diagnosed has increased.  But for that matter, so did the number of cars manufactured, the elimination of lead in gasoline, the landing of men on the moon, the availability of the kiwi fruit, and millions of other correlations.  They have become so wedded to the idea that vaccines cause autism that the belief has taken on a life of its own.  In the meantime, just ask any of the tens of thousands of deaf or blind or mentally handicapped people who were in the womb during the famous 1960’s measles epidemic if they would have preferred their mother to have a simple vaccine.  Or the adults currently debilitated with Ricketts and Shingles if they appreciate the snotty nosed kid who didn’t get the vaccine and ended  up transmitting it to them?

Gaming the Company

January 29, 2009

I’ve always thought you could tell a dying company by how the executives compete with each other.  If they compete to have the best results for their department or division, the company is on the way up.  If they compete to look better than the other guys by cutting the legs out from under them, then you know the company is going to die.  So when Chevy management sabotaged Saturn rather than compete,  it was the beginning of the end.  We have an odd situation in the US congress though: the Republicans, as a unit, are intent on gaming the system, while the Democrats, individually seem to want to bring the country forward.

If you find yourself trapped in a “gaming the system”  group” being the lone voice of reason doesn’t help, because the others will pull you down and rip you to shreds.  And for the 80’s and 90’s and on into the 00’s this has been the state of the Republican party.  After all, look at what happened to the moderate Republicans since Reagan.  Heck, it wasn’t even just moderate Republicans – it was any reasonable Republican, anyone who was interested in helping America rather than just help their party.  The most concise iteration of this precept was Tom Delay’s “50% + 1 vote” philosophy: he knew the Republicans memebers would do as they were told, so if he found too many Democrats in favor of a bill he would push more and more extreme measures into it, until they had virtually all the Republicans and a few token Democrats.  Never mind if the extreme measures were bad for the country; he felt they were good for his party because they assured no Democrat could take credit for the rest of the bill.  And   by the way, if a Democrat was voting with the Republicans with any kind of regularity? Then he would attack with all his might, because that Democrat was showing weakness.  The very rare coalition was just a ruse to seek out such injured prey.

And indeed, when the Republicans controlled the country over the past 8 years, and in reality, longer, the US has suffered terribly.  What is so odd about the situation is that the Democrats haven’t responded in kind.  Oh, there are certainly more than a few idiots and brigands in the Donkey Brigade, but what saves the Democrats is their voters don’t really go for people who just blindly follow the leader.  It makes for ugly sausage-making, but it keeps them from marching the country off a cliff.

It is simply astounding that the Republicans can still keep iron fisted control over their members even after the slaughter at the polls.  The GOP members fear their leadership, both inside and outside the official party structure, much more than they fear the voters.  So Obama’s stimulus package passes with ZERO Republican votes.  There is nothing he could have done to change their minds.  Boehner reportly felt that Obama would get credit for it no matter what, so their only “hope” is that it doesn’t work so he will get the blame and they can say I told you so.  Think about it: the Republican Party as  a whole is hoping that the stimulus package doesn’t work, that the economy does worse than it is now, so they can claim ‘victory’.

Caroline Kennedy

January 22, 2009

I don’t know anything about Caroline Kennedy, but as a New Yorker, I’ve been extremely disappointed she is being considered as a replacement for Hillary Clinton.  How can I be disappointed if I don’t know anything about her?  It’s the very fact that she doesn’t have a public record.  Her one government position was a three day a week charity gig where she was essentially her own boss.  There’s nothing wrong with that – quite the contrary, it’s admirable for someone in her position to take on such work.   But there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of men and women in New York who have handled fund raising efforts as big, and yet they are not being considered for the Senate.  And they shouldn’t be, and any professional political handler would probably wave them off.  Charitable fundraising is no way to get a field for hardball politics.

We get exactly two people to represent New York at the Federal Senatorial level, and we need strong representation. New York already has one of the worst ‘give-get’ ratios in the country.  (The amount New Yorkers give in terms of taxes and fees versus the amount we get in terms of grants and in-state contracts.)  She has no background in such matters, and no experience swaying the general public or deali ng with the mindless opposition, or any of the the hundred unpleasant things a Senator has to deal with.  The only reason, and I mean this literally, the only reason she is being considered is her last name.  But New York State is not sixteenth century Europe.

Tonight it was reported she was out, then in, now maybe out again.  This type of mishandling is indicative of her lack of experience.  If she wants to be a Senator, then let her run in two years, although I suggest she run for something else first – say, Rep.  If she feels that’s beneath her, well, that’s all we need to know.

Pardons, or the lack of them

January 21, 2009

I’ve heard a number of people, even those normally skeptical of George Bush, give him kudos for not flooding the last few days with a bunch of presidential pardons, retroactive or pre-emptive, for those who are at risk in the various criminal activities associated with his administration. But I think the positive motivations have to be viewed sceptically. After all, Bush has a significant personal motivation for not pardoning anyone close to the workings of the Whitehouse: Anyone pardoned loses the ability to claim the fifth. They have to testify when called and truthfully, tell all they know, or go to jail if they don’t.

Bush as MBA

January 18, 2009

In my lifetime there’s been at least three eras of disaster bought to America courtesy of ivy league MBA programs.  Bush epitomized all three of them in his delusional farewell speech.

Era 1: Quality is Commodity.  During the 70’s the ivy league MBA’s noticed that if a company had a reputation for quality, the reputation survived the elimination of quality, at least for as long as it took the executives to cash out.  So Sears Craftsmen tools, known for being tightly made miniatures of the workhorses used by pros, turned into ill fitting, inaccurate, pieces of cr*p.  And you’ve already heard me go on too much about the junk produced by the US automakers in the 70’s and 80’s.  Essentially the MBA’s discovered Issac Newton – an object in motion will continue on its path unless acted upon by external influences.  So they did their studies and saw that the momentum of sales was preserved for a few years despite substituting junk for quality.  Bush’s take?  The US stands for freedom, justice and liberty around the world.  But eight years have passed and only the true believers see Bush as doing anything but trashing those values.

Era 2: CEO’s as Decision Makers.  This is perhaps the most ass-k*ssing era of the Harvard MBA elite.  For a decade they were hired by CEO’s to massage their egos.  What they came up with was ingenious (as far as ass-k*ssing goes): The greatest CEO’s were those that made decisions most resolutely.  That what the CEO was needed for was to take action.  This sounds reasonable, but of course what the greatest CEO’s did was to take EFFECTIVE action.  To make GOOD, WELL INFORMED decisions.  Bush’s take: That he should get credit for “making tough decisions”.  But that’s absurd.  Any president makes tough decisions.  In fact, only tough questions reach the president.  The true measure is: did he make good decisions?  Did he inform himself of all the relevant details and cut throught the BS?  The answer is, of course, absolutely no.  It is as if an NFL running back wanted you to remember him positively because he had been given the football in tough circumstances.  But we rate running backs on yards gained, not just for showing up on the field.

Era 3: The worship of the elite.  OK, this one didn’t show up much in the speech, other than his pathetic thanking of Dick Cheney. But if you are a Harvard business school prof, and want to guarantee continued lucrative consulting jobs, worshiping the business elite and denigrating the regulators is the way to go.  So when Dick Cheney bragged early on about the number of executives from Enron that were in the administration (yes, he really did) or blasted government regulators for trying to slow down the ‘innovations’ of the financial industry, he was just building on the belief propagated in those ivy league schools that the state school educated regulators were just unable to understand the genius of the Bernie Madoff’s, and should just get out of their way.  And although it is probably true that the most talented people go into the making money side of the business, it is also true that an NFL ref can call a personal foul even if he can’t stop a 320 pound lineman dead in his tracks.

Why Did Blagojevich ‘Win’?

January 16, 2009

I keep hearing people comment on how Blagojevich really scored a coop by appointing Burris as a Senator. But I’m not sure exactly what he was supposed to have won. Burris is a Senator. So what?