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    • Rationality Is A Process, Not A Conclusion (Nuclear Weapons Edition)
      A lot of mistakes come from assuming rationality means “thinks the same way I do” rather than “reasons from premises I might not share.” Left than 1/1000 economists predicted the financial collapse, because they reasoned from assumptions like “the market is self-correcting” or “housing prices never go down.” (Sometimes both at the same time, which is rarely […]
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Beautiful Theories Destroyed by Ugly Facts

The 2008 Primary Map. Take THAT, David Plouffe!

Edward Luce at The Financial Times wrote a piece called America: The Fearsome Foursome and it’s all about how everything in the WH is run by a small evil group to which no one we know belongs.  Yep, everything bad that has ever happened in the past year is the fault of Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod. It’s all because this Gang of Four are in campaign mode, a *brilliant*, scintillatingly genius, never-before-seen-by-the-likes-of-man campaign mode where they came from behind and fought the party establishment and conventional wisdom and the vicious media to overcome all odds and triumph to make their way to the highest office of the land.  It brings a tear to my eye, I tells ya’.  It’s like Mike Eruzione leading the US Hockey team to victory against the Russkis at the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980.  A Miracle! A Miracle!

Can we just cut the crap, please?

If the White House is in campaign mode, then Barack Obama is the campaign manager.  That’s how his campaign worked, according to David Plouffe in his book from just a few months ago, The Audacity to Win.  Barack Obama was a “hands-on” candidate and was the pilot of his campaign, according to Plouffe.  I would interpret this to mean that he approved of pulling his name off of the Michigan ballot, thereby screwing voters in MI and every Hillary voter in the country by extension.  And he must have been cool with the misogyny of the media too, right?  Some nice guy you got there for a president, eh?  By the way, Amazon’s review of the book is full of delightful details like:

Plouffe’s prose, alas, doesn’t much sweeten the deal. It’s filled with business-speak (“takeaway” used repeatedly as a noun, as in, “It certainly was not the chief takeaway from the debate”; gratuitous, macho-posturing profanity (“they picked Sarah goddamn Palin,” “let’s go win this [expletive] thing”); and a surfeit of baseball metaphors (“brushback pitch,” “unforced errors,” “[expletive] home run”).

If you’re looking for clues as to why this White House is screwed up, look no further than business jargon, that collection of “power words” that function as secret code words that identify the club members to each other but upon further investigation mean absolutely nothing.  Corporate culture is full of them.  When we hear our new CEOs say them during “Town Hall” meetings  and hear his sycophants dutifully repeating them in endless slide presentations, we start getting our affairs in order because the mergers and pink slips aren’t far behind.

Oh, yes, Obama is in charge all right.  His White House is painfully similar to a typical corporate executive department, which gives me a pretty good clue about who actually got him into office in the first place.

But let’s talk about the message that the FT piece sends.  In a nutshell, it sounds like Rahm Emannuel is ruining everything and that he’s not so good with 11th Dimensional Chess after all.

Well, there’s your problem right there.  According to most cosmic physicists, the human mind is incapable of understanding more than, oh, three dimensions on a good day.  Four is really pushing it for even the smartest among us.  Even Rahm.  11 is just beyond human comprehension.  It’s like, the geeks turn out these beautiful equations with some weird constant to the 11th power and they say, “Wow! That’s totally mind blowing.  WTF does it mean?  Hey, let’s go to Chuck’s for some wings for lunch.”  Those are the guys who can think to the 6th dimension.  (Or chemistry students who see that little “^” thingy in quantum chemistry and just apply it without really truly understanding what the f^*& that thing is and then burn the book after the final.)  That’s because, when you get into the REAL world, theories only get you so far after you graduate.  That’s when you have to apply your powers of observation and experience and refer to theory.

It’s cool to know some really great theoreticians and understand their work but when it comes right down to doing the day-to-day work, you read a lot of papers based on actual practice.  If the theory can’t be reduced to practice and the results replicated, it isn’t any damn good.

So, here we have a White House run by a corporate biz-speak accolyte, whose entire reduction to practice experience in applying the 11th dimensional chess game theory totals 142 days in the Senate. He has virtually no legislative experience to speak of.  I imagine his real skills are that he has mastered a certain attitude that is suave and debonnair (pronounced swave and de-boner for the uninitiated).  He looks like he swings a big dick.  He can use baseball metaphors with aplomb.  To get ahead, he’s charming to his colleagues (at first) and gets them to help him understand what they’re doing.  He gets them to share their secrets with him.  Then, as soon as he gets what he needs, he goes running to the guy two levels above him and has a chat.  Makes it looks like he figured all this stuff out by himself.  Says, “Her?  She’s good but she doesn’t really understand blah like you and I do.”  Pretty soon, the old chap is eating out of his hands.  (We corporate rats could write scads of papers on this technique, having seen it in action about a bazillion times.  And by the way, we’re getting really tired of it.  It’s costing us our jobs.)

And now his Fearsome Foursome is standing guard.  Ready to take a bullet for the guy, the one who is now in charge and is running everything, having gotten the confidence of the old guys.  They’re a slick bunch, that foursome.  They’ve got people actually believing that it’s not Obama’s fault that the country is the way it is and he can’t do anything about it.  He inherited this mess.  He didn’t make it messy.  It was BUUUUUSHH!

Yeah, like we didn’t see that coming.  It’s the reason why we didn’t want Obama in the first place.  We preferred the lady engineer who at least knew which mechanisms of government to push to get things done and looked like she read the papers and did her homework.

And it’s not Obama’s fault?  Please.  This is the job he wanted.  We all knew before he ran that the country was going to be a train wreck.  The Des Moines Register endorsed Hillary Clinton back in December of 2007 because they knew it was going to be a train wreck.  He inherited a train wreck and he knew it going in.  If he didn’t think he could do the job, he shouldn’t have run.  And Democrats who had been accurately predicting disaster for years during the Bush administration should have known better and not voted for him or promoted him and CERTAINLY shouldn’t be making excuses for him now.  Take responsibility for putting Obama in office and stop ignoring the ugly facts! It is a recipe for failure.

This is the real world in 4 dimensions with real people’s lives at stake.  It is not a game.

Addendum:

cx4800 found this video of the Des Moines Register endorsement from Dec. 2007.  The tone of the endorsement was absolutely clear: given the state of the country, this was no time to be day dreaming with Obama.  Obama knew full well that he was going to inherit a catastrophe and the Des Moines Register knew he wasn’t ready for it.

We *all* knew.