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Arrogance, Insanity and Sociopaths

Back to the basement for more disinfecting, etc.  In the meantime, I’ve been checking out videos of Varna award winners.  The International Ballet Competition at Varna, Bulgaria every year attracts the best and brightest in the ballet world.  These young dancers go on to professional careers as principal dancers in companies all over the world.  And some of them still look like they’re having fun years later.  Here’s Michele Wiles, former Varna winner and principal dancer at ABT, checking out a slow motion camera:

I love to see people doing what they love with intensity and passion.  When they have obvious gifts, it’s hard not to be fascinated with them.  People who have a vision, perserverence and a fanatical devotion to perfection are charismatic and it’s easier to tolerate their faults.

Take Steve Jobs, for example.  The CEO of Apple recently stepped down presumably because his health was getting in the way of his work.  That must be maddeningly frustrating for a guy at the top of his field at a very creative period of his life.  Joe Nocera has a column in the NYTimes that describes Jobs’ working style and his less than diplomatic management style:

 The businessman I met 25 years ago violated every rule of management. He was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager. He had an astonishing aesthetic sense, which businesspeople almost always lack. He could be absolutely brutal in meetings: I watched him eviscerate staff members for their “bozo ideas.”

The Steve Jobs I watched that week was arrogant, sarcastic, thoughtful, learned, paranoid and “insanely” (to use one of his favorite words) charismatic.

The Steve Jobs the rest of the world has gotten to know in the nearly 15 years since he returned to Apple is no different. He never mellowed, never let up on Apple employees, never stopped relying on his singular instincts in making decisions about how Apple products should look and how they should work. Just a few months ago, Fortune published an article about life inside Apple; it opened with an anecdote in which Jobs cut his staff to ribbons for putting out a product that failed to meet his standards. But his instincts have been so unerringly good — and his charisma so powerful — that Apple employees were willing to follow him wherever he led. Apple will miss those instincts.

The guy never mellowed.

Atrios wrote today about sociopaths, the politicians whose goal seems to just get elected and don’t really care about stuff.  It’s hard to know whether he’s referring to the current Republican slate or Obama himself.  I’m not sure these people are sociopaths.  That would require a charm offensive of some sort and from where I sit, none of the people running for president so far have an excess of sociopathic charm.  The Obama contingent of 2008 were clearly mesmerized by something else because, trust me, guys, he wasn’t at all charismatic in 2008.  Obama’s success derived from a slick marketing campaign with a clever aspirational appeal and not from any intrinsic strengths or gifts on the part of the candidate.

We could take a lesson from Jobs.  Charisma comes not from some syrupy appeal to bipartisanship or the reflected light of the thousands of upturned faces of Christian fanatics.  It comes from the drive to produce something new and different, something that no one has ever seen before, something that will hit the reset switch of what is expected.  People like Jobs don’t like compromise, especially when that compromise interferes with the idea in their heads.  That is what makes a leader.  A leader can afford to be a little arrogant and demanding.  Leaders are out in front.  They shift to a higher energy level and expect us to keep up with them.

What we’ve got here in the presidential candidates of 2012 is not so much a collection of sociopaths but a bunch of uninspiring radical conformists.  They aspire to nothing, they pander to all.  They are no leaders.  The sociopaths are the ones standing behind them.  There’s not much we can do about the Republican slate of candidates.  The whole party is speaking a different language and lives in a parallel universe.  The Democrats are a whole other story.  It’s still possible to take this campaign season up to a new energy level.

Think Different.

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70 Responses

  1. be careful of breathing to much bleach fumes.and for goodness sake do not mix it with anything. 🙂

  2. well,,,,water is ok. 😆

  3. Beautifully written, as always. True leaders want to see results and that is the difference in a Clinton and an Obama.

  4. “Do you want to change the world, or do you want to make sugar water?” The current candidates in both parties are all status quo for their party machines. Yes men. Puppets. All happy to help make the next round of sugar water.

    The rot is from the two parties. I’m pessimistic that will change from within. Both the current parties have long outlived their usefulness. They just don’t know it yet.

    I suspect voters will just go back and forth for no other reason than just to mess with the party machines because they don’t have another option. Yet.

    • It’s so puzzling to me that a place like DailyKos would be full of so many conformists. They’re so afraid of what *might* happen that they are willing to accept the unacceptable because it’s safer.
      Isn’t that the whole definition of conformity? There’s a recommended diary this morning that pretty much states that primaries have always had bad outcomes so suck it up and get used to it. Isn’t it a little weird to be trying to suppress the concept of choice in an election? And they don’t even have to look too far for acceptable challengers. Hillary would be the obvious choice but Ed Rendell would also work. In any other year, it might be a risk not worth taking but this is an economy like no other since the 30’s. Unusual times require unorthodox behavior. But Kossacks will have none of it.
      I’ve never used my sock puppet over there but sometimes, I feel like dropping in and stirring up trouble.
      {{evil grin}}

      • This point you just made is the critical one. It’s one thing if we’re riding along in normal times to back a primary challenge just because you think your guy or gal just might do the job better. But we’re not in normal times, we’re in the biggest economic crisis since WW2 and the response of our “leader” isn’t to help people but to shred the safety net and to cut Social Security and Medicare. In that situation, a primary challenge isn’t a silly bit of self-indulgence, it’s self-defense to protect yourself, your family, and all the people you care about from a promised assault on their ability to live and scrape by. The time is getting late.

      • DailyKos ensured they would only have conformists by carefully excluding any nonconformists by their practices and policies. They created their own lifeless, pathetic zombie echo chamber on purpose.

        Hmm, invading with sock puppets. Mwahahaha {{pinky to mouth}}

      • I like Ed Rendell. I think he has actual charisma and leadership abilities. But I am so unbearably sick of voting for men for president. How about Hillary and Ed as VP? That would be a hell of a hell of a power couple. And Ed is masculine enough not to be threatened by a female boss.

  5. Ah yes, Obama being charismatic is as much of a joke as Obama being eloquent, though both memes – and plenty more – have been marketed with grandiose success.

    In my experience charismatic people mesmerize and bewitch with no noticeable effort, whether you like it or not, even whether you like them or not. They leave you with a feeling of being totally defenseless … and not necessarily minding.

    They enter a room and immediately everyone just sense it. They sit at the head of the table, even if the table is round. They somehow command, but apparently with no need to command.

    It’s also my experience that they are very, very rare. And no, Obama is definitely not one. 😉

    • And Bill Clinton comes to mind immediately.
      Remember when Newt said Clinton cast a spell over him?

      • My husband worked at a newspaper during Bill’s first Presidential campaign and Bill came by to do the editorial board thing. My husband said when Bill came in the room, it was filled with a charismatic force field one couldn’t believe. He instantly said” Who is that guy? …and imagine, Oprah didn’t have to work the room first! lol!

      • Right. And what paper doll mentions I’ve heard (ok, read) others describe. Like his ability to make people he talks with feel like they are the only person in the room.

      • Remember when Newt said Clinton cast a spell over him?

        And turned him into an anti-Newt?

  6. “The International Ballet Competition at Varna,.”
    ********
    IRCC, the competition rotates….Varna, Moscow, Tokyo, Jackson, MS.
    I have been to the competition in Jackson several times. If you have an interest in ballet, it’s worth the trip. Next time in Jackson is 2014.

    • I’d really like to see Alys Shee dance but she’s joined ABT II. If I had money, I’d check it out in NYC. I love this video of Shee doing Cuckoo from Carnival of the Animals. The lighting is atrocious but the choreography seems made for her.

  7. Jobs borrowed most of his vision from Xerox PARC and Smalltalk.

    • Where they had iPod like devices and iPhones and iPads. Oh wait, they had nothing like that. {{palm to head}}

      • Of course Steve saw the desktop metaphor at Xerox and other labs (even Pittsburg’s Perq machine, lovely thing it was too). If he stopped there we’d have nothing past the original Lisa in the early 80’s. And if he hadn’t been inspired by it, how much longer would it have been before that metaphor made it’s way to consumers? Perhaps a decade more.

        Paradigm shifts are hard and rare. And Steve has been at the heart of a few too many to be coincidence or the first to copy them well.

        • Yessiree, it’s one thing to create some cool little doo-dad. But not everyone can see the doo-dad and transform it into something that will change your life. How many life changing doo-dads are sitting on a shelf right now because the right person didn’t see them or the wrong person said they weren’t worth making? There are all kinds of things we take for granted today that were actually quite revolutionary. Like the internet. And obscure DoD project turned into a global behemoth we can’t live without.
          Is it the case that there aren’t enough Steve Jobs in the world or do the ones that are out there not get the opportunities they need? And isn’t it funny how no one is going to feel the same way about Bill Gates.

        • I saw the Xerox Star demo’ed and, of course, it was mind boggling. The mouse, the desktop, the trash can. Doug Englebart invented the mouse at SRI. The main selling point of the Star to us was Ethernet connectivity. Print nearby, no need to walk across the street. Everyone of the six of us who saw it was blindsided, but we didn’t go any further than that.

          The MacIntosh took PARC’s design concept much much further (typography, desktop publishing, digital art, voice), and it could be purchased by individuals, not just companies. Steve was instrumental in working with John Warnock who founded Adobe to develop PostScript printers for the Mac.

          Jobs is being compared to Henry Ford a lot these days. Ford didn’t invent the first automobile, but he created the car culture (not benign, however, when the population increases and the built landscape caters to the automobile, even if oil were plentiful and climate change weren’t an issue).

  8. Smiles a this one. I’m not bothering to watch the vid — just saw the story flash by earlier. Good luck with basement, RD!

    http://nation.foxnews.com/vice-president-dick-cheney/2011/09/04/cheney-clinton-could-work-better-republicans-obama-white-house

    What would FDR do? I expect Hillary would have been like him maybe. Dunno know. Wish she would run. Her whole life has been devoted to the political. She deserved it, if only for her years and years of service. How politics felt before there were “brands” — not even really watching anymore because beginning to think it is all just a bogus show while the country slips and slips. hugs RD & Co.

    • Ok, that was Mr Evil trying to turn the Democrats against each other. But he needn’t have bothered. We’re already split.
      It’s just that if an enemy suggests something that is in actuality perfectly reasonable, the tendency is to treat the idea with suspicion.
      Now, why would our enemy do this unless the base is getting restless? The idea might be crazy by Markos standards but it’s not quite crazy enough for the rest of us. So, here comes Cheney to mess around with the mind of the self described “creative class Whole Foods shopper”. Take a perfectly reasonable idea and make iit look like diptheria.
      Instead of calling his bluff, the creative class warriors will retreat to the safety of their own incompetent bunker mentality.
      You’d think they’d be on to him by now. Cheney WANTS Obama in the White House because Obama is defenseless. It just may be the case that Hillary could deal with the Republicans more effectively, whatever that means. But one thing is for damn certain, if she ran and won, it would be another historic moment and would for a moment drown out the nasty s%^& the Republicans are spewing. And in that brief moment, Hillary or another Democrat who is not Obama, could sieze the day and change the message. And the last thing Republicans want is for someone to meddle with with their message.
      So, Kos, Bowers, Klein, Yglesias et al will turn against the one truly rational idea for 2012. Mission accomplished, Mr. Dick!

  9. ps: loved the dance! Exquis. too many typos above but you get it. Why can’t the politicians work together and solve some things? make the country feel like they know what the F they are doing for a change — on both sides. Would be good.

  10. RD, I’m so glad that Chez Confluence is almost back to normal.
    Has anyone checked out the front page of Salon, today?
    If Obama’s progressive party has lost me and Joan Walsh, it’s dead man walking.

    • Joan Walsh tries to dump him but she always goes back.

      • Still, I think his supporters don’t have a shadow of their former energy. In my family (which was evenly split during the 2008 primaries) he has no supporters left. Not even at the hold-the-nose-and-vote stage.

        Someone’s GOT to step up and run there’s a gaping void screaming to be filled. …. by someone good.

        • What I find funny is Stoller looking around for anybody, ANYBODY to primary Obama but Clinton. He’s suggesting Tom Harkin now. I don’t have anything against Harkin, probably even donated to his campaign a few years ago. But come on, Matt, any primary that involves Harkin is going to require a lot of introduction to the public. Most people don’t know who he is. It would be like starting from ground zero.
          Hillary is a known commodity. Not only that but regardless of what Matt thinks of her political philiosophy, her voters were thwarted in 2008. Making a big deal of ignoring their wishes a second time to force a new nobody on them may not go over too well.
          They really need to get with the program.

          • being against Clinton running or saying “she would be no better” is simply a failure of character. It is all about not being adult enough to admit you were wrong and stupid to jump on the bandwagon.

          • Doesn’t it speak absolute volumes that the fastest-growing party affiliation from 2008 to 2010 is Democrat in Exile? Look at the time line. Doesn’t that tell them something?

        • My brother-in-law, the Obot who sneered and jeered at me in 2008, is completely demoralized. He’s also careful to avoid remembering what I said to him back then (we had a donneybrook over the mythical Iraq “speech” that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Obama would withdraw the day after the inauguration.)

          Actually, he now sounds a lot like the fellows on Balloon Juice.

          • My Obot ex is also completely demoralized. It was sad listening to him turn dejectedly in circles, laying blame everywhere except where it belongs.

  11. Yes, Jobs is a remarkably skilled leader — of a certain sort. He’s a charismatic dictator. He made every decision. Those kinds of leaders don’t build institutions that last. Apple will have an existential crisis in the next few years — as it did when Jobs left before (almost died under Sculley). Jobs didn’t build a bench, didn’t build a culture of strong, independent people. He built a cult. The difference between this cult and the Obama cult is that there was actual talent at its center. But I don’t think Jobs is much of a political model to lionize.

    • I disagree. Jobs didn’t make every decision. He built a team capable of continuing the vision. The problem when he was ousted was that the people who ousted him had a different vision, that overruled Jobs and the creative types under him from continuing and adding on to that vision.

      Today’s Apple is quite different. If you ask anyone there how Apple did what they did with both iPhones and iPads, the answer is simple. Tim Cook. He was the genius behind pushing for the volumes that would allow them to be the lowest price competitor vs. the highest. And Tim was alone in pushing for that. And the creative teams behind all of these are mostly there with that vision and a long term path in place.

      No, this time around the world is quite different. Steve built a coherent team that is in place to move forward. Of course anything can happen as with any company. And the continual end over end quarters that are better than that last certainly won’t go on forever. That’s life. And the heated competition with Android will continue to be hot and will be good for everyone concerned.

      The real test will be 5 or 10 years down the road when it’s time for the next big revolution. The tablet replacing the PC revolution just happened. That path is set for a while longer.

      • Apple has been known as the place that creates exceptional managers for the rest of Silly Valley, even under Scully and The Diesel.

        One of my favorite computers, the 2ci came out after Jobs left. There continued to be one great invention after the next. I remember being the first on my block to have many new Apple products (and we had several Apple-only stores near where I lived), but the pace and the design sensibility increased as soon as Jobs was back. Jonathan Ives should be more than capable of executing continuous great designs. No Zunes from this shop!

      • You’re certainly right that time will tell. But everything I’ve heard about how Apple works — including from people who were there — confirms what Riverdaughter says: that Jobs is a micromanager who makes all the core decisions. The level of creativity and energy he engenders certainly does attract creative types and is very fecund. But as an institution? Well, we’ll see. I think Apple has a classic — indeed, paradigmatic — founder problem.

        Anyway, apart from that, my point was simply that using Jobs as a *political* leadership model has limited value here. Is he in some respects the opposite of President Empty Suit? Sure. But so is any charismatic dictator.

        • Um, I didn’t say that Jobs was a controlling micromanager, Noceres said that. But I’ve heard that it’s true and he’s not just a micromanager of his own products. He’s a micromanager of other people’s stuff too.
          There’s micromanaging and then there’s something like being a maestro who is never satisfied unless the orchestra is playing exactly like the music he hears in his head. Micromanaging managers are control freaks who are gigantic pains in the asses and are unpleasant to work for. But if you are a musician in an orchestra and you are playing for a gifted conductor, you’re probably a lot more forgiving of micromanagement because the music is sublime. I see Jobs as the conductor type.
          It’s when the music isn’t sublime and the guy’s still a total jerk that the whole thing falls apart. That’s where I see Obama.

          • I like the maestro musical director analogy. Very apt. And the music was grand indeed. There will never be another Steve. But the music is still the best around.

          • I entirely agree that Jobs is very different from Obama, and I yield to no one in my dismay over Obama as a non-leader. I still don’t think that makes Jobs a good model for leadership, and I still think that Apple faces a classic founder problem — how to figure out its second act, how to become an institution that isn’t centered around one charismatic creator. Many organizations — companies, universities, nations — have faced this challenge. And the floor of business history is littered with those that didn’t figure out how to evolve past it. I’ve seen this more than once in my own career (which, btw, like yours, has come to be in a very deep-research-centric field).

            I’m also very familiar with the orchestra-conductor metaphor, much beloved of some management theorists. It, too, has things to recommend it. Does it really Apply? (Yes, pun intended.) Mebbe, mebbe not. Even if it does, is it stable? Is there really a sustainable orchestra, absent this conductor? Remains to be seen.

            Finally, even putting aside the more structural/institutional questions, there are more admirable leadership styles to choose from. Real toughness isn’t being a perfectionistic sadist — e.g., once profoundly shaking a young, overweight magazine reporter who was unfortunate enough to be sent to interview him, by calling him a “fat moron.” Real toughness is, say, walking across the room and bringing Trent Lott a cup of coffee, after he had fantasized your death in public.

        • Differences between O Don’t Bother and Jobs is that Jobs created himself (not a media creation), he runs his own company, is not an elected representative, has a track record of greatness (but no Nobel Prize), has charisma, works very hard, micromanages (a little more hands-on and sincere concern from the President towards his “consumers” might be desired). Jobs doesn’t try to please everyone, has strong convictions. His following is based on past results, not media projection. Jobs comes across as edgy; Obama as mushy.

        • One last thing about Steve I’ll mention that I think is very interesting. At least from my experience. The people he likes working with and he engages with are people that think for themselves and argue with him and tell him he’s wrong about something and argue their point. If you’re a yes man and never argue, he has no use for you. That’s not a tyrant. That’s a perfectionist who wants to make great things. He certainly has an ego. But you can say he’s wrong, explain it, and show him, and he’ll change directions.

    • I can’t wait. Does this mean I am now grouped with the hippies because I am a liberal? Because Obama isn’t really a mystery to me.

      • Well, I don’t know if you wear beads and sandals, but that doesn’t disqualify you from getting hippie-punched for wanting Democrats to stand up for Democrats, you magical-thinking leftist, you.

        • I had the semi significant other buy me silver and turquoise jewelry this summer whole he was out west. I am pretty sure that qualifies me to get punched.

    • So the NYTimes now hates liberals too. Et tu Brute?

    • This piece is utter revisionist history, and profoundly dishonest. It’s just like Marcotte and Kos and the other apologists — a pathetic self-defense.

    • It’s in NYT, but it’s a New Republic piece. They have been pointing and laughing at the left being bamboozled by Obama since November 2008.

  12. 😉 So RD, are you going to report on how Obama visiting your state has impacted your life, or what? [sardonic laughter]

    • Oh, yeah, I’d heard he was here. The water has subsided from Somerville and Manville leaving a coating of yellowish residue everywhere. It reminds me of my basement somewhat.

      I’d have preferred it if he had come here with a couple hundred thousand jobs for all of the laid off pharma workers but then I am a demanding person.

      • But haven’t you heard? Touting his jobs plan – of which he won’t give too much away as he wants everyone to tune in on Thursday 🙄 – Obama said that “more than one million unemployed construction workers [are] ready to get dirty right now.”

        Well, ok … that doesn’t really sound much as a promise of actual work, does it now? And certainly not for you. But at least the crowd in Detroit loved it. Sigh!

        “We just need Congress to get on board,” Obama said to cheers. “Let’s get America back to work.”
        The crowd then began chanting “four more years.”

        Via Politico.

        • That would be great- for construction workers.
          What about the rest of us? How come the loss of all these high tech jobs gets buried all the time?

          • Besides, “ready to get dirty” is not exactly a job-promise. Isn’t it kind of condescending too? Or maybe that’s just me.

  13. Not ANOTHER one! The chorus of disenchanted Obots chanting We Shoulda Picked Hill is getting deafening
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/08/14/barack-obama-as-neville-chamberlain-portraits-in-appeasement.html

  14. People still use stuff from Apple?

    • You mean there’s some other stuff we could use?

      • Ubuntu Linux is pretty swank if you want to join the neckbeards.

        • I’m trying to install RedHat on my mac and keep hitting a wall with the ‘no bootable media found’ error message. I don’t think this has anything to do with RedHat. It’s probably VMWare and Lion not talking to each other. But since so many modeling apps are developed for Redhat linux, ubuntu might be a complication I don’t really need.

    • Of course not! The position of the company, and its sales figures are simply a media fabrication in the mode of Obama the Great. Give me a Windows knock-off any time! Such elegance of design! I save a bit but have to buy stuff to get the basic functionality that is part of my Macs. Many enjoyable wasted hours, and even India can’t figure it out.

      I have a notebook in which I write down all of the exception codes that display. Such fun. American design at its finest!

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