Archive for November, 2007

With good judgment, little else matters. Without it, nothing else matters.

Friday, November 30th, 2007

The Wall Street Journal had an editorial this past Thursday by Warren Bennis, a professor of business at the University of Southern California and Noel Tichy, a professor of business at the University of Michigan and co-authors of Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls which was published earlier this month. In exploring the theme of experience versus judgment, they came down on the side of judgment (link behind subscriber firewall):

Where do we put our money? First, let us cite Ted Sorenson, one of John F. Kennedy’s closest advisers and speechwriters. When asked about his former boss’s judgment, Mr. Sorenson responded, “I cannot emphasize how important that elusive quality is; far more important than organization, structure, procedures and machinery. These are all important, yes, but nothing compared to judgment.”

After a five-year study of leadership covering virtually all sectors of American life, we came to the inescapable conclusion that judgment regularly trumps experience. Our central finding is that judgment is the core, the nucleus of exemplary leadership. With good judgment, little else matters. Without it, nothing else matters…

Judgment isn’t quite an unnatural act, but it also doesn’t come naturally…

Yes, Mrs. Clinton, experience is not without value. But judgment, fed by solid character, should determine the choice of our next president. [my emphasis]

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Chris Rock: “You’d be real embarrassed” if Obama Won and You Supported “That White Lady”

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Barack Obama was in New York City last night and unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it as I did his Washington Square Park event in September. By most accounts, the event was a huge success as Obama continued to use the new stump speech he premiered at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Iowa earlier this month to great acclaim. Over 1,500 were packed into the Apollo Theater including Dr. Cornell West, Chris Rock, and the Reverend Al Sharpton, who is still on the fence about the Clinton-Obama match-up. Barack has consistently had strong showings in the New York City area and as happened at the two other campaign events I attended in New York, Obama attracted overflow crowds.

Chris Rock introduced Barack to the audience just a few blocks away from Bill Clinton’s Harlem office, slipping in a reference to “that white lady” who happens to be Bill’s wife, and explaining how George Bush has actually met our expectations as a nation:


From Newsday:

“I want to stand up for those who still hunger for opportunity, who still thirst for justice. I don’t want to wake up four years from now to find that we missed the opportunity. We cannot wait.”

At this point, it is hard to deny the momentum is building for Obama as many take a second look at Clinton and a first serious look at the race.

A note on Chris Rock‘s performance: Evidently not at his best last night. The line he delivered fell flat, but I think this phrasing, stolen from FoxNews is an improvement.

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Obama meeting with Mayor Bloomberg?

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Here Matt Drudge goes again – a headline suggestive of something, but no one knows what. It’s just enough to get everyone talking. And chances are this is true – not because everything Drudge reports is true, but because, as this doesn’t fit into any Republican or Clinton agenda that I can think of, he has little reason to run it if it weren’t.

I can’t think of a reason Obama would be meeting with Bloomberg now – with the race so tight in Iowa and every moment precious – unless Bloomberg reached out in some way and wanted to discuss an endorsement. This is only my speculation, but nothing else seems to fit.

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Some fun stuff

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

This site will demonstrate to you Motion Induced Blindness.
via reddit

Just slightly offensive: “Beer is turning guys into girls”.
via reddit as well

15 brilliantly timed sports photos.
via reddit of course.


Operation Lucky Bag, Part II

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

operation lucky bag

Now that the NYPD has handled the murder problem in New York City (2007 is on pace to have the lowest rate on record), they are turning to other issues.

The New York Times reports of a new police sting operation:

At first, an epidemic of absent-mindedness seemed to have broken out.

One purse was found just sitting on a display shelf in the shoe department at Macy’s. Another one turned up downstairs, in Macy’s Cellar. Yet another rested on a chair in a Midtown McDonald’s, left by a woman who had stepped into the restroom. In fact, all three items had been planted by police officers in plainclothes during the previous six weeks. And the three people who picked them up were arrested, and now face indictment on charges that could land them in state prison.

Nine months ago, a similar police decoy program called Operation Lucky Bag was effectively shut down by prosecutors and judges who were concerned that it was sweeping up the civic-minded alongside those bent on larceny. Shopping bags, backpacks and purses were left around the subway system, then stealthily watched by undercover officers. They arrested anyone who took the items and walked past a police officer in uniform without reporting the discovery.

Now, a new version of the operation has started to catch people in public places outside the subways, and at much higher stakes, Criminal Court records show. Unlike the initial program, in which the props were worth at most a few hundred dollars, the bags are now salted with real American Express cards, issued under pseudonyms to the Police Department. Because the theft of a credit card is grand larceny, a Class E felony, those convicted could face sentences of up to four years. The charges in the first round of Operation Lucky Bag were nearly all petty larceny, a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

Christopher Orr over at The New Republic has this comment:

So after the original program was shut down for entrapping too many innocents, the police decided to widen its scope and increase the criminal penalties?

At least the NYPD hasn’t netted anyone in it’s bathroom sex sting operation.

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The Iraq Thing

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

“Even though I approved of Afghanistan and opposed Iraq from the beginning,” said Clinton, “I still resent that I was not asked or given the opportunity to support those soldiers.”

So Bill Clinton said yesterday in Iowa. Most people – myself included – were under the impression that the former president supported the Iraq war. Perhaps it was items like the one below that led me to such conclusions. Most of the commenters on this have concluded that Bill Clinton is trying to rewrite history. But parsing Clinton’s statements reveals something else. He made statements again and again that would lead any reasonable observer to believe he supported the invasion, but on closer examination, it depends on what your definition of is is.
In an interview with Time magazine in June 2004, Bill Clinton was asked if President Bush was right to invade Iraq.

You know, I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq, even though I think he should have waited until the U.N. inspections were over. I don’t believe he went in there for oil. We didn’t go in there for imperialist or financial reasons. We went in there because he bought the Wolfowitz-Cheney analysis that the Iraqis would be better off, we could shake up the authoritarian Arab regimes in the Middle East, and our leverage to make peace between the Palestinians and Israelis would be increased.

At the moment the U.N. inspectors were kicked out in ’98, this is the proper language: there were substantial quantities of botulinum and aflatoxin, as I recall, some bioagents, I believe there were those, and VX and ricin, chemical agents, unaccounted for. Keep in mind, that’s all we ever had to work on. We also thought there were a few missiles, some warheads, and maybe a very limited amount of nuclear laboratory capacity.

After 9/11, let’s be fair here, if you had been President, you’d think, Well, this fellow bin Laden just turned these three airplanes full of fuel into weapons of mass destruction, right? Arguably they were super-powerful chemical weapons. Think about it that way. So, you’re sitting there as President, you’re reeling in the aftermath of this, so, yeah, you want to go get bin Laden and do Afghanistan and all that. But you also have to say, Well, my first responsibility now is to try everything possible to make sure that this terrorist network and other terrorist networks cannot reach chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material. I’ve got to do that.

That’s why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for. So I thought the President had an absolute responsibility to go to the U.N. and say, “Look, guys, after 9/11, you have got to demand that Saddam Hussein lets us finish the inspection process.” You couldn’t responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these stocks. I never really thought he’d [use them]. What I was far more worried about was that he’d sell this stuff or give it away. Same thing I’ve always been worried about North Korea’s nuclear and missile capacity. I don’t expect North Korea to bomb South Korea, because they know it would be the end of their country. But if you can’t feed yourself, the temptation to sell this stuff is overwhelming. So that’s why I thought Bush did the right thing to go back. When you’re the President, and your country has just been through what we had, you want everything to be accounted for.

I’ve excerpted the entire response here for two reasons: 1) to demonstrate that I’m not selectively highlighting certain statements; and 2) to show how deftly President Clinton failed to answer the question. If I read this at the time, I would have been under the strong impression that Bill Clinton supported the invasion of Iraq. If I had read the text extremely closely, trying to determine if he had actually said he supported the invasion, I would have found that he had not. Clinton is suddenly vague when saying what he supports: calling it “the Iraq thing”.

A charitable reader, or even a normal person, would take this to mean that the individual speaking could not think of the appropriate word for a moment. But if, three years later, President Clinton is insisting that he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, the whole conversation takes on a different cast: his comments are clearly designed to lead someone to believe he did support the invasion, but he was apparently careful enough not to say this directly. A lie is a statement that deviates from or perverts the truth. Clinton spoke as if he were trying to avoid being charged with perjury while avoiding the truth. But his intent is now clear.

In short, we shouldn’t be surprised: Bill Clinton lied for political reasons.

Meanwhile, Marc Ambinder explains how Bill’s statements have been hurting Hillary.

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Overrated Much?

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

The Daily News’ article starts off a little less breathless than the headline:

Now Oprah Winfrey’s saleswomanship will be put to an ultimate test: Can she influence the course of American politics by helping vault Barack Obama into the White House?

By the third paragraph though, the hype suddenly jumps into overdrive:

Her power is almost unprecedented. Her show, now in its third decade, has helped shape the national debate on a huge range of issues and, with a few well-placed words, changed the buying habits of millions and put once-obscure books on the best-seller list.

Michael Saul, The Daily News‘ writer concludes on this jarring note:

Yesterday, Obama downplayed the power of Winfrey’s endorsement. “Ultimately, I’m going to have to make the sale,” he said.

I am not sure anyone can be said to be downplaying an endorsement by mentioning that, in the end, the election comes down to the candidate him or herself.

The Oprah story is getting a lot of play – I saw it on the cover of Newday and The Daily News this morning, and a Google News search reveals over 300 stories written around the world about the television diva’s decision to campaign for Barack Obama. From my brief foray into these stories, they all ask the same question: “What effect will Oprah have on the raceNervous Bill and Hillary?” They all strive to come to a clean answer, and end up with, “I don’t know.” But that doesn’t seem to stop the headline writers who have variously written: in Time magazine, “Why Oprah Won’t Help Obama”; at MSNBC, “How will Oprah’s endorsement affect 2008?” (Answer: The author doesn’t know.); the Toronto Star asks a similar question: Can Oprah boost Obama’s political dream?” and answers in the same manner. The National Review‘s Myrna Blyth teases her readership with the headline: “Obama-Oprah 2008”. The subhead reveals the tease for what it is however: another over-processed story: “Can Oprah sell her favorite candidate?” I personally liked the Washington Post‘s approach best. They coupled a boring article covering all the celebrities converging on Iowa and New Hampshire without much hype but with this picture of Bill and Hillary looking very nervous. In other news, the Post article also reveals that John Edwards is sending in BONNIE RAITT. If this was a war of celebrities (and what else is a campaign but that), you know you’re leading the pack when you have Bonnie Raitt, who was kind of big a dozen years ago, as your top celeb campaigner.

Yet another day in the Freak Show that is our political system.

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Our Lady of the Law

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

I’m still hoping someone out there has the full text of this speech by former Governor Cuomo that is being called “Our Lady of the Law”:

Cuomo said we have to make them understand that we are after

“something sweeter than the taste of partisan victory”

The clear message was that he fully expected that it was the obligation of lawyers everywhere to speak up in support of the Rule of Law or as he persisted in calling it “Our Lady of the Law.” That he expected us to take to the streets, to the OpEd pages, the airwaves, and to every other medium available to us…

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How Kucinich Found Love

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

From a 2005 article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer republished at Common Dreams. I will not comment at all, but instead let the excerpts speak for themselves.

While Dennis was sure of his attraction at their initial meeting, he didn’t know how Elizabeth felt. Several nights later, in his Washington office, he sat at his desk and thought about her. “Basically, I asked for a sign,” he says. Seconds later, ping! went his computer, alerting him to an e-mail.

It was from Elizabeth. The first line read, “This has no connection to work.” Dennis was ecstatic.

She was forwarding an e-mail from one of her friends that related to the peace legislation he had proposed as a presidential candidate. He noticed her signature quote at the end: “Knowing love I shall allow all things to come and go, to be as supple as the wind and take everything that comes with great courage. My heart is as open as the sky.”

This gave Dennis hope.

[Elizabeth’s mother], too, found the age difference – Elizabeth’s 27 years to Dennis’s 58 – insignificant. “This is about a meeting of souls.”

“People who see us together understand – they see our connection,” Elizabeth says. “And it’s not like I’m some ditsy young thing and he’s an old fogey. He has the wisdom of an ancient and the energy of youth.”

Dennis says, “I’ve never seen myself as time-bound. When you make a connection on a soul level, age is not important.”

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Does winning the Supreme Court galvanize social movements?

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

JB over at the Balkinization blog has an insightful post about whether or not “winning in the Supreme Court” galvanizes social movements.  His conclusion: in the short term, it galvanizes the loser of the case, and in the long-term, tends to work for the winner.  In analyzing what is likely to happen after the Heller decision, which JB assumes will be in favor of gun owners, he writes:

Conversely, it is possible that right wing groups like the NRA, unlike the women’s movement, the pro-choice movement, the civil rights movement, and the gay rights movement, will not be demobilized in the short run by a major victory in the courts but in fact will be ever more galvanized. But I wouldn’t bet on it. My guess is that following what I predict will be a significant victory in Heller, the NRA and other gun rights groups will overinvest in litigation to push for additional gun rights victories in the courts, and they will simultaneously experience a short term drop-off in contributions and movement energies.

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