Jan 15

Presidential Batting Averages

Presidents don’t tend to get much of what they ask for at their States of the Union. Baseball batting averages are a useful analogy.

Nov 12

The Shock and Surprise of a Romney Loss?

I don’t know why we’re still hearing about this.  The narrative is that the Romney campaign was shocked – SHOCKED – to find out that they had lost.  TPM amusingly referred to the meme immediately after the election as SHELLSHOCK!

The truth is 1) they believed their own bullshit about Romney momentum, 2) the consultant class of the GOP apparatus needed to portray a winnable race throughout the campaign to ensure a stream of campaigns from the billionaires aided and abetted by 3) a media that needs the excitement of horserace politics to keep the ratings up, the 4) bubble that exists on bullshit mountain kept the campaign (as well as pundits and the rank-and-file) from ever considering anything resembling reality and 5) the electorate is more center-proper or center-left and we are not a center-right nation, or at the very least has been pushed leftward by the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, the same kind of worldview that demanded the polls be unskewed now thinks that Mittens was robbed.

As someone said – the GOP was smoking what they were selling (previously), to disastrous electoral results.

May 12

WJC to BHO on LBJ.

I have secretly wished that Obama would channel his inner LBJ (domestically-speaking, excluding Vietnam).  One of these days (months?  years?) I’ll get around to reading the Caro books volumes tomes on the subject.

Timothy Noah thinks that Bill Clinton’s NYTimes review of the Caro’s latest LBJ book was meant for Obama, and not merely Clinton’s visioning of himself as Johnson’s modern allegory.

From the NYTimes:

As Caro shows in this and his preceding volumes, power ultimately reveals character. For L.B.J., becoming president freed him to embrace parts of his past that, for political or other reasons, had remained under wraps. Suddenly there was no longer a reason to dissociate himself from the poverty and failure of his childhood. Power released the source of Johnson’s humanity.

Last year I was privileged to speak at the funeral of Sargent Shriver — a man who served L.B.J. but who in many ways was his temperamental opposite. I said then that too many of us spend too much time worrying about advancement or personal gain at the expense of effort. We might fail, but we need to get caught trying. That was Shriver’s great virtue. With Johnson’s election he actually had the chance to try and to win.

Even as Barry Goldwater was midwifing the antigovernment movement that would grow to such dominance decades later, L.B.J., Shriver and other giants of the civil rights and anti­poverty movements seemed to rise all around me as I was beginning my political involvement. They believed government had an essential part to play in expanding civil rights and reducing poverty and inequality. It soon became clear thathearts needed to be changed, along with laws. Not just Congress, but the American people themselves needed to be got to.

It was hard to do, absent a crisis like the losses of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. By the late 1960s, America’s increasing involvement and frustration in Vietnam, the rise of more militant civil rights leaders and riots in many cities, and the end of broad-based economic growth that had indeed “lifted all boats” in the early ’60s, made it harder and harder to win more converts to the civil rights and anti­poverty causes.

But for a few brief years, Lyndon Johnson, once a fairly conventional Southern Democrat, constrained by his constituents and his overriding hunger for power, rose above his political past and personal limitations, to embrace and promote his boyhood dreams of opportunity and equality for all Americans. After all the years of striving for power, once he had it, he said to the American people, “I’ll let you in on a secret — I mean to use it.” And use it he did to pass the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the open housing law, the antipoverty legislation, Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start and much more.

He knew what the presidency was for: to get to people — to members of Congress, often with tricks up his sleeve; to the American people, by wearing his heart on his sleeve.

Says Noah in TNR:

Clinton and Obama don’t have the greatest of relationships, and I can well imagine that Obama will bristle when reading Clinton’s review. It would be natural for him to think:Who the hell is Clinton to lecture me? I got more done during my first two years in office than he got done in eight. And Obama would be right about that. Passage of the health care bill and the Dodd-Frank financial reform, for all the shortcomings of those two laws and all the pushback he’s getting on them (from, among others, the Supreme Court) were spectacular accomplishments achieved in spite of hyperpartisan opposition and no small amount of timidity on the part of his fellow Democrats.

But, if that is Obama’s initial reaction, I hope he gets past that to consider what Clinton is saying. Obama is in many ways an excellent politician but when it comes to one-on-one persuasion he is no match for Johnson or even Clinton (the White House’s greatest retail politician since LBJ). Clinton’s tragedy is that he never was able to use his considerable gifts to effect change on the scale he’s writing about here. Obama’s tragedy may prove to be that he lacks these gifts altogether. He’s done amazingly well so far without them. But if he gets a second term, Obama’s path forward will be much more difficult. We saw in Obama flickers of what Clinton is talking about when he manipulated the GOP into supporting an extension of the payroll tax cut. Here’s hoping we’ll see more.

Let’s ‘hope’ Obama realizes the political capital he earns with a second term.

Nov 10

Fickle Americans and “Gate Rape”

Attention, information, knowledge and awareness can be amazing things (photo from Jon Gruber’s flickr stream)..

Touchy Touchy

Continue reading →

Feb 10

Daily Links for February 6th

All excerpts are quoted from the respective link(s).

  • Gargoyles – Glorious Gruesome Grotesques | Quazen – Gargoyles – they are strange, bizarre, unpleasant or just plain ugly. They have been hovering around our towns and cities for centuries, for so long that it can be forgotten that they have meaning and purpose. Take a tour of the weird world of the gargoyle.
  • No We Can’t : Rolling Stone – The decision to shunt Organizing for America into the DNC had far-reaching consequences for the president's first year in office. For starters, it destroyed his hard-earned image as a new kind of politician, undercutting the post-partisan aura that Obama enjoyed after the election. "There were a lot of independents, and maybe even some Republicans, on his list of 13 million people," says Joe Trippi, who launched the digital age of politics as the campaign manager for Howard Dean in 2004. "They suddenly had to ask themselves, 'Do I really want to help build the Democratic Party?'"
  • Toyota’s Brake-Safety Crisis: Made in Japan – WSJ.com – It is not surprising that Toyota's response has been dilatory and inept, because crisis management in Japan is grossly undeveloped. Over the past two decades, I cannot think of one instance where a Japanese company has done a good job managing a crisis. The pattern is all too familiar, typically involving slow initial response, minimizing the problem, foot dragging on the product recall, poor communication with the public about the problem and too little compassion and concern for consumers adversely affected by the product. Whether it's exploding televisions, fire-prone appliances, tainted milk or false labeling, in case after case companies have shortchanged their customers by shirking responsibility until the accumulated evidence forces belated disclosure and recognition of culpability. The costs of such negligence are low in Japan where compensation for product liability claims is mostly derisory or non-existent.
  • Blame Toyota’s Disaster On Japanese Corporate Culture – Jeff Kingston of Temple University in Japan thinks the entire Toyota disaster has its roots in Japan's deferential corporate culture. Essentially, design problems weren't sufficiently challenged and critical information wasn't relayed properly to management due to Toyota's traditional Japanese corporate culture.
  • ‘I’m Not Saying Your Mother’s a Whore’: How Fox News Censored Jon Stewart vs. Bill O’Reilly – Jon Stewart – Gawker – If by "fair cut" O'Reilly means "cut in a manner that left some of Stewart's best lines, most effective arguments, and most convincing evidence out of the interview and hidden from the broadcast audience," then he's absolutely right.
  • The Future of Web Content – HTML5, Flash & Mobile Apps – Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Jeremy Allaire, founder and CEO of Brightcove. Prior to Brightcove, Jeremy founded Allaire Corporation which was subsequently acquired by Macromedia due to the success of their web development tool ColdFusion. At Macromedia, Jeremy helped create the Macromedia MX (Flash) platform. You can see a recent interview of Jeremy here. As one of the guys who helped build the Flash Platform, we asked him to weigh in on the recent HTML5 v. Flash debate.

    The recent introduction of the new Apple iPad has stirred the discussion over the future of web content and application runtime formats, and shone light onto the political and business battles emerging between Apple, Adobe and Google. These discussion are often highly polarized and irrational. My hope in this post is to help provide some balance and clarity onto this discussion.

  • Innovators Use Bing – The findings indicate that the search engine consumers use to find a brand's website may influence not only the perception they have of that brand but, more important for marketers, the decisions they make while on those sites. The study found different degrees of consumer engagement, from visiting to purchasing, based on the search engine used and the brands and vertical categories studied — automotive, travel, retail and wireless.
  • No-Flash iPad vs Netbook – May be Apple is too lazy to make iPad capable.
  • Continue reading →