SocraticGadfly: 12/27/09 - 1/3/10

January 02, 2010

Get organized, Obama

Gene Lyons triple underscores a basic fact of governance: Government ineptitute is far more dangerous to progressive leadership than to conservatives.

Of course, below Obama's level, Lyons' column kind of glosses over how Rahm Emanuel, with the tacit connivance of Nancy Pelosi, saddled House Dems with not just moderates, or even moderate conservatives, but some downright conservative Democrats. Who knows? If the GOP doesn't cave to the tea partiers, a few more may switch.

David Brooks's god has failed

David Brooks has a touted column to start the new year, headlined, "The God that Failed."

It's about people's overexpectations of government in the current post-Detroit terror hubbub.

Sounds great, no?

Well, hold on. Before Brooks gets to his point, which is halfway good, he has plenty of swamp water through which he wads.

As with a typical David Brooks column, let's play "spot the error" under the
guise of superciliousness.

First graf: Claims Congress exacerbated the Depression. WRONG. Only when FDR
tried to play budget balancer did unemployment start to rise again.

Second graf: Torpedoes sinking Jap troop ships carrying American POWs? Yes,it
happened, but "horrific mistake" is not the right phrase, IMO.

Third graf: The almost inevitable Brooksian straw man. (Maybe only Friedman
exceeds him here.) I never expected "perfection" from govt, just a higher degree
of competence, a less total degree of sellout to Wall Street, etc., than we
actually got, over the last 15-plus years, from many members of Congress of
both parties, on fiscal issues.

Following grafs: Let's not forget the GOP stalling Obama's TSA head nomination,
voting against some security funding increases, etc.

Beyond that, let's not forget the blindsight of trying to paper over old errors,
in the bureaucracy.

Beyond that, let's not forget that in, at least some cases, we ARE making new
enemies, by engaging in wars of choice, firing Predators and even worse, cruise
missiles, somewhat willy nilly, etc.

I don't expect perfection in foreign policy. I do expect less politicization,
along with less counter-politicization from the man who promised change.

Take David Broder, make him 25-30 years younger, throw in a healthy dash of
"earnestness," make him a bit more conservative, and you have David Brooks.

And, in this case, as so often with him, the "god that failed" is the god of
simplemindedness in punditry. Of course, way too many Americans ARE
simpleminded. Per MOG, with his experience abroad, I have no doubt will still
lag Western Europe in that regard.

So, to some degree, Brooks is writing to America's lowest common denominator.

Beyond that, the REAL "god that failed," and continues to fail, as the failure
gift that keeps on giving, is the naive belief in American exceptionalism, a
belief to which I believe Mssr. Brooks is also not totally immune.

As Pogo said: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Strangely, without mentioning the number of Brooks' usual problems that pop up in this column, Greenwald likes it.

December 31, 2009

Here's why AT&T dumped Tiger

A college professor estimates Tiger Woods' antics have already cost his sponsors as much as $12 billion.
Victor Stango and Christopher Knittel ... called the results statistically significant and said the overall pattern of losses at the parent companies was unlikely to stem from ordinary day-to-day variation in their stock prices.

Oops. Meanwhile, AT&T's decision was made easier by Tiger's "indefinite" withdrawal from golf, as he theoretically is not, at this time, the host of the AT&T National, commonly known as the Tiger Woods tournament.

Jobs INCREASED in December?

That's the biggest takeout from the latest report on the employment situation.
Abiel Reinhart, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, said in a note to clients that he estimates employers added a net total of 40,000 jobs in December, after cutting 11,000 the previous month.

Don't know how true this may turn out to be, but, it sure sounds like good news. I'm sure Congressional Democrats are looking for the unemployment rate to get down to 9 percent by the time of midterm elections.

Looks like Tiger might HAVE TO golf sooner...

Rather than later. AT&T is the latest corporate sponsor to say "no thanks" to further professional association with Eldrick Woods.

AT&T's decision was made easier by Tiger's "indefinite" withdrawal from golf, as he theoretically is not, at this time, the host of the AT&T National, commonly known as the Tiger Woods tournament.

Not that he's not already a billionaire or something, but, we don't know what sort of pre-nup, if any, he and Elin signed.

And, speaking of billions, a college professor estimates Woods' antics have already cost his sponsors as much as $12 billion.

December 29, 2009

Voluntary payments for online news? Surrree.....

The Miami Herald thinks it can get online readers to dump money in its cyber-tip jar. I doubt.

First, wire stories are available anywhere, so why pay for them anyway?

Second, will local news and sports gin up that much interest?

Third, per one commenter to this news, if the payment system is complex (even if this guy is shamelessly flogging his own PayPal-interactive program), people will stay away anyway.

The one way this might work is, if like Salon and a few other magazines once tried (then abandoned) is to promise readers fewer, or no, ads, for online contributions above a certain size.

Of course, the real way to do that is with online subscriptions.

Schadenfreude for Karlo Rove? NOT

Even though he's getting divorced from his second wife, I expect he'll continue moral blathering, not just foreign and economic policy, as part of his punditry.

And now, the Prius sucks

As if Toyota weren't looking to be in enough of a pickle with sudden acceleration problems on a number of its vehicles, now some owners of new Priuses (this being the first year of version three of the hybrid) are claiming to have brake problems.At least 33 complaints alleging safety problems with the '10 Prius, most often involving braking issues have been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation.

NHTSA confirmed receiving complaints, which are a matter of public record, but would not comment further
Serious, indeed. Toyota, meanwhile, is not saying much. But, if the NHTSA launches an investigation, it had better be more prepared, more cooperative and more forthright with the public than over past problems.

And, it should probably start doing its own reverse engineering to discover any problems and correct them before a Prius recall pops up.