Friday, November 14, 2008


Open Thread

Welcome to Club Thread. Enjoy your stay.

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Chicago Politics Meets Sun Tzu

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer," said the ancient philospher.

President-Elect Obama -- apparently considering Hillary Clinton for secretary of state -- might add, "...but give them a job that can send them far away when necessary."

If this is more than just the usual floated balloon, this is a very smart move. Secretary of state is one of the plum positions in any administration; it's in no way a "consolation prize." It insures that she will have a powerful voice in foreign policy in the new administration. Furthermore, given how much she pushed her international experience during the campaign, Hillary can now put her money where her mouth is -- and answer that 3 AM phone call.

But, of course, this also works politically. This assignment gives the Clintons a stake in the success of an Obama administration. It becomes harder to create an alternate base of political power as a part of the team -- than she would from her Senate office. In short, there's less of a chance of Bill and Hillary working on a potential primary challenge in 2012, if she's been part of the Obama first term for any extended period of time.

Oh, and just to prove that sentiment means nothing to Barack Obama: John Kerry has made no secret of the fact that he had a notion to be SOS -- something he's been thinking about for a while. Sorry, John. You gave Obama his head start by giving him the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention. You jumped on board early this year.

But business is business. Forget about secretary of state, John.

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Cuban Lift

Mark Cuban notices something missing from Barack Obama's all-star economic squad:
Not a single entrepreneur. Yes Warren Buffett started a business, but he will be the first to tell you that he "doesn't do start ups". Which means there isn't a single person advising PE Obama that we know of that knows what it's like to start and run a business in this or any economic climate. That's a huge problem.

If we are going to solve our current economic problems, our president needs to get first hand information on the impact his proposed policies will have on real Joe the Plumbers. People who are 1-person companies living job to job, hoping they get paid on time. We need to know what the impact of his policies will be on the individually owned Chrysler Dealership in Iowa. The bodega in Manhattan. The mobile phone software startup out of Carnegie Mellon. The event planner in Dallas. The barbershop in L.A. The restaurant in Boston.

Entrepreneurs that start and run small businesses will be the propellant in this economy. PE Obama needs to have the counsel of those who will take the real risk inherent in creating companies and jobs. Those who put their money and lives on the line with their business.
A good friend of mine -- a moderate Republican, who became pretty much disgusted with the Bush administration and particularly the hardball "Rovian" politics -- was attracted to Barack Obama. However, he finally ended up voting for McCain. What was the deciding factor? Wariness over Obama's tax plan: For one thing, as a small business owner, he's concerned that the way he files his taxes, he's going to be hit by the $250,000-plus tax increase. Obama has also discussed lifting the Social Security cap.

Cuban is right: Obama needs more than just large corporate CEOs and financial money managers whispering in his ear. He needs those with an entrepreneurial or small business sensibility that can give him some insight on the impact some of his tax and regulatory plans will have on them.


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Thursday, November 13, 2008


Is News Legit If The "Experts" Are Fake?

What is "legitimate" journalism these days? Fake news like "The Daily Show" that has "real" guests -- or real news outlets that are too lazy to find out that their so-called "experts" are, indeed, fake?

The choice is yours.


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An Outcome Both Parties Might Enjoy

Once again, Alaska demonstrates that they do things differently up there -- like apparently only counting ballots on a weekly basis: In any event, with the count back on, Republican convicted felon Sen. Ted Stevens loses his 3,000-vote margin and now trails Democrat Mark Begich by three votes. Still some 90,000 various absentee, provisional and other ballots to go through. The way Alaska is counting, it could be six months before a winner is declared. If it turns out to be Begich, obviously Democrats are happy to get one seat closer to the magic 60. Meanwhile, it also saves the Senate GOP from beginning expulsion proceedings against Stevens.

Line of the day on the Alaska race goes to the Wall St. Journal's James Taranto: "You would think Republicans would want to call attention to this contest, which exemplifies the GOP's inclusiveness: Democrats want felons to vote, sure, but Republicans actually want them to be elected."

UPDATE (11/13/08, 9:45 AM): Begich is now up by 814 votes.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Auto-Erotic Suicide

So, it looks like the last partisan battle of the Bush era will be over the automobile industry. Democrats want a lame-duck session to provide GM, Ford and Chrysler with relief. Obama supports the idea. Bush doesn't want to go along with it.

Henry Blodgett
weighs in on why letting the American companies formerly known as the "Big Three" just die. Megan McArdle at The Atlantic agrees.

The best argument is that, the US auto industry was already dying a prolonged death -- the credit crunch just boosted ann already ongoing process.

American consumers have already "voted" with their pocket books and have decided that the American cars don't quite measure up. What is amazing is that US car companies already went through this thirty years ago. They didn't anticipate the end of the gas-guzzling station wagons during the '70s oil crunch -- and they didn't anticipate the end of the SUV culture (even though that was eminently more predictable). So, why should the taxpayer be forced bail out an industry that has been stunningly irresponsible.

The major mitigating factor is immediate impact increased unemployment in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, etc. if GM and Ford go under. Not to put too fine a point on it, but somehow I can't see the new president want to take office just as the US industry goes belly up. Yeah, it wouldn't be his fault, but it's kind of an ominous way to launch a term (consider the US hostages being released from Iran s Ronald Reagan was being sworn in as the exact opposite omen).

So, were I in Congress I would vote against further aid to Detroit. However, with all the other bailouts floating around, I don't see how the momentum for this political train is haulted. Once Fannie, Freddie, AIG, etc. have already been helped out by Uncle Sam, it becomes difficult to say no to the next person in line --
Hey there, Amex!! So, because of the American love affair with the car, Detroit is likely to get what it wants.

This, by the way, further convinces me that this election really is 1980 in reverse: Jimmy Carter, Democrat, helped kill off the best tenets of the liberal "brand" by governing incompetently. Ironically, though, Carter also was responsible for serious deregulation -- most significantly in the airline industry. That step helped usher in the broader deregulatory and conservative Reagan era.

George W. Bush, Republican, helped kill off the best tenets of the conservative "brand" by governing incompetently. Ironically, Bush is responsible for serious government expansion into the private sector -- quasi nationalizing the banks. That step apparently will usher in a broader regulatory and corporate welfare environment in a liberal Obama era.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Why Not Having A Filthy-Minded Editor Can Be Bad

Let's take note of this CNN story on a certain philandering lawyer-politician from North Carolina: "Can Edwards Make A Comeback?"

Apparently, no one at CNN considered the implications of the original title of this story -- "Can Edwards Mount A Comeback" -- until it was posted. In fact, even though the title was changed on the CNN site, when you Google "John Edwards Comeback", guess which version pops up (ahem!) at the top of the Search list?

I'm guessing that the writer of the original version was some young 'un who wasn't writing headlines back in the '90s during the heady days of the Clinton-Lewinsky administration.

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Let The Music Play

For those older people out there who remember when MTV was a cable station that played music videos (you know, those things the kids now download into their iPod thingies), go for a nice ride down memory lane to this fine site, Almost every video ever played on MTV is there, including quite a few obscure ones.

Anyway, this one I selected isn't exactly obscure, but it is the long version of a certain Pink Floyd anthem -- the version I rarely saw. Enjoy:

Pink Floyd MTV Music

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Monday, November 10, 2008


Palin Pile-on

Never thought I would say this, but Sarah Palin has a point. The attacks she's getting from erstwhile members of the McCain campaign are unprofessional -- and the work of "jerks." Look, as said early on, I wasn't a fan of this pick: Policywise, I thought she undermined McCain's strongest argument -- experience, particularly in national security. What she brought to the ticket -- executive experience, fluency with energy matters, solid social conservative credentials and, uh, a not-so-hidden "a-gender"-- didn't offset what was, the thing the average voter thought of when they thought of John McCain.

In addition, of course, I thought the baggage she brought along with her with respect to her daughter's pregnancy and the seeming validation of that fact by the Republican Party also undermined a key part of the GOP message.

That all said, the after-the-fact piling on and leaking from within the campaign is, in my view, both unprecedented and most unseemly. As I recall, there was a little bit of irritation that leaked out between Kerry and Edwards after '04, and perhaps some between Gore and Lieberman (albeit after a 30-day recount). But what's coming out of the McCain side is going well beyond that.

These people selected her: If she was unprepared and quote-stupid-unquote that is their (and the presidential candidate's fault) for elevating someone prematurely. Yes, she compounded the problem in several ways (dragging all the kids around after the nomination got to be a bit much), but the introduction of her to the press could have been done in a much more expedient and professional manner. The Gibson and Couric messes need not have happened if Palin's handlers had made her accessible to the press right away. The longer they waited, the easier it became for her to be tripped up in "gotcha" scenarios.

In other areas, the VP candidate is traditionally (in 20th century campaigns) the attack dog. Yes, she went over the top, but given the limitations of the presidential candidate was, Palin at least provided some meager red-meat excitement for a depressed base. And, from what I saw, as the campaign wound down, Palin ended up sounding much more light and confident. Her speech on energy in late October was actually pretty good (why didn't the campaign have her do that early -- like in September?).

But ultimately, I repeat: Those attacking Sarah Palin anonymously now are part of the group who vetted (or didn't) the candidate. If she is lacking in intelligence or political skills, they they are guilty of major malpractice by dumping a woefully inappropriate candidate on the country. They, in a sense, endangered the country by giving a 72 year-old man a running mate who was (by the standards these people are now cititing) embarrassingly unprepared to become president were something to happen to John McCain.

Now, it appears that there was an obvious split within the McCain camp over Palin -- which she may have encouraged.

However, that doesn't change the fact that the constant leaking aginst her is remarkably inappropriate. It's also stupid -- and likey to backfire: We haven't seen the last of Palin. If she is better than she appeared in the last two months, she will have the opportunity to prove it. One of two things will happen: If Sen. Ted Stevens wins his re-election (they may be counting votes for another two weeks), he will be expelled from the Senate because of his recent conviction. Palin can appoint herself to fill the seat and then run for the full term in a special election. A senator Palin would be able to bring herself up to speed on foreign policy issues rather quickly.

If Stevens' Democratic opponent Mark Bebich emerges victorious, Palin can stay as governor, run for re-election in 2010 -- and educate herself on a whole host of issues. Either way, she will be a much-in-demand guest for a sizeable segment of the Republican base. She will be invited to GOPAC next year and other conservative get-togethers.

This was likely to be the case after the election anyway: The VP candidate often leaps to the top of the field after a losing campaign. The anti-Palin McCain faction, could have let Palin disappear back Nome into semi-obscurity. Instead, by piling on her, they keep her in the news. The Today Show will have her on Tuesday morning. She is now empowered, either as a perceived victim of unfair attacks -- or as the person certain people in the GOP feels the need to "stop."

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