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      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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The Affordable Care Act is not much of an “accomplishment”

The NYTimes says that Michelle Obama is going to give the first significant (I won’t call it major) speech of the convention tonight. In it, she will be giving her husband’s version of his performance evaluation.  I guess David Axelrod thinks this is smart because any attack on Obama’s record will look like an attack on Michelle.

Let’s just get that out of the way.  I don’t give a rat’s ass what Michelle is wearing.  I can’t stand her accent where it sounds like she has a thick glob of postnasal ooze in the back of her nasal cavity that she has to stopper off with a kegelesque constriction of her uvula.  Michelle Obama chose to give working women the finger when she voluntarily assumed the mantle of stay at home mommy and wife who doesn’t really have an opinion about anything because someone *might* accuse her of being angry, thereby reinforcing the negative cultural stereotypes that keep women from succeeding in the workplace.  No, I judge her by the standards of my local upper middle class suburban environment.  Personally, I find women like her booooooooring as all get out.  That’s as far as my personal feelings for Michelle go.  She has mass and she takes up space and that’s about it.

Now, let’s get on to her husband’s “accomplishments”.

If I were Obama and were to put together a set of SMART goals for my performance evaluation and rate them, it would go something like this (with most important goals at the top):

In the next four years I will:

Goal                                                                          Timeframe                            Accomplished

1.) Improve the economy

– Tighten regulations on the finance industry      2010                                           Partial

– Account for TARP funds                                           2009-2012                               No

– Let Bush Tax Cuts expire                                          2010                                          No

– Prosecute bankers who threaten economy          2010                                           No

– Implement fiscal stimulus plan                              2009                                           Partial (Inadequate)

– Implement jobs program                                          2009                                            No

– Break up dangerously underfunded banks          2010                                             No

– Implement HOLC for Homeowners                     2009                                            No

(Comments: all of the above would have helped to jumpstart the economy and keep funding to social security at a manageable level, while replenishing treasury through tax revenue.)

2.) Health Care Reform

– Launch study of best practices                                2009                                             No

– Propose model based on study                                2009                                              No

– Work with providers to reduce costs                     2009                                             No

– Propose public option for ins co cooperation      2009                                           No

– Prohibit rescission for pre-existing conditions   2009                                            Yes

– Implement individual mandate                               2014                                      Pending

– Subsidize unemployed health care                  2009-2011                                  Finished

– Assure abortion and contraceptive coverage       2009                                      No, partial

3.) End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2012

– Begin drawdown of troops in Iraq                       2009                                           Unclear

– Begin drawdown of troops in Afghanistan       2009                                           Unclear

(Comments: Like I said, my brother is serving in Afghanistan and he’s been there a year *starting* in 2011, sooooo, I’d really have to say no to the second item.)

4.) Protect Civil Liberties

– Reinstitute Habeas Corpus                                   2009                                              No

– Close Gitmo                                                               2010                                              No

– Bring enemy combatants to trial                         2010                                             No

– Dismantle DHS                                                       2009                                              No

– Remove DADT                                                         2009                                              2010, 2011

5.) Promote equality and non-discrimination

– Protect gay families from financial hardship  2012                                              No

– Protect LGBT individuals from discrimination 2009-2012                               Mixed

– Lift non-discrimination clause in gov contracts 2012                                         No

– Eliminate the Bush Conscience Rule                 2009                                            Partially

– Protect children of illegal immigrants              2009                                             Unclear

– Defend abortion rights                                          2009-2012                                  No

– Defend Reproductive rights                                 2009-2012                                   Partially

– Ensure non hostile work env for women         2009-2012                                   No

– Promote the Equal Rights Amendment            2009-2012                                   No

(Comments: most of these items were not on his list anyway and female staffers report that the Obama White House should be considered a hostile work environment for women.)

6.) Move towards energy independence

No real plans here

7.) Improve public infrastructure (no real plans)

– Propose public transportation systems         2009-2012

– Encourage use of bicycling where possible      ???

– Invest in scientific research and public access 2009-2012                                Unclear

As Lambert says, “You can’t buff a turd”.  The people scoring this evaluation are not going to listen to excuses.  You wanna know why??  It’s because they’ve been subjected to this procedure at their own workplaces and they know that if you did a crappy job, it will be hard to hide it.  And if management wants to get rid of you, you could do everything right and still not escape the ax.  Of course, if you are a schmoozer who has been knifing your more productive colleagues and kissing the ass of the bonus class, you get a promotion.

That’s just the way it is.  Michelle could be tending her garden tonight for all of the difference her speech will make.

And Krugman’s argument that it could have been worse ignores the fact that half of the party was dragged, kicking and screaming to vote for a guy we didn’t think had the experience to handle the tidal wave of really bad mojo that was heading our way. We turned out to be right. We wanted the OTHER candidate.  You know, the one who did her homework and had all kinds of practical experience and a built in presidential mentor?

But instead of apologizing for screwing up and promising to address our problems, the  Democrats are saying, “Quitcherbitchin’, it could have been worse”. That is not a winning message to the 18000000 of us who are convinced that it could have been a lot better and that Barack Obama is not the best candidate the Democrats could be fielding right now.

The correct metaphor is the one that Katiebird came up with this morning.  The arsonists paid off the fire department to let the building burn to the ground.  They’re going to build something completely different in its place.

Democrats in La-La Land

Update: For all you balletomanes, Anaheim Ballet is currently hosting the Anaheim International Dance Festival.  AIDF attracts some of ballet’s leading dancers, including dancers from ABT and San Francsisco Ballet.  In about an hour, Anaheim Ballet will start livestreaming some of their workshops.  You can catch the workshops here.


The opening paragraphs of this NYTimes piece on the Democrats possible response to Romney’s choice of Ryan as his running mate are priceless:

The selection of Representative Paul D. Ryan as the Republican vice-presidential candidate provides President Obama with something he has been eagerly looking for — a bigger target.

A race that has revolved, at least in part, around each month’s mediocre jobs report and Mr. Obama’s persistent failure to move unemployment below 8 percent will now allow Democrats new lines of attack — starting with the assertion that Republicans are intent on dismantling Medicare — while setting off a larger debate about the role of government in the economy and society.

For Mr. Obama, that seems more promising territory, a chance to press the offensive against his challengers rather than just defend his record. Instead of a referendum on his own performance, the president has an opening to turn the election into a referendum on the vision that Mr. Ryan has advanced and Mitt Romney has adopted.

The sentence in bold is the funniest thing I’ve read all year. Obama wouldn’t be in this predicament if he’d actually made life better for the people who were screwed by the bankers’ gambling addiction.  Successful presidents defend successful records successfully.  Or, put it another way, “Luck favors the prepared mind”.  Or “If you study consistently, you won’t have to cram”.  Or “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”.

Second term elections are always a referendum on the president’s record.  It’s like a performance evaluation.  This year, Obama’s record will get even more scrutiny. So, what the media is suggesting is that by defining himself as the champion of the social safety net, Obama can cover up his dismal performance in creating the necessary policies to help put people back to work. That’s like assuming that you can use your verbal gifts on your section of the evaluation form and fool your boss into ignoring the fact that your major project is 48 months behind schedule and needs a complete overhaul.  If it were *slightly* behind and you hadn’t lost your major project contributors through poor planning, maybe you could squeak by in the middle of the pack.  But when your project is the one that was expected to keep the company going for a couple of decades, and everyone can read the progress reports, “baffling with bullshit” looks like a losing proposition.

In any case, if changing the subject is what the Times is recommending, that’s a little like falling right into the trap that the Republicans have set for Obama. By defending the extra spending that has pushed up the deficit, Obama will be calling attention to the fact that so many people are out of work.  Rather than obfuscating his shitty performance, he’s going to be shining a big spotlight on it.

Not only that but he’s perfectly OK with slashing that social safety net.  Slashing is easy; presidentin’ is hard. If he plunges into haggling over what to slash and we’re subjected to two months of mindnumbing details about COLA calculations, he could keep the spotlight off of his record.  It could be like two long months of debates over kerning and san serif fonts.  But in the end, it will still be Ugly and Son of Ugly slashing the deficit, imposing austerity on innocent bystanders and in way that will result in a more depressed economy, which will throw more people out of work, and so on and so on.  So, you know, there’s that.

But wait! There’s more:

That strategy may put Mr. Obama, a self-declared agent of hope and change four years ago, in the awkward position of seeming to be the defender of a status quo that is not working, or at least not working well enough. He risks having Republicans seize the mantle of reform that he used so skillfully in 2008 by contrasting his stay-the-course incumbent’s message with the youthful Mr. Ryan’s energetic willingness to tear up the old order and reinvent it for troubled times.

What??  I think the talking points from the political operatives have mutated themselves into insensibility.  I have no idea what that paragraph is supposed to mean.  It’s like that famous sentence by Noam Chomsky, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”.  Grammatically, it’s correct and even descriptive but it’s still a collection of words in a sentence with no meaning.  Is he trying to say that Mr. Cool’s “hope and Change!™” defense of the status quo is going to have to go head to head with “ADHD” Ryan’s youthful offensive for pro-old rich white guys’ wet dreams?  You’d almost think that there are no actual people or voters with any vested interest in the outcome.

Hokay, it must be tough to be a reporter these days.

Anyway, I’ve got better things to do with my time today.  It’s going to be a nice day.  Why bother trying to sort through all of the silly political kabuki this year?  It’s hard to hide a f^*( up of these proportions.  Everyone at this point knows what’s going on and who’s zoomin’ who.  I’d rather be gardening.

Here’s a video I found accidentally last night that makes me wish I had taken up nature photography as a profession.  It’s from the BBC program Planet Earth.  I’ll bet it will look really good in Google Glasses: