Weekend Open Thread

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster.

– T. E. Lawrence

Monday Open Thread

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

"The problem with internet quotes is that you cant always depend on their accuracy"

–Abraham Lincoln, 1864

Friday Open Thread

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The World’s Greatest Music Contest

No it's not American Idol or The X Factor. What it is is a contest that is held in May with a TV audience of 150 million, making it the most watched non sporting event in the world. It's the contest that has launched acts including Abba and Celine Dion to success. It has the most talented and diverse set of songs of any contest in the world. It's the EuroVision Song Contest.

Eurovision is sort-of a American Idol combined with the Olympics. Each of the 39 participating countries sends one group to the contest. First off, they can send anyone. That means the groups range from teenagers (Lena from Germany, who won in 2010, just graduated from High School) just getting started to experienced professionals (Loreen from Sweden who won the contest in 2012). The only limits are that the song must be new and under 3 minutes.

What makes it so good? First off the level of talent is amazing. Mostly… Some are poor and a few are really awful (participating so their country can vote). But the good ones are as good as you will find anywhere. Amazing talent, amazing song, and an amazing presentation. For most European countries this matters as much as winning the World Cup and it's a national effort to find the best group to represent them. (The United Kingdom is a notable exception as they appear to be trying to come in last each year.)

Equally important is the variety. A song contest like American Idol is built around the most popular musical genres. American Idol is looking for people who will go on to produce multiple platinum sellers. At ESC you will get pop, ballads, hard rock, folk, jazz, classical, and some that defy categorization. Listening to 20 similar songs gets old at about song number 4 (number 6 if they're all exceptional). But bouncing between genres each song is different and fresh.

And the variety is not a standard pop song, then a standard ballad. The best songs tend to be something you don't normally hear. In 2009 the winner was a classical trained violinist from Norway sounding a bit like Charley Daniels. In 2012 it was a techno-dance number and the 2nd place was a chant by Russian grandmothers sung in Udmurt (I thought that one was terrible). Most of the acts will never appear on a mainstream show like American Idol because they're "different."

Also it's a contest. Everyone is cheering for their country and their favorites. But you go into it not knowing who's going to win. Everyone speaks authoritatively about who will win but… In 2011 Italy returned to the contest for the first time in 14 years with a really nice Jazz number. And everyone said why did they bother with such a pathetic entry. He came in second. People truly are on the edge of their seats as the results are announced (country vote by country vote) because they don't know how it will end up.

You also get to make fun of the contest because there are also some really bad acts. The performance put on by some of the acts is incredibly tacky or overwrought. As each entry starts you don't know if you're going to be screaming for joy, or screaming in pain. Sometimes both. There are also the guilty pleasures, stage acts that are the definition of kitsch, yet you love them.

Last year had the best selections of songs ever and this year is looking to be even better. The semi-finals are May 14 & 16 and the final is May 18. Here in the U.S. you can watch a live web cast at 7:00pm CET (i.e. Sweden). To learn more, visit WIWIBLOGGS (best ESC website), I'll be live-blogging there during the contest. Yes, I'm flying over and spending the week there just to watch the show (my first vacation without my family in forever).

The most amazing 6 hours of music this year – don't miss it.

Is Hick Half Full or Half Empty?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The optimist says the glass is half full, the pessimist says it is half empty (and the engineer says it was designed too large).

So is Hickenlooper a half full or half empty Governor? It hit me that a lot of people here seems to focus on the negatives and only give lip service to the positives. So I thought I would add my take on him so far and see what others think on this. 


Rep Cynthia Thielen appointed as Vice Chair of the House Committee EEP

For the first time since statehood, Republicans will hold vice-chairmanships in three key committees: Finance, Economic Development & Business, and Energy & Environmental Protection.

Representative Cynthia Thielen is appointmented as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection (EEP).  

from Hawai’i Free Press

Honolulu, Hawai’i-State Representative Cynthia Thielen announced today her appointment as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection (EEP). With the recent shift in House leadership, Thielen and other legislators from both parties have received Committee leadership positions.

Highlights of Representative Cynthia Thielen’s career and relevant experience include:

  • Twenty years as an environmental and land use attorney in Hawai’i representing numerous public advocacy groups
  • Co-counsel with attorney Boyce Brown on major environmental cases including H-3 and successfully representing the Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana
  • Twenty-two years as Representative for District 50 (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) in the Hawai’i State Legislature
  • Ranking member on three House Committees: Judiciary, Energy & Environmental Protection, and Water, Land & Ocean Resource.
  • Member of the House Committees on Consumer Protection & Commerce and Housing
  • Co-sponsored legislation which enables the State to aggressively pursue the goals set forth in the Hawai’i Clean Energy Initiative.
  • Advocates the implementation of wave energy in Hawai’i as a firm, renewable energy source
  • Fought legislation exempting state and county projects from environmental review and county zoning

Rep. Thielen noted the historic nature of the appointment of three Republicans as Committee Vice Chairs. “This is the first time a Republican has been awarded a Committee leadership role in the House. My colleagues and I are honored to be selected for these positions and look forward to working with the Committee Chairs, Members, and the general public as we consider bills of merit.”

The Hawai’i House of Representatives has never had a bipartisan coalition determining nor had Republicans appointed to Committee leadership until now. The Senate preceded the House in this action in 1981 as part of a backing for Senate President Dickie Wong, the first time a bipartisan coalition was formed. Democratic members of that historic Senate coalition included now veteran politicians Governor Neil Abercrombie, Governor Ben Cayetano, and Democratic Party of Hawai’i Chairman Dante Carpenter.

There was a major fight over who would be Speaker of the House. The Dems were pretty evenly divided. One faction offered the 3 vice chairmanships in return for the Republican votes. And with that you now have the strongest environmental advocate in the House as the vice chairman of the E&EP.

What 5 bills would you introduce?

(And a unicorn in every garage! That’d be one of ours. – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Ok, with session about to start, if you were in the House what 5 bills would you introduce? I’ll start it off with my 5:

  1. Civil Unions
  2. Call for a constitutional convention. That will work as well as any of the other convoluted suggestions. And it will be quicker.
  3. Effective campaign finance reform. Either public financing or unlimited with full disclosure. Including Congressional elections in the state.
  4. Create a legislative research group who’s job is to measure the effectiveness and ROI of legislation, departments, etc.
  5. Invest in local start-ups. More jobs, better jobs, and the state turns a profit. What’s not to like?

Weekend Open Thread

“What do you take me for, an idiot?” – General Charles de Gaulle, when a journalist asked him if he was happy.  

Good Intentions, Incompetent Execution

The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery

This book is another look at how the Obama administration handle the economic crisis it inherited. And like every other, it paints a picture of people not up to the job.

Like other books that have reported on the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, this is not a Republican hit piece. The author writes for The New Republic (which may not be Mother Jones, but it is liberal). The missed opportunities are called out even more than a dispassionate review would do because the author clearly wanted to see Obama be successful.

The presidency is arguably the hardest job on earth. Very very few are up to the challenge. It does not denigrate Barack Obama in any way to say he is not able to execute well in the job. And in some cases his weaknesses in the job speak well of him as a human being.

We also, to quote Lincoln on McClellan, do not have the option of replacing him with anyone. Our choice is Obama or Romney. And on that measure Obama is far superior because good intentions with inept administration beats the snot out of bad ides corruptly implemented.

But we also need to face up to the fact that our best option is 4 more years of governmental fiddling while the economy remains mired in recession and peoples lives are damaged.

It was, perhaps, the ultimate referendum on two and a half years of Obama policy making. Traders and investors had sized up the forces dragging down the economy and weighed them alongside everything the administration had done to prop it up. And they were suddenly terrified that the second was vastly overmatched by the first.

Second, the Jobs Act punctuated the chronic confusion about the connection between politics and governing. Too often, the two activities were treated as an either-or proposition in the West Wing. Obama generally believed the way to pass his program was to engage earnestly with the opposition, not take his case public. A president never has more leverage with Congress than when he’s riling up voters, but Obama rarely exploited the massive stature of his office as a tool for influencing legislation. During the making of the original stimulus in 2009, during the initial push for health care reform that spring and summer, during the bargaining over the Bush tax cuts in late 2010, and during much of the deficit dalliance in 2011, Obama did little to make life uncomfortable for the Republicans he was negotiating with. Only in the final few weeks of the debt ceiling negotiations did he take his case public-with encouraging results. But by then the GOP was dug in.

Finally, the Jobs Act revealed that the Obama White House never grasped quite how closely its fate was tied to the labor market. This misunderstanding dated all the way back to the transition, when the president-elect stuck with his otherwise noble ambitions on health care and the environment rather than switching his focus to jobs. The misunderstanding continued during the fall of 2009, when Obama took his first fateful step into the no-man’s-land of deficit cutting and shortchanged additional stimulus. After the president made penny-pinching the cause of his third year in office, the White House rejoiced when polls showed that voters favored Obama’s approach to budget cuts over the Republicans’. It seemed tragically unaware that, however impressive Obama’s margins on these questions were, they were also mostly irrelevant because truly up-for-grabs voters base their views of the president on the availability of work.

In this way, devising a bold jobs plan was plainly helpful to Obama. But it was still a poor substitute for enacting a jobs plan, at least as time went by. The same Washington Post poll that showed voters favoring Obama over the GOP on job creation in early October showed the two sides dead even by early November-exactly where they had been when the effort began.

Though the challenges facing it were indeed enormous, the administration resorted to shoulder-shrugging professions of futility too often during Obama’s first term. The president still had enormous power to affect the economy for the better. Suppose, for example, that Obama had proposed his September 2011 jobs plan in the spring of 2010 and sold it just as relentlessly. At the time, Democrats still comfortably ruled both houses of Congress. Given that the unemployment rate was even higher (9.5 versus 9.1 percent), and that the economy was visibly deteriorating as Europe devolved into turmoil, it’s hard to believe the popular reception would have been less enthusiastic. Assuming that conservative Democrats eventually fell in line-a plausible assumption given their worship of polls, if less than airtight-Obama would have needed to pick off a single Republican senator, something his determined barnstorming might well have accomplished.

Still, it was, finally, Obama’s decision not to demand bold action sooner, at least not on the economic front. The president spent 2009 waging a historically important and ultimately successful campaign for health care reform. Given the circumstances, however, the effort might have been better spent fast-tracking tough-minded financial reform. This would have satisfied the country’s legitimate hunger for change on Wall Street. And, by defusing some of the populist anger that voters soon trained on the government, the strategy also might have improved Obama’s chances of delivering another major course of stimulus.

But, then, it’s not clear Obama would have seized the opportunity to pass another large stimulus. He spent much of his first term more taken with the case against deficits than with the case for jobs. Thus a president who had run for office as a genuine outsider, who had campaigned against the most destructive practices and preoccupations of the nation’s capital, embraced the hoariest of Washington’s old saws: that the American people are so offended by out-of-control government that they would insist on scaling it back even at a cost to their own livelihoods in a time of deep economic unease. This was an article of faith among the city’s grayest establishmentarians-the editorialists and the think-tank denizens, the people who largely dismissed Barack Obama when he took his first halting steps toward the White House. That it came to define the Obama administration is the most dispiriting irony of his presidency.

EuroVision Final – Live Blog

This is it! The final starts at 1:00pm Colorado time and can be watched at eurovision.tv. The best musical contest in the world (and the largest TV audience after the World Cups). And #eurovision is presently the #3 hashtag on Twitter.

Starting off with amazing fireworks (outside) and then a giant dance number including flying acrobatics. I’m guessing it’s a pop culture version of traditional Azerbaijani dance. It’s pretty lame.

Between numbers they do short tourism clips of Azerbaijan – “Land of Art”, “Land of Horses”, etc. But never “Land of Political Prisoners.”

The male emcee looks like Will Wheaton.

United Kingdom (Englbert Humpersomething – yes he’s still alive) – Ok, England is clearly trying to lose with this entry. I guess their forced austerity measures mean they can’t afford to host. Mediocre song sung ok, but mainly because it required very little range. And pretty much zero stage presence.

Factoid: Englebert is older than 22 of the nations competing. Not older than their groups – older than the country.

Hungary – Something is wrong with his voice as you can barely hear the singing. They weren’t that good in the semi-final but they’re worse here. He may have a cold or something. So a mediocre number presented badly.

Albania – Screaming lady with the weird basket hairdo is up. OMG, our dogs just ran upstairs and hid under the bed as she hit the high notes. On the plus side if a movie ever needs a woman giving birth to an Alien – she’s the actress.

Lithuania – It’s a good song and this guy does an extraordinary job singing it. He also has really good stage movements, and doesn’t over-do them. I can see a lot of people picking this one, especially teenage girls.

Bosnia – Beautiful song with a female vocalist singing extraordinarily well. Light background instrumentals but it is primarily her standing there singing what I think is a love song. One of the best.

Russia – The pain, the pain. I don’t get it, lots of people like this but it’s 6 babushkas chanting out some folk song. How did they send them? I blame communism. They may get the old folks votes, but how many 90 year olds will still be awake in Europe at midnight?

Iceland – Oh wow, they knocked it out of the park. A very uplifitng pop/ballad sung by a male/female duet (with background singers) and it was perfect. One of the best tonight.

Cyprus – Super good happy pop song sung really well. And the dancing is the best of any so far. Love it.

France – WOW!!! A song that is incredibly upbeat and a little different (in a good way) and a female vocalists who does an incredible job singing it. I was half dancing in my chair. And topless (male) gymnasts as the dancers.

Italy – They’re going to win this. Their number was almost a Jazz number and it was sung so well that it pulled you in to their presentation. I think they’ll win because the votes for other styles will be split while theirs is unique.

Estonia – This guy is extraordinary. For most of the song it is understated instrumentals and he just stands there and sings. And he is so incredibly good that you are mesmerized by it, to the extent I teared up a bit.

Norway – A stereotypical Eurovision presentation with a lead male vocalist who could start in Twilight, very happy pop number, lots of dancing around. It was all done very well. But not at the level of the best groups.

Azerbaijan – Really good number. Female vocalist with a bit of background help, who has a terrific voice singing a soulful ballad. She made full use of a really great voice without overdoing it.

Romania – It’s a fun peppy song. And they do it well. But it’s nothing special.

Denmark – A reasonably talented garage band that overdoes it. It’s almost as though they were created for a scene in a Disney movie.

Greece – Awesome job. Greece always has the most vibrant and alive presentations and this year again they did it. super good song and incredible dancing.

Sweden – extraordinary! I think she has the most amazing voice of this contest and she full use of it. I’m not sure how to describe the song except to say it grabs you. And she does an interpretative dance during it, with mostly background lights so she’s mostly a shape moving on the stage. Absolutely amazing.

Turkey – With all the religious strife in the world today, it’s nice to see an Islamic country do a scene from Fiddler on the Roof. If your kids are bad, threaten that you’ll make them watch this.

Spain – Amazing. I think this is my favorite. Female vocalist singing by  herself and she takes you higher and higher with the song, and then brings in background singers and they take you even higher. Extraordinary.

Germany – Male singer with band. They’re good, but not at the same level as the top groups this year. (With that said, this is a very competitive year.)

Malta – Another male singer with a band. Malta does it better. Very upbeat song, sung well and the band participates making it even better. Not quite one of the best, but close.

Macedonia – Yet another female vocalist. She does a good job but she does not reach out and grab you like the best do. But she and her band are quite good. Close to the top level and enjoyable to listen to.

Ireland – These guys are the definition of ESC. Fantastic song, dance, everything. And the twins are just perfect for the show. Superb job.

Serbia – Male singer with background band/singers. An uplifting ballad with background music that is almost folk music. A really good song and they guy’s voice is superb. One of the best but not quite as good as Estonia.

Ukraine – It’s almost like she is channeling Aretha Franklin. She does have a really good voice. But I don’t find her number to be that good.

Moldova – Ok the outfits are the guy dresses like a blacksmith and the dancers (female) came from the set of Hairspray. And the song is almost a really upbeat gospel number. Definitely different and it is growing on me (I think).

EuroVision Live blog

Tuesday’s was so popular, I figure I have to repeat this again for the 2nd semi-final. For those that want to watch it live – Second Semi-Final of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest

From what I’ve read the songs today should have a larger number of excellent entries (it would be hard to be worse).

With all these picture postcard shots of Baku, which make it clear that oil money can create a very nice city, there’s no shots of any other city in Azerbaijan. I’m guessing the rest are, at best, nothing special.

Serbia – Absolutely beautiful. Really good male vocalist, strong background music (mostly violins), and a beautiful song (I assume sung in Serbian). It’s way to quality of a presentation to have a chance at winning.

F.Y.R. Macedonia – Ok, the Balkans are on fire here. Starts off as a standard female vocalist but then it explodes into a very vibrant song.

The Netherlands – The Pain, The Pain! I’m guessing this is a Western song based on the outfits (the lead singer is wearing an Indian feather bonnet). The song is horrible, but that may be me as I dislike Country Western music.

Malta – We have a winner. This is the ultimate EuroVision song with the super good looking male vocalist, super upbeat song, lots of great dancing. Really well done.

Belarus – Super good male band. Vibrant upbeat song and it was performed very well. Very energetic presentation without the over-doing it that is so common.

Portugal – They almost always send a female vocalist to sing a mournful ballad. Some are better than others. This one is pretty good but not great.

Very unusual – most of the songs so far have not been in English. I think that makes them better but it’s rare for a non-English song to do well.

Ukraine – Not sure what this is supposed to be, it sounded almost like a football fight song with lots of people jumping around. Ukraine generally does lots better – maybe Russia told them to take a dive for the Babushkas.

Bulgaria – Ok, not all of the Balkans are on fire. When it’s one person on stage you need someone who can carry and emote the song. Maybe Bulgaria decided they can’t afford to host next year and so purposely sent an under-performer.

Slovenia – Wow. Ok, it’s Yugoslavia that’s brought it’s A game tonight. Think “Say Yes to the Dress” as a beautiful energetic ballad sung by a female lead and ensemble.

Croatia – Female vocalist with a really strong & compelling voice. Really good song that she belted out (I mean that in a good way). Not the best number all night but good.

Sweden – Oh wow! Super song incredibly sung. Amazing female vocalist who does the most by herself and then has someone who looks like Mr. T dancing with her for the second half. Beautiful job.

Georgia – This is why 120 million people watch ESC. Leather bustiers? check. Thousands of sparkles on the outfits? check. Lots of dancing around while belting out the song? check.

Turkey – This has to be a folk song gone horribly wrong. Think a musical number from Fiddler on the Roof with the men dancing at a wedding – as put on by a College (that doesn’t have a theater major).

Estonia – Male vocalist standing up there by himself. No dancing, no props, minimal background instruments and singer. And this guy pulls it off with a beautiful song powerfully sung. Again a potential winner. (And according to the tweets, he’s very hot.)

Slovakia – Very loud rock song screamed out.

Norway – The lead singer has a range of about 2 notes nor can he project. But I’m guessing he’ll get votes from the teenage female vote (including the lesbians). He’s got that Twilight leading man look.

Bosnia & Herzegowhatsit – Another solo vocalist with minimal instrumental backup. She does a superb job and in an understated way. Never shouting, never super high notes, just a beautiful singing voice.

Lithuania – Mediocre. Male vocalist again with minimal instrumental in the background. He’s not bad but neither is he good.

My favorites:

1. Serbia

2. Sweden

3. Estonia

4. Slovenia

5. Malta

6. Bosnia

And a lot of them we’re quite good.


1. The Netherlands

2. Turkey

3. Ukraine

Best part of tonight’s selections (even more than the amazing quality) was that most were sung in their native language.

EuroVision live blog

Ok all, it’s being webcast live at http://www.eurovision.tv/esctv… and you’ll get song by song updates hers.

It’s being held in Baku Azerbaijan and they are doing an incredible job of presenting the country. Amazing venue. And the scenes from across the country show a very modern country. Granted it’s what they choose to show – but what they show is impressive.

Clearly the financial problems are having an impact on the show. Most of the female performers apparently could only afford enough cloth to barely cover themselves.

Montenegro – I think they found Meatloaf and removed what little talent he had.

Iceland – very pretty ballad. Not awesome but it is quite good.

Greece – apparently economic disaster leads to awesome upbeat music. Superb.

Latvia – Imagine “The View” as a musical.

Albania – painfully loud female vocalist. And an atrocious hairdo to match.

Romania – very catchy pop number, but nothing great – with an accordion & bagpipes.

Switzerland – I think they held a contest for the high school rock band with the most overacted stage show.

Belgium – very pretty song. But the singer missed a lot of the notes and that wrecked what otherwise could have been one of the top songs.

Finland – pretty song well done (female vocalist). Nothing great but in comparison to the others, it’s great.

Israel – Imagine a College dance band… In the ’50s.

San Marino – standard upbeat pop.

Cyprus – Female pop singer, lots of jumping and dancing with others.  Not bad – very upbeat.

Denmark – Standard pop band. Ok but nothing special.

Russia – Russia has this incredible depth of amazing musical talent and they send Babushkas? Really?

Hungary – Male vocalist with a range of about 3 notes and a semi-loud back-up band.

Austria – Two Germans doing rap. And yet they’re not bad (compared to the other groups here).

Moldova – Possibly the cheesiest dancing ever at ESC. But the song (typical pop) isn’t bad.

Ireland – JEDWARD is the perfect ESC act (don’t know if that’s a compliment). Really good song.

Monday Open Thread

“Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.”

― Nolan Bushnell

Who was our greatest president?

In honor of Presidents Day I figured this would be a fun poll. And anyone who votes for “Other” – you’ve got your ideological blinders on.

“No one has a right to grade a President-even poor James Buchanan-who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made his decisions.” – JFK

Our Greatest President was

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Should Pols join the blackout on Jan 18?

(What say ye?   – promoted by Pita)

The SOPA/PIPA legislation is a horrible bill. It basically would seriously damage the Internet in a heavy handed, and ultimately ineffective attempt to reduce piracy of Hollywood content. It would spell the end of Pols because people do post links to copyrighted material here (usually inadvertently).


Senator Bennet [D – WallSt/MPAA] – is a co-sponsor of PIPA

Senator Udall – opposed.

Congresswoman DeGette – silent.

Congressman Polis – rock star opposing it.

Congressman Gardner – silent.

Congressman Tipton – silent.

Congressman Lamborn – silent.

Congressman Coffman – silent.

Congressman Perlmutter – undecided.

Congressman Lamar Smith (the lead sponsor of SOPA) – violates SOPA

More at:

Why these bills are so bad

Fast Company

ars technica

how to easily set Pols to blackout

A special note about Representative Jared Polis. I always thought it would be good to have some representatives in Congress who understand the Internet because they would have the credibility to keep legislation sensible where it impacts the net.

Nope. Jared has tried to point out that some parts of the bill flat out won’t work. And that others are not an effective way to achieve the stated goal. And it’s all ignored because the contributors have given the reps their marching orders and logic & facts are irrelevant.

But through all this Jared has done a superb job fighting to kill this disaster. Win or lose we owe him a gigantic thank you for the effort he has made.

Should Pols join the blackout on Jan 18?

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Thursday Open Thread

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

–General Erick Shinseki

Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President

Wow. This is an incredible book. Hard to put down. It goes through the first couple of years of the Obama administration, primarily discussing how he handled the financial meltdown and stabilization. (We can’t say recovery yet because so far there has been no recovery.)

A lot of what’s in here is the author’s (and other’s) opinion of why people made decisions. But on the specific facts, what people said, what people did, how people were treated – none of that has been disputed by the principals covered. And those facts alone are incredibly damning.

The president turned the economy over to Sumners, Geithner, & Emanuel – three people who helped eviscerate FDR’s financial reform at the end of the Clinton Administration. And then were cheerleaders for Wall St. as it went wild over the last decade. A President who wanted to truly get all views day in and day out would have had one of those three, but then had Volker in one of the roles and third person as chief of staff.

The president also comes across as someone who allowed those three to seal him off in a bubble where they determined what was presented to the President. And then, in many cases, ignored the decision of the President and continued with what they thought was the best policy.

The clear conclusion of the book, although Suskind never explicitly says it, is that President Obama is a poor manager. That’s not terribly surprising, it’s a super difficult job managing the people at that level and Obama didn’t have any experience at this level. (The same is true of Bush where Cheney, Rumsfield, & Co. ran things.)

It’s a sad picture of something we all had such high hopes for. But it is a fascinating read. And it provides a lot of context for the disappointments of the last 2½ years.

Krueger put it to Obama bluntly. The American workforce was on an unsustainable course: overworked, heavily stressed, inadequately insured against rising health costs, and moving more deeply into debt each year.

I’m a professor of civil reengineering at Princeton. And I was up at Yale the other day and they’ve given up teaching civil engineering. There are just two old geezers like me up at Harvard, and once they’re gone that’ll be it. There’s hardly an elite university in the United States that pays attention to civil engineering. What’s the result? We hardly know how to build bridges; they tend to fall down. It’s cost twice as much to build that new bridge across the Potomac as it would have cost if it was built in Europe . . . I assure you, I know . . . and besides our bridges are ugly and theirs are beautiful.’ ”

But that’s what Gensler was now doing with one of country’s most powerful, self-sustaining, play-for-keeps communities: Wall Street. Its ethos and ethics had altered the way people thought about hard work, honesty, self-reliance, and fair practice-what de Tocqueville once called America’s admirable and accessible “bourgeois virtues.” Wall Street had bet against people who believed in those sleepy mores, and year after year, it had won huge.

While Orszag wouldn’t publicly affirm Summers’s critique of the president’s abilities-saying later, “I don’t want to go there”-he wouldn’t disagree, either. He sat in meeting after meeting where the president would cover the same issue, or controversy, or policy dilemma, and “relitigate” it, in the president’s parlance, over and over. Decisions were left unmade; policies drifted without direction. It wasn’t a matter of intellectual framing. The president seemed to grasp the nature of key policy dilemmas, like a journalist, or narrator, or skilled observer. The problem was in guiding the analysis toward what a president is paid, and elected, to do: make tough decisions.

“For Washington to not demand anything when it saved us, even stuff that we know is for our long-term good, was one of the stupidest moves in modern times. I figured Obama understood that-it wasn’t a nuanced point-and that he’d act as we started to pull out of the abyss six months ago. But he didn’t, and I don’t know who to thank. I feel like I should go over and hug Tim. It’s a shame we can’t pay him, ’cause that’s a guy who really earned a big-time bonus.”

“You can’t run a policy based on a misdirection, on a fiction,” she said. “I don’t know what the president is thinking. I don’t see the president. He meets with bankers. He doesn’t meet with me. But if he’s involved in this at all, he’s got to know that his angry words at Wall Street, at their recklessness and dangerous incentives in compensation, about how they do their business in ways utterly divorced from what’s actually good for the economy-that he can’t just say that sort of thing, and then dump money in their laps and be credible. Tim and Larry’s whole plan is just like Argentina in the 1980s. There was this giant hole marked ‘Banks’ and the government just dumped money in that hole, as much as they had, while they lied about it. That’s what Larry thinks: that the U.S. is Argentina!”

“To not see this coming, and not start to act, even back in November, after we got slaughtered in the governors’ races, wasn’t an asleep-at-the-switch issue,” said a close aide to Obama. “It was utter incompetence. This is what political aides get paid for. This is their job.” In January-with two weeks, still, until the day of the special election-the White House called Coakley’s campaign strategist, Dennis Newman, to see what help Washington could offer. He said they were fine. Nothing was done.

yelling, ‘We have no fucking credibility!’ Seeing Democrats and Republicans going at the same unresolved issues, side by side, highlighted that this might have been the only area of actual bipartisanship-the kind of bipartisanship the president was searching endlessly for. But here was our guy getting pilloried.”

This is, of course, the way criminal syndicates rise up. It’s an issue of might. If the government, with its power of law and prosecution, can’t challenge them, they spread, and their influence deepens. The large banks and their companions, unregulated hedge funds, had increasingly taken ownership of the trading enterprise, opened new casinos dealing with the more complex, often shadowy realm of debt, and figured out ways to rig it on their behalf. For the clients and smaller competitors, this hard reality first brought frustration, then, year by year, acquiescence, and finally a kind of furtive participation. If it’s not going to change, then why not be part of it? If they didn’t sign on, their competitor would. The aim for clients is to be large enough, or strategically important enough, that Goldman sees them as valued partners and protects them or, even better, gives them a cut.

One other thing “all the latest reforms” shared was they were all battered, or already buried, because none of them, including his amendment, “have really been supported by the president-not really.”

After an hour of discussion, Krueger asked the undergraduates to introduce themselves and say something about their plans or their goals. About half were economics majors, but the other half were spread across many disciplines-history, philosophy, biology. One after another, they said they planned on going to Wall Street. All of them.

Monday Open Thread

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

― Abraham Lincoln

Election night thread

from TPM

OH — ISSUE 2 (SB 5) Votes
Yes 37% 945,816
No 62% 1,518,270
69% reporting

Yes 42% 128,681
No 58% 179,914
49% reporting

What B.I. Functionality does a large campaign need?

Hi all;

Big favor to ask. Anyone who has run numbers for a large campaign, say Governor, U.S. Congress, or an expensive state race – can you please tell me what functionality you need in a Business Intelligence tool?

We are seriously considering creating a general B.I. tool and I want to make sure it will work well for campaigns.

Issue 1: What form is the data in? I’m guessing a lot is in spreadsheets and you may want to look at combinations of polling data, media buys, and canvassing results. What exactly is the format of the data?

Issue 2: What do you want to look at and how is it divided up? Here’s my guess as to one use case:

1. Build graphs to show estimated vote from polling & voter info over time, seperated out by media market. Overlay media purchases in each market over time.

2. Have a means to select a media market and the graphs then show the data for that market.

3. Have a means to select a time period and the graphs for selected (more than 1) markets are stacked in a row.

Any use cases, examples, suggestions, etc. greatly appreciated. If you want to see something similiar to what we are looking to do, take a look at the videos here

And if anyone would prefer, I’m happy to buy you lunch and make notes as you walk me through what you want.

What constitutes a clear civil right?

Throughout the history of civilization we have come up with “natural” civil rights that we believe are self-evident. But these rights are not self-evident. If they were, society would have been enshrining them in law 2,000 years ago.

When our country was founded it enshrined the civil rights that society at that time believed constituted all of the basic civil rights in the constitution and bill of rights.

At that time not only was slavery enshrined in the constitution but the concept of true equality between the races was held by only a small minority. Equal rights for women wasn’t even on the radar.

Over time we did finally enshrine equal rights based on race into the constitution. And while equal rights for women did not make it into the constitution, it is enshrined throughout our laws.

But this did not happen because these two rights were natural rights. They occurred because as a society, through a very contentious process, made a decision that these rights should be treated as basic civil rights.

So now let’s talk about the civil rights that are presently in the contentious phase, gay marriage and abortion. These are not natural civil rights just as all others were not natural. It is a decision we as a society are in the process of making.

In the case of gay marriage it’s coming very soon. After another 3 – 5 years of old people dying the electorate will have shifted enough. It sucks that we aren’t there yet, but society is clearly on the road to determining that this is a basic civil right.

The discussion on abortion was ended with Roe. Because the political sphere had no control, rather than discussion we have had the two sides shouting to their base with the right occasionally passing a law they know will be shot down. But until we do have this conversation and work through the contentious process, this is not a civil right, it’s a policy decided by 5 appointed justices.

A more interesting question is what will come next as a civil right. Some possibilities are healthcare, a proper diet, a quality education, a decent job, or something else.

But the key point to this I think is it’s not sufficient to say something is of course a civil right and needs to be treated that way. Many of us may be of the opinion that something should be a civil right. But it requires convincing a majority in society that it is that fundamental for it to become a civil right.

And that’s a good thing. Because there are some who want “rights” you would view as heinous enshrined as civil rights.  

What will be next to become a civil right

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