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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Presidential Resumes
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- In my judgment, Barack Obama entered the presidency with the weakest resumé of any entering president starting with the 20th century. How troublesome this proves to be will be demonstrated by his performance over his presidency. In any case, character, talent and luck also bear on presidential success. So, just for fun, I constructed a crude index of resumé strength and toss it out for your entertainment. (Please, Steve Sailer, don't hit me; I can think of many ways to refine it. This is just a blog post and not a Heritage or Brookings report.) Here are the variables I use and their weight (in parentheses): Governor of large [5+ million in 2000] state (2 points) Governor of other state (1 point) Significant executive experience if never a governor (1) Significant non-governor/legislator dealings with legislation (1) Served in Congress or Senate (1) Extensive foreign affairs experience (1) Served as Vice President (1) Other variables might have been included. And the weightings for the items above are indeed crude and fairly arbitrary. As can be seen, I consider experience as a large-state governor to be far more important than the others. This is because a governor has to be a leader and manager as well as being able to work with legislators -- doing all this well enough to merit attention as a potential president. In other words, governorship can be considered a mini-presidency (minus the foreign affairs aspect). Anyway, here's how my "system" quantifies presidential resumes starting with Theodore Roosevelt, the first "new" 20th century president. Total points are first, in brackets, and qualifying items from the list above are in parentheses. [3] T. Roosevelt (1, 7) [2] Taft (3, 4) [2] Wilson (1) [1] Harding (5) [3] Coolidge (1, 7) [3] Hoover (3, 4, 6) [2] F.D. Roosevelt (1) [3] Truman (3, 5, 7) [3] Eisenhower (3, 4, 6) [1] Kennedy (5) [2] Johnson (5, 7) [2] Nixon (5, 7) [2] Ford (5, 7) [2] Carter (1) [2] Reagan (1) [4] Bush 41 (3, 5, 6, 7) [1] Clinton (2) [2] Bush 43 (1) [1] Obama (5) I'm doing much of this from memory, so correct me if you think I made errors. Some might wonder about Eisenhower's score. Besides being a General (manager) he was Douglas MacArthur's key assistant when the general was Army chief of staff and head of the Philippine military. His Washington work under MacArthur involved many dealings with Congress. As commander of the European theater in WW2 and as NATO commander later, he dealt extensively in foreign affairs. In other words, Ike's background was stronger than many realize. The clunky weighting system I used probably works worst for item seven, the vice-presidency. For example, Nixon served eight years in that office whereas Truman was VP for only a few weeks and famously knew nothing about the atom bomb until he became president. Ford and Teddy Roosevelt also were VP short-timers while Coolidge and Johnson did not serve a... posted by Donald at February 7, 2009 | perma-link | (22) comments

Friday, February 6, 2009

Art of the Pickup
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Given that I'm about the last blogger in the world to notice a trend, with hesitation I present the following: "Realist" painting, as practiced a century and longer ago, was a genre featuring what was contemporary. No Greek gods, historical scenes, allegories or paintings with religious subject matter. Okay were scenes of washerwomen or peasants returning from a hard day in the fields. That was then. What might a Realist depict nowadays? Why not pickup trucks. At any rate, that's what I've been noticing lately in strolls through galleries in the Santa Barbara area. Examples are below.. By Davis Jensen This is far from Jensen's most impressive work: I can't find it on the Web. Even his website doesn't show his best stuff: lush California farm landscapes with an incidental truck here or there. "Goin' to Town" - Jon Francis Francis is another artist who likes putting a pickup truck into a scene. His Web page is here. Again, most of what I consider his best paintings featuring trucks are not on the Internet. For what it's worth, here are two more. "Red Truck" - Jon Francis "Autumn Truck" - Jon Francis What follows is not a pickup. But I liked seeing it in the gallery nevertheless: "1940 Fun" - Jon Francis This isn't the "Cisco Kid California" of the 1800s, but the California I might have experienced as a boy had I been born there (as Francis was: he's a near-contemporary). You might have noticed that none of the trucks shown is new. They're from the 1950s or before, though all seem to be depicted as they might be seen today (the red truck excepted, perhaps). Must be that brand new trucks lack character. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 6, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

"Fat Head" Now Available
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Back here and here I interviewed Tom Naughton, a standup comedian and software guy who was in the process of finishing his first movie, "Fat Head." Amusing, likable, and amazingly informative, "Fat Head" is both a documentary response to Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me" and a muckraking expose of the lowfat-eating dogma. (You think this is a trivial matter? One doctor involved in researching the supposed benefits of eating lowfat called its theoretical basis -- the "lipid hypothesis" -- "perhaps the greatest scientific fraud of the 20th century.") "Fat Head" is also, IMHO, a triumph of self-financed, hands-on, DYI filmmaking, plain-speaking funny-regular-guy division. I'm glad to learn that "Fat Head" is now finished and available. Though I don't see it listed at Netflix yet, you can buy yourself a copy at Amazon. Dr. Michael Eades -- a luminary in the low-carb-eating cosmos (buy the excellent "Protein Power Lifeplan" here). and a generous and enlightening interviewee in "Fat Head" -- interviews Tom Naughton here. Here's the website Tom has made for his movie. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 6, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Potential Defect of Abstract Painting
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Not long ago I wrote about painter David Leffel and a book compiled from notes taken from his classes. When I was in Santa Monica last week I dropped by the Hennessey & Ingalls book store, a source of great temptation. One of the temptations I succumbed to was this book by him. As with the first one, a Zen-like overtone intrudes, though thus far I'm finding it worth the $85 it cost. One of Leffel's remarks struck me because of its obviousness and the fact that its point had never occurred to me. In reference to an artist evolving over his career, he said (page 130): How do abstract painters know when they are getting better ??? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 5, 2009 | perma-link | (28) comments

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How to Behave?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Enough with simply sniping at our corrupt-or-incompetent Keynesian class. Criticism is too easy. What would an Austrian actually do? * Gotta love our dynamic and driven new young women. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 4, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments

Video Goodness
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Colleen is a motivator. * The Christian Bale Remix. (NSFW for language.) * L'il O'Reilly evaluates Obama's first week in office. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * What's the latest in sex toys? (NSFW, as if you needed telling.) * Guy Clark loves Texas cookin'. * A well-done parody of a certain kind of French musical-film style. (Thanks once again to websurfin' virtuoso Charlton.) The real thing. * Nonvideo Bonus: How much of a geek are you? I didn't make a dent on that scale. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 4, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

The Time is Now
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, I was going to do an analysis of the Obama Administration bank bailout plan as revealed in this Washington Post story, Bank Rescue Would Entail Triage for Troubled Assets, but I looked around the web and decided that more articulate (and credible) voices than my own have spoken. I’ll limit myself to asking three questions. Question #1: will it work? Is the bank rescue plan likely to succeed or make our situation worse? Yves Smith, former investment banker and financial consultant, comments in her post, The Bad Bank Assets Proposal: Even Worse Than You Imagined: The Obama Administration, if the Washington Post's latest report is accurate, is about to embark on a hugely expensive "save the banking industry at all costs" experiment that: (1) Has nothing substantive in common with any of the "deemed as successful" financial crisis programs, (2) has key elements that studies of financial crises have recommended against, and (3) consumes considerable resources, thus competing with other, in many cases better, uses of fiscal firepower. […] Why is this a bad idea? Let's turn to a study by the IMF of 124 banking crises [warning, PDF]. Their conclusion: "Existing empirical research has shown that providing assistance to banks and their borrowers can be counterproductive, resulting in increased losses to banks, which often abuse forbearance to take unproductive risks at government expense. The typical result of forbearance is a deeper hole in the net worth of banks, crippling tax burdens to finance bank bailouts, and even more severe credit supply contraction and economic decline than would have occurred in the absence of forbearance." In case you had any doubts, propping up dud asset values is a form of forbearance. Japan had a different way of going about it, but the philosophy was similar, and the last 15 year illustrates how well that worked. Question #2: Who will this proposal benefit? Mike (“Mish”) Shedlock, investment adviser, sums that up in his post, Triage for Troubled Assets: Here's the deal. The government will buy the worst assets, dramatically overpay for them, stick taxpayers will the losses, and only reduce bonus pools of the banks by 40%. It's a great deal for those in the bonus pools. It's a horrid deal for everyone else. Per the Washington Post story, the Obama Administration is trying to pretty up the horrible optics of this rescue by imposing salary caps on financial institutions receiving extraordinary assistance under this plan. Mish has a blunt rejoinder to that one, too: For the record, I am not in favor of salary caps, especially caps imposed by the government. I am in favor of letting the free market work. What would happen under a free market approach is these executives would be out on their ass and their companies bankrupt and sold off in pieces. Question #3: What does this deal say about the current nature of the USA as a political entity? Yves Smith doesn’t mince too many words: The Obama... posted by Friedrich at February 4, 2009 | perma-link | (23) comments

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Political Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * I don't know about you but I'm certainly feeling much refreshed by all the "change" that I'm seeing in D.C. * Ron Paul thinks that, at least where foreign policy is concerned, Obama means more of the same. * Time to secede? * Or maybe New York State should break up? * Randall Parker wonders what's going to happen when other countries get tired of subsidizing our debt. * Justin Raimondo thinks that an easy way for the U.S. to save some major bucks would be for us to give up our empire. Writes Raimondo: "You'd be surprised how much of our military expenditures amount to maintaining our overseas empire and really have nothing to do with the defense of the continental United States." * Some retirees who played by the rules and saved their nickles are now in trouble, and are now having to look for jobs. Too bad there aren't any. Fun to live in a society where you get penalized for behaving sensibly and responsibly, isn't it? * Do libertarians really have to love Wal-Mart? * Heather Macdonald is pretty funny about the PC "gender" idiocies of the NYTimes' Natalie Angier. * Arnold Kling notices a pattern. * Remember the "digital divide"? A crisis! Something -- anything! -- desperately needed to be done! Well, it turns out that many of the people who don't have broadband ... don't want it. Yet more substantiation for The Official MBlowhard Guide to Political Action: Nine times out of ten, nothing really needs to be done. * Andrew Klavan enjoys Roger Simon's memoir about moving from left to right in Hollywood. * Edge's John Brockman poses a provocative question: What is going to change everything? A lot of excellent responses from a stable of high-powered brainiacs, 2Blowhards fave Gregory Cochran among them. Best, Michael UPDATE: Virginia Conservative takes the time to make a serious case for secession.... posted by Michael at February 3, 2009 | perma-link | (7) comments

Bad Guys, Good Guy, Austrians
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Meet 25 of the main people who got us into this mess. And make the acquaintance of Peter Schiff, who saw it coming. Me, I'm puzzled by something. Given that the downturn has taken shape in a way that seems right out of the Austrian school of economics playbook (Schiff is an Austrian), wouldn't you expect mainstream economists to be admitting that maybe the Austrians make some pretty good points? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 3, 2009 | perma-link | (23) comments

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fortified Traffic Information
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I suppose I should have noticed it sooner. No doubt the stuff was in place the last time I was in the Los Angeles area. But better late than whenever. It's the barbed wire. The concertina type, actually. Or as best I can tell when cruising the freeways at 65 miles per hour (lucky me, that day on good old California 60). And what is all that barbed wire protecting? Those large, green freeway information signs attached to overpasses or cantilevered over the roadway. You know, the ones announcing upcoming exits and that sort of thing. Apparently the barbed wire was placed to protect the signs from graffiti artists, taggers and other paint spray-can jocks. The signs attached to overpasses have concertina wire along their edges in the manner of a picture frame, making it hazardous to reach across the sign. For those affixed to frames anchored to a post on the side of the road, the post is wrapped with the wire near its top to prevent graffiti guys from getting to the sign. Small green signs attached to medial barriers and other places tend to be unprotected and are often liberally sprayed. Apparently Caltrans (the state highway department) hasn't yet gotten word that graffiti represents an important art form and avenue of cultural expression. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 2, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Amazing that this kind of thing doesn't happen more often, isn't it? (NSFW) Vaguely related: Some inspired hacker mischief. (Link thanks to visitor William S.) Austin, TX, has a very cute Spokeswoman for Public Works. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 2, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Stop the Super-Madoff
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, Today’s New York Times has an interesting column by Paul Krugman that perfectly encapsulates the amazing scam which the financial elite are, by all rumors, going to pull over on the citizenry of the good old USA. The scam, by the way, refers to the multi-trillion dollar bank rescue about to issue forth from our "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. This is not only bad public policy, but a transfer of wealth from the innocent to the guilty that will make old Bernie Madoff look like a pisher. The piece is entitled “Bailouts for Bunglers”, and you should read it in its quite short entirety. The central point is as follows: “We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we’d like to do our best to preserve that system,” says Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary — as he prepares to put taxpayers on the hook for that system’s immense losses. Meanwhile, a Washington Post report based on administration sources says that Mr. Geithner and Lawrence Summers, President Obama’s top economic adviser, “think governments make poor bank managers” — as opposed, presumably, to the private-sector geniuses who managed to lose more than a trillion dollars in the space of a few years. Once again: the question is not whether the U.S. needs a functioning banking system. It does. The question is whether the U.S. needs to spend whatever of your money it takes to make the CURRENT, DEEPLY COMPROMISED banking system (and all of its highly paid dependents) not merely functional, but happily profitable again. The alternative? It would seem well within the bounds of possibility to create a new banking sytem sufficient to handle our needs with the $350 billion we still have in hand; that is, the second half of the TARP money. Leveraged a conservative 10-to-1 that would create $3.5 trillion in new lending capacity. More than enough for the task, boys, particularly in a recession. The money could be put into new publicly owned banks (soon to be privatized) or into existing, but actually solvent banks. I certainly don’t care. Then we could say to the current set of “troubled,” too-big-to-fail institutions -- Citi, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, all of whom are dead men walking, insolvent, kaput -- sayonara, adios amigos, see ya in FDIC receivership. Any still-valuable assets they possess will be sold, and the resulting losses will fall on their employee, shareholders, creditors (appropriately), and, of course, the taxpayer who will have to keep the ensured depositors and other guaranted parties whole (sadly, but necessarily). Not a free solution, but much, MUCH cheaper than the keep everybody-but-the-taxpayer happy solution Mr. Geithner contemplates. Why, you may ask, would such a strange scheme be seriously suggested by supposedly responsible government employees? The short and simple answer is that the zombie banks, and their employees, and their “dependents”... posted by Friedrich at February 2, 2009 | perma-link | (12) comments

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Steve Sailer is shrewd and funny about that Whittier, CA woman who just gave birth to octuplets: here and here. Fun fact: the hospital says it will spend around $3 million dollars on care for the eight babies. Best, Michael SEMI-RELATED UPDATE: Your bailout dollars at work. The AP's Frank Bass and Rita Beamish write: "The figures are significant because they show that the bailed-out banks, being kept afloat with U.S. taxpayer money, actively sought to hire foreign workers instead of American workers." Hey, whaddya say we just ship money directly from our bank accounts to random foreigners? Speaking of banks ... Time magazine's Stephen Gandel calculates that the U.S. government's annualized rate of return on the bailout money it has thrown at banks has so far been -1096%.... posted by Michael at February 1, 2009 | perma-link | (6) comments