Saturday, November 15, 2008

Implementing a Thought Avoided for 63 Years

The Genius Cabinet

Why the president-elect should surround himself with brilliant—albeit prickly, semi-autistic, and egomaniacal—thinkers.

By Jacob Weisberg /

Here's a radical suggestion: Barack Obama should pick the smartest people he can find for his Cabinet.

Brilliance has sometimes been a criterion in presidential appointments, of course, but seldom the major one. It usually takes a back seat to rewarding friends and backers, playing congressional politics, seeking diversity, and appeasing industry and interest groups. Presidents also feel obliged to avoid too many retreads and place a high premium on personal loyalty.

Obama can't avoid such considerations, of course. He needs to cultivate his congressional relationships, avoid alienating allies where possible, and rely on people he trusts. President No Drama doesn't want a Cabinet full of undisciplined prima donnas. But it makes sense for Obama to give greater weight to intellectual acumen and subject-specific knowledge than his recent predecessors have, both because of the depth of the problems he faces and because of his own style as a thinker and a decision-maker. Bush, whose ego was threatened by any outburst of excellence in his vicinity, politicized all policymaking and centralized it in the White House. Obama, happily, has the opposite tendencies. He is intellectually confident, enjoys engaging with ideas, and inclines to pragmatism rather than partisanship. He can handle a Lincolnesque "Team of Rivals" or a FDR-style brain trust. And he's going to need one.

... read the rest on Slate after the click.

Closing the Money Hole

... or find the video here.

10 Cars That Sank Detroit

Rick Newman / U.S.News

The global financial crisis is suffocating the Detroit automakers, but the problems at General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler have been festering for years—even when the mighty "Big Three" were earning billions. Aging factories, inflexible unions, arrogant executives and shoddy quality have all damaged Detroit. Now, with panicky consumers fleeing showrooms, catastrophe looms: Without a dubious federal bailout, all three automakers face the prospect of bankruptcy.

There will be plenty of business-school case studies analyzing all the automakers' wrong turns. But, as they say in the industry, it all comes down to product. So here are 10 cars that help explain the demise of Detroit:
  • Ford Pinto
  • Chevrolet Cavalier
  • Chevrolet Astro
  • Ford Taurus
  • Ford Explorer
  • Jaguar X-Type
  • Hummer H2
  • Toyota Prius
  • Chrysler Sebring
  • Jeep Compass
... read about th role each of them played after the click.

Where do these people come from ...

... and why do they gravitate to the Right?

Obama Faces More Personal Threats Than Other Presidents-Elect


Threats against a new president historically spike right after an election, but from Maine to Idaho law enforcement officials are seeing more against Barack Obama than ever before. The Secret Service would not comment or provide the number of cases they are investigating. But since the Nov. 4 election, law enforcement officials have seen more potentially threatening writings, Internet postings and other activity directed at Obama than has been seen with any past president-elect, said officials aware of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue of a president's security is so sensitive.

Earlier this week, the Secret Service looked into the case of a sign posted on a tree in Vay, Idaho, with Obama's name and the offer of a "free public hanging." In North Carolina, civil rights officials complained of threatening racist graffiti targeting Obama found in a tunnel near the North Carolina State University campus.

And in a Maine convenience store, an Associated Press reporter saw a sign inviting customers to join a betting pool on when Obama might fall victim to an assassin. The sign solicited $1 entries into "The Osama Obama Shotgun Pool," saying the money would go to the person picking the date closest to when Obama was attacked. "Let's hope we have a winner," said the sign, since taken down.

... get the rest after the click.

My comment: Where do these people come from? I've consciously witnesses national elections in the United States since Stevenson ran against Eisenhower (even as a child I favored the liberal Stevenson over the conservative Eisenhower). Even in the darkest days of Nixon and the terrible days of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago (I lived in Chicago at the time) I have never heard a liberal friend suggest it would be a good idea to do physical harm to a president. (There may have been some, but I've never run across any.)

Even Bill Ayers, the refamoused leader of the Weather Underground, the "terrorist" President-elect Obama was supposed to have "palled around with", will quickly and rightly point out that their violence was targeted at buildings with efforts to avoid doing harm to human beings.

During the run up to this most recent election I watched news channels almost 24 hours a day. I witnessed speeches by McCain and Obama, Biden and Palen ... in some cases where TV news only presented sound bites from a particular speech, I looked for the entire speech on-line ... because the news is more than sound bites. What I observed, particularly in Palen's speeches was a pandering to the nut-base. Though there wasn't an explicit call to arms or a direct suggestion that people do violence to others who held a different view point, there certainly was a tacit approval of the audience cries of "kill him", "off with his head" and "traitor".

On the other hand, at Obama rallys when the mention of Palen or McCain elicited "boos", the response from the podium was a civilized, "you don't need to boo, you just need to vote."

The difference in tone was striking.

I don't mean to say that everyone who is conservative is out for blood or that no one on the right is house broken but it seems telling to me that the most intelligent and respected Republican conservatives ... from Colin Powell to Christopher Hitchens, from Andrew Sullivan to Christopher Buckley ... endorsed Obama and expressed dismay and shame at the tactics of their former allies on the Right. They were saying, in effect, that they felt they had more in common with the opinions expressed by the Obamaa campaign than they did with many of their own party members ... even though they admittedly disagreed with some of the details.

What ever happened to the bomb-throwing anarchist on the Left? I haven't heard much about them since the 60s ... and even then, they went to great pains to only do property damage and avoid casualties. The Liberal Left has lost many elections since the 60s but they've neither burned crosses nor issues death threats.

Now this election is over and we have cross burnings, hangings in effigy and a run on gun stores. Where do these people come from and why do they seem to gravitate to the Right?

Friday, November 14, 2008

There is nothing new under the sun ...

... and that's why its so vital for one to read the classics if one wishes to consider himself educated.

from Amb. Alexandros P. Mallias, Greek Ambassador to the United States (on Huffington Post):

Along with millions of people around the world, I, too, watched as President-elect Barack Obama graciously thanked the American people for voting him into the highest office in the land. His was an inspiring message of change and hope; in a sweeping estimation of the work ahead, Barack Obama's words resounded and reached us as distinct individuals, we singled out those words more relevant to each one of us.

As Greece's Ambassador to the United States, representing the world's first democracy in the world's current most powerful democracy, some of his words spoke particularly to me, when he said that America's "true strength... comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals".

Considering the man, I was not surprised to hear him speak these words, reminiscent of the writings of one ancient Greek in particular, Isocrates, one of Greece's greatest orators. In his oration "On Peace", Isocrates proposes to the Athenian assembly policies for lasting peace with their neighbors. Along with suggestions, it is also recorded in the most relevant and timeless handbook, Thucydides' "History of the Peloponnesian Wars," written some 2,500 years ago. From this timeless text, one can draw lessons on how to treat allies, how to prepare for war, on the value of good advisors, warnings as to the arrogance, as well as the limits of power.

One of the most important lessons in this oration is that justice and interest, two seemingly irreconcilable concepts, are not mutually exclusive. Isocrates argues that justice, while making us better individuals, better nations, is at the same time a means of protecting one's self interest; power without justice leads to ill repute; power without justice will not win allies. He asserts that maintenance of power presupposes the existence of justice.

... there's more after the click.

As an afterthought, (and for what it's worth) the following is a short list of my previous blog references to the classics:

Back to the Future

Building Bridges to the Middle Ages


World leaders gathering at the United Nations this week for a special session of the General Assembly to advance interfaith dialogue should have no illusions that their efforts will miraculously promote mutual respect between religious communities or end abuses of religious freedom.

Saudi King Abdullah, who initiated this week's special session, is quietly enlisting the leaders' support for a global law to punish blasphemy – a campaign championed by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference that puts the rights of religions ahead of individual liberties.

If the campaign succeeds, states that presume to speak in the name of religion will be able to crush religious freedom not only in their own country, but abroad.

The UN session is designed to endorse a meeting of religious leaders in Spain last summer that was the brainchild of King Abdullah and organized by the Muslim World League. That meeting resulted in a final statement counseling promotion of "respect for religions, their places of worship, and their symbols ... therefore preventing the derision of what people consider sacred."

The lofty-sounding principle is, in fact, a cleverly coded way of granting religious leaders the right to criminalize speech and activities that they deem to insult religion. Instead of promoting harmony, however, this effort will exacerbate divisions and intensify religious repression.

... the rest from the Christian Science Monitor.

My comment: Just a sde thought .. a little off topic ... Is there some irony here? Certainly there's an an oxymoron ... Is there such a thing as Christian Science? Does that mean the rules that apply to science in general somehow don't apply to Christian science? I know that science in general is pretty much the antithesis of religion. After all faith does not require proof. If it required actual proof, it wouldn't need to be faith. It could be science ... which actually does require proof.

Experts: Paranoia May Be More Common Than Thought


If you think they're out to get you, you're not alone. Paranoia, once assumed to afflict only schizophrenics, may be a lot more common than previously thought.

According to British psychologist Daniel Freeman, nearly one in four Londoners regularly have paranoid thoughts. Freeman is a paranoia expert at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College and the author of a book on the subject.

Experts say there is a wide spectrum of paranoia, from the dangerous delusions that drive schizophrenics to violence, to the irrational fears many people have daily.

... the rest after the click.

My comment: I'm reminded of the old saying, "Just because you think everyone is out to get you doesn't mean they're not."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Who's the enemy?

The military budget in the United States is sacrosanct. To suggest cuts in the military budget attracts expressions of horror in some quarters.

Below is a chart outlining the comparative military spending budgets around the world:

(Note: US Military spending does not include special appropriations on the order of $100Billion annually for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Image Source: Global Issues - Military Spending.)

Interestingly enough, not a single member of the "Axes of Evil" registers on the radar screen yet, we're embroiled in two wars and being fought to a standstill in both. It's been suggested elsewhere that the Iraqi insurgency has been running on a budget on the order of $250 Million ... that's Million, not Billion.

A military that has a budget of between $700 and $800 Billion, fought to a standstill by a bunch of people with AK-47s, RPGs and home made, roadside bombs for seven years?

A military budget that is roughly equal to all the other countries on the planet ... combined?

Something is dramatically wrong here.

Who are we preparing to fight? Perhaps more to the point, who's preparing to fight with us?

The Republican Party's Plan for the Future

... involves driving the car headlong down the road while focused on the rear view mirror.

... or you can find the video here.

Now THAT'S an idea ... from the party of ideas.

No wonder they just ran into a brick wall!

Overheard at bar in Georgetown

Girl: I prefer shots over alcohol.

Guy: (after thoughtful pause) So, do you prefer Africa the country or Africa the continent?

Thanks, EavesdropDC.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bipartisanship in action

from Crooks and Liars:

Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, warned president-elect Barack Obama that he would filibuster U.S. Supreme Court appointments if those nominees were too liberal.

Kyl, Arizona's junior senator, expects Obama to appoint judges in the mold of U.S Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and Stephen Breyer. Those justices take a liberal view on cases related to social, law and order and business issues, Kyl said.

"He believes in justices that have empathy," said Kyl, speaking at a Federalist Society meeting in Phoenix. The attorneys group promotes conservative legal principles.

Kyl said if Obama goes with empathetic judges who do not base their decisions on the rule of law and legal precedents but instead the factors in each case, he would try to block those picks via filibuster.

"Think about that. The second highest ranking Republican in the Senate, just a few days after the election, is already talking about blocking Supreme Court nominations that haven't been named, in response to Supreme Court vacancies that don't exist."

My comment: Must be the right wing idea of bipartisanship.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thought for the day

"The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart."

-- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

He also said, "If you wanted to change the world, who should you begin with: yourself or others?"

Laugh Out Loud Wingnuttiness!

WASHINGTON — A Republican congressman from Georgia said Monday he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship.

"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force," Rep. Paul Broun said of Obama in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. "I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may _ may not, I hope not _ but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism."

... the rest after the click.

My Comment: Let me see if I got this straight. This, from the party that supported warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, attempted to cancel Habeas Corpus and worked to eliminate the provisions of Posse Comitatus ... the party that politicized the Justice Department and fired Federal District Attorneys because they wouldn't prosecute bogus, trumped up "crimes" against the administration's political "enemies" at election time. And suddenly they're worried about the misuse of government powers?

There's a term for it in psychology. It's called projection.

The Detroit Death March Continues

From The Bonddad Blog web site:

Actually, downright stupidity was the primary reason for their current problems. While every other car company on earth recognized that smaller, more fuel efficient cars were the future Detroit stayed with their "everyone loves a truck" theme. As a result, when gas skyrocketed to nearly $4 gallon (and higher in some places) Detroit was hosed.

Then there is the issue of 0% financing, which conditioned the US public to expect 0% financing at all times. That has led to a tremendous erosion of profit potential.

Simply put -- a bunch of morons led Detroit. So -- let's invest in these guys, shall we?

... the rest after the click.

My comment: And then there was the buying public that encouraged the morons who were running Detroit. They'd be geniuses, right? I can't tell you how many times I've found myself in a parking space, wedged in by road hog behemoths and unable to see if anyone was working up a bunch of momentum as I tried to back out of the space. If Humvee and Escalade drivers are feeling the pain, they'll get no sympathy here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Red Staes, Blue States

One way to improve the map and reveal more nuance in the vote is to use not just two colors, red and blue, but to use red, blue, and shades of purple in between to indicate percentages of votes.

Then, adjust the map for population density (rather than geographic area).

Unsolicited advice to Republicans in the Obama era ...

My Advice to the Republicans for Reclaiming the White House in 2012

by Joseph Palarmo / Huffington Post

I have read numerous articles over the past eight years by neo-conservative commentators like Bill Kristol and David Brooks offering their unsolicited advice to the Democratic Party about what it "must" do to move forward in the Bush era. So I thought it might be a good time for me to offer my own unsolicited advice to the Republican Party about what it "must" do to win the presidential election of 2012.

... Palermo's suggestions after the click.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Native American Day

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© 2008 Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc.

An unprecedented event happened in South Dakota 18 years ago, an event that has not been equaled by any other state: South Dakota adopted October 12 as a state holiday to be called Native American Day.

By selecting October 12, South Dakota eliminated, for all intent and purpose, Columbus Day as a holiday. But the ensuing 18 years have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that old habits are hard to break.

... the rest after the click.

My comment: Not everyone sees Christopher Columbus as a hero. Some folks hold him responsible for the literally millions of deaths rained down on Native Americans by European invaders. Perhaps that might be a little much. His "discovery" of the New World was inevitable. If he hadn't stumbled upon Hispaniola when he did, someone else would have tripped over the North and South American continents eventually. However, he typified European attitudes toward people who were "other" and, as the first governor in the Americas he instituted a reign of terror and torture that shocked even the King of Spain. Columbus' tactics as governor made him 'persona non grata' in the Caribbean in 1500 ... by order of the King of Spain.

Daylight Savings Time costs more than it saves

The history of daylight saving time (D.S.T.) has been long and controversial. Throughout its implementation during World Wars I and II, the oil embargo of the 1970’s, consistent practice today, and recent extensions, the primary rationale for D.S.T. has always been to promote energy conservation.

Nevertheless, there is surprisingly little evidence that D.S.T. actually saves energy. This paper takes advantage of a natural experiment in the state of Indiana to provide the first empirical estimates of D.S.T. effects on electricity consumption in the United States since the mid-1970’s.

Focusing on residential electricity demand, we conduct the first-ever study that uses micro-data on households to estimate an overall D.S.T. effect. The dataset consists of more than 7 million observations on monthly billing data for the vast majority of households in southern Indiana for three years.

... more after the click.

My comment: Interestingly enough, Arizona is the only state in the union that doesn't subscribe to Daylight Savings Time.

The KKK is alive and well ...


MIDLAND -- A Midland man told police that his walking on the sidewalk in full Knights of Ku Klux Klan regalia while toting a handgun had nothing to do with Barack Obama winning the presidency.

Later, however, he admitted that Obama's victory was the catalyst for his display.

Midland police questioned Randy G. Gray II, 30, who was walking on the sidewalk along Eastman near North Saginaw Wednesday afternoon while waving an American flag, but released him because he wasn't breaking any laws.

Gray was walking up and down the sidewalk in front of a vehicle dealership while several motorists shouted obscenities at him and others shouted ''accolades,'' police said.

Police Chief Robert D. Lane said when there are many people, there are many views, and it's not for him to judge.

''He was voicing his opinion and had a right to do it,'' Lane said.

... more after the click.Later, however, he admitted that Obama's victory was the catalyst for his display.

Midland police questioned Randy G. Gray II, 30, who was walking on the sidewalk along Eastman near North Saginaw Wednesday afternoon while waving an American flag, but released him because he wasn't breaking any laws.

Gray was walking up and down the sidewalk in front of a vehicle dealership while several motorists shouted obscenities at him and others shouted ''accolades,'' police said.

Police Chief Robert D. Lane said when there are many people, there are many views, and it's not for him to judge.

''He was voicing his opinion and had a right to do it,'' Lane said.

... more after the click.

The Pundits on the Right

... are telling us that we're still a "center-right" country.

Except for our collective views on:

-- Health care
-- Reproductive choice
-- Energy independence
-- Climate change
-- Civil rights
-- Economic policy
-- Stem cell research
-- Educational policy
-- The war in Iraq
-- and our view that government should try to do more rather than less

What ever it is that they're smoking ... I wish I had some.

from Frank Rich in the New York Times:

"For eight years, we’ve been told by those in power that we are small, bigoted and stupid — easily divided and easily frightened. This was the toxic catechism of Bush-Rove politics. It was the soiled banner picked up by the sad McCain campaign, and it was often abetted by an amen corner in the dominant news media. We heard this slander of America so often that we all started to believe it, liberals most certainly included. If I had a dollar for every Democrat who told me there was no way that Americans would ever turn against the war in Iraq or definitively reject Bush governance or elect a black man named Barack Hussein Obama president, I could almost start to recoup my 401(k). Few wanted to take yes for an answer.

"So let’s be blunt. Almost every assumption about America that was taken as a given by our political culture on Tuesday morning was proved wrong by Tuesday night."

... the rest after the click.

Of course, some on the Right feel a need to respond:

"A family who had supported Barack Obama's presidential campaign emerged from their home in the northwestern New Jersey town of Hardwick Thursday morning to find the charred remnants of a 6-foot wooden cross on their front lawn."

... the rest after the click.

About time!

The Washington Post reports efforts to remove the Bush era ideological cholesterol from the circulatory system of government:

"Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team."

... the rest after the click.

My comment: Only 200? Well, I suppose that's a good start.