Posts tagged ‘VP’

Biden on Government

From the New York Daily News, quoting VP Biden: (via Maggies Farm)

Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive

Wow, its hard to believe that even a hard core statist believes this in the face of historical evidence, but there it is.  The example  (and remember even a single correct example does not support the word "every") is an interesting one:

"In the middle of the Civil War you had a guy named Lincoln paying people $16,000 for every 40 miles of track they laid across the continental United States. "¦ No private enterprise would have done that for another 35 years."

I am actually stunned that he is historically literate enough to get the second part of this right, that there was in fact a single transcontinental railroad, James J Hill's Great Northern, that completed its line without government subsidies or land grants.  He even gets the date about right.  A few thoughts:

  • Not mentioned by Biden is the emergence of the entire rest of the US railroad industry, which by 1860 had about 30,000 miles of track, mostly via private initiative.
  • I think the original transcontinental railroad has interesting parallels to the Apollo program -- certainly government action got us into space and a transcontinental railroad faster than private action, but it could be argued that both delayed private initiative in these areas longer than would have occurred without the action.
  • For Lincoln in the Civil War, the transcontinental had as much to do with cementing Union control of California as it did promoting commerce or any other values

Here is my favorite fact -- Every single transcontinental railroad went bankrupt at least once before 1925, except one.  Can you guess which one did not?  Yes, it was the Great Northern, the only one built entirely with private capital.

I Don't Get It

As y'all know, I am not a member of either the Coke or Pepsi party, so I find all the partisan mudslinging on the political blogs to be just kind of funny.  Particularly when both sides are piously accusing the other of exactly the same behavior, while maintaining that they are immune from said behavior  (or only engaging in it because the other guy started it).

I really don't understand political strategy.  I admit this.  Take global warming.  I really thought the CRU email thing was a minor distraction.  After all, the there were so many fundamental flaws in the science and scientific process that a lot of the CRU stuff was old news to those who have paid attention.  But I was wrong.  There was something about the scandal that was more compact and easy to tell, it fit into a box or storyline familiar to both the media that had to report it and the public that had to consume it.  I understood the whole scandal and its impact so poorly that I have done little blogging at my climate site lately, as I still can't get excited blogging about commissions and investigations into the scandal that seem to obsess the skeptic community currently.

So I won't say that this strategy by Kevin Drum is wrong, I will just say I don't understand it:

On Twitter, here was my insta-reaction to Obama's oil spill address from the Oval Office:

What a terrible speech.

Unfair? Maybe! I mean, compared to Sarah Palin's (literally) incomprehensible burbling on Bill O'Reilly's show afterward it was a model of straight talk and reassurance. But that's a pretty low bar.

What's the deal with Sarah Palin?  I swear she gets more pub from her enemies than her supporters.  How does it somehow help a sitting President -- who was supposedly elected because he was the most competent person of all time -- to be compared, however favorably, to a woman with limited political experience who holds no office?  Granted the Republicans really have no one of distinction leading them right now, and Palin is about the only Republican in years with any modicum of charisma.  But since when have losing VP candidates been the standard against which Presidents are measured?

This is Why I Left Corporate America

Once I entered management-type jobs in corporate America, my life was dominated by making powerpoint charts.  That made some sense - I was a staff planner, and that's what they do.  Ten years later I was Senior VP of Marketing for the $23 billion commercial aerospace division of a Fortune 50 company, and I was still spending a huge portion of my time making powerpoint slides.

I am sure other people have lots of sophisticated life goals for themselves, but two of my biggest goals in leaving large corporations were:

  • Never touch powerpoint again
  • Never wear a tie again

I have been succesful 100% on #2.  Powerpoint is still a useful tool, so I not totally fulfilled goal #1, but my use is scaled way back, to about 4 presentations in 6 years  (and one of these was for my climate work, not my real job).

It turns out the military has the same problem.

Silly Season is Here

I seldom comment on politics per se, but the whole brouhaha about Obama's use of the phrase "lipstick on a pig" somehow referring to the Republican VP nominee is just silly.  I used the phrase myself the other day.  "Pig" no more was meant to refer to Ms. Palin than using the terms "slavish devotion" or "niggardly" are meant to be racist (though they have similarly been so interpreted). 

PS-  It is entertaining to see that Republicans will play the race/gender victim card as quickly as will the Democrats.

Lucky Here Too

Travis writes about how a customer of his web service tracked him down at home at gave him a 40-minute earful -- and why he was very lucky the customer did so, in that it revealed some problems in his delivery process of which he was not aware.

Ditto here.  I was just about to write about a very similar experience on Friday, where a customer of ours ran into a new manager who was just hell bent on collecting an extra $4 he thought we were owed -- four lousy dollars -- and this employee managed to progressively anger, then intimidate, and then outright scare a customer, up to and including trying to reach in and grab stuff out of the customer's car.  The father of a woman in the car contacted us absolutely irate -- as well he should have been.  After about 2 hours of patient listening, we got dad and the other unfortunate customers calmed down.  They will all be getting some nice freebies in the mail, and apparently we will end up with a laudatory rather than hostile customer letter, as the customers ended up being impressed that our regional VP and the out-of-state owner would spend so much time with them trying to figure out what was wrong.  I will say it was easy to be sympathetic, as I was horrified by the story.  I felt personal shame that such actions were taken in my name  (if this sounds silly or exaggerated, think again.  I have talked to a lot of people who have built successful service companies, and every one shares stories of experiencing similar shame for boneheaded actions taken by employees on their behalf.)

Unfortunately, the manager in question had to go -- this was the second time in a very short period where the manager had shown poor judgement in customer service situations.  The manager was a nice person who interviewed great and did a lot of things well, but my experience is that if you don't have good judgement on such customer service interactions, you are not suddenly going to get it next week.  So, like Travis, we were lucky to head off a potential problem before it got worse, and we were lucky to be given a chance to turn around the customers' experience.

The frustrating thing for me is that this manager had just been to my personal customer service training.  At this training I lecture several times over two days fairly passionately about customer service issues, and in fact I cover situations almost identical to the one here.  I even say in the training "I don't want you or your employees going to battle with customers over small amounts of money."

We have found that there are certain people who simply cannot put their ego aside when dealing with a customer.  If these type people get it into their head that the customer is somehow trying to get over on them or the company, even for $4, they will dig in their heals and refuse to let the customer come out on top.  In their mind, the customer is a "bad" person and does not deserve to win, and there is no way they are going to take the ego hit in letting the "bad" customer have a small victory at their expense.  But as I tell employees all the time -- if you refuse to apologize to the customer, you are not counting coup on the customer, all you are doing is delegating the task to Warren (the owner) because he is certainly going to give that customer an apology.  And likely a bunch for free camping as well.  And do you know what some employee's reactions are to my giving that customer an apology and some freebies?  They get mad at me, for not backing them up and letting that "bad" customer get away with whatever they think he is getting away with!

While absolutely predictable that some people will act this way, I have found it nearly impossible to screen for this in the interview process, and totally impossible to train this characteristic out of people.  The best we can do is watch for the first signs of these traits and let folks who evidence them go as soon as possible.  That is also why we try to make it a hard and fast rule that we never hire managers directly from outside the company, we only promote managers from field service employees who have shown good judgment on the front lines.  Once in a blue moon we ignore this rule, as we did when hiring the managers I had to fire on Friday.  Which just goes to show that it is probably a pretty good rule for our business.

Valeria Plame Affair and the Law of Unintended Consequences

I must confess to being at a loss over the whole Valerie Plame leak affair, which strikes me as mostly a political battleground between the two parties, so I have not really tried to figure it out. 

However, one thing struck me reading a story about it the other day:  The only thing that was clear to me was that folks on the left seem to envision an ultimate goal of bringing down either Karl Rove or Dick Cheney.  From a short-term political standpoint, I suppose this might be satisfying.  From a longer-term view, say out to 2008, it seems stupid to me.

Let's take Karl Rove first.  I have to take the left's word for it that he is an evil political genius.  But if so, why would you want the guy out on the street.  Right now he is wasting his talents on a lame-duck president who can't run in 2008, and neither can his VP.  Why do you want to put this powerful piece of electioneering artillery out on the street, available to a Republican candidate several years in advance of 2008?

The backfire from bringing down Cheney seems even worse.  As I pointed out a year ago, 2008 will be the first election in 50+ years where there is no incumbent VP or president running for either party.  There is nothing Republicans would love to do more than have a VP spot they could fill with a 2008 candidate.  The GOP Party apparatus would love it, because both Parties secretly long for a return to the day of smoke-filled rooms (rather than primaries) for selecting their candidates, and this would give Party leaders more control of the outcome.  There is nothing either party hates more than having Iowa select its candidates from an open slate - being able to choose a new VP would allow the GOP to effectively choose a front-runner.  The GOP would benefit no matter who is put in the position, because the suddenly have an incumbent running, with the advantages of being an incumbent, in 2008.  Does anyone doubt that the VP would suddenly get extra visibility over the next few years, as Clinton did for Gore?  Finally, Bush would love it, because it would give him another Miers-type opportunity to reward a friend (or crony, as your perspective may dictate) such as Condoleeza Rice.

Best of Coyote II

Well, it worked for Johnny Carson, why not for me?  Instead of
leaving you with dead air (photons?) while I am knocking the rust off
my beer pong skills back at Princeton, I will share with you a few of
my favorite posts from my early days of blogging.  Since most of these
posts were viewed by about 5 people, there is a certain temptation to
just recycle them without attribution, given the unlikelihood of
getting caught.  Instead, though, I will share them as my best of
Coyote...


This post was from just after the last election, and was titled "Something Unusual Will Happen in 2008".  This was my first ever Instalanche (though the record books put an asterisk next to this one because it was from one of Glenn's guest bloggers) and I still think it makes an interesting point about the next election.

Assuming Cheney does not want to run for president, which I think is
a given, something will happen in 2008 that has not happened in 56
years since 1952: Neither of the two major-party presidential
candidates will be incumbents of the President or Vice-President jobs.
In 1952 we had Eisenhower vs. Stevenson. Since then we have always had
incumbents running, though not necessarily successfully -
1956: Eisenhower
1960: Nixon
1964: Johnson
1968: Humphrey
1972: Nixon
1976: Ford
1980: Carter
1984: Mondale and Reagan
1988: Bush
1992: Bush
1996: Clinton
2000: Gore
2004: Bush v 1.1

I guess the only exception you could make to this is if you called Hillary an incumbent.  Full list of presidents and VP's here

UPDATE

I didn't just bury the conclusion, but left it out entirely. The
point is that 2008 is likely to be a zoo. Not one but two wide open
nominating battles, plus of course the general election. Can we please,
please before then try to figure out a way to choose our candidates
other than just letting Iowa do it?

UPDATE #2

Welcome Instapundit (guess I need to send a check to my host for
more bandwidth). While you are here, you might check out my latest
roundup on Kyoto and Global Warming, as well as an interesting analysis on the economic and political success of ex-French vs. ex-Anglo/American colonies.  Short answer is that you didn't want the French as masters.

UPDATE #3

Check out the comments section, which has several good posts
handicapping the Republican candidates in 2008. Several people suggest
a Republican strategy to replace Cheney mid-term with their next
candidate. I know that the leadership of both political parties lament
their loss of control, due to the primary system, in selecting their
nominee, and this certainly would be an intriguing way of getting
around that and the Iowa/NH problem. However, the move is so
transparently Machiavellian, and I think unprecedented, that the first
party to try it will probably get punished in the court of public
opinion.

Something Unusual Will Happen in 2008

Assuming Cheney does not want to run for president, which I think is a given, something will happen in 2008 that has not happened in 56 years since 1952: Neither of the two major-party presidential candidates will be incumbents of the President or Vice-President jobs. In 1952 we had Eisenhower vs. Stevenson. Since then we have always had incumbents running, though not necessarily successfully -
1956: Eisenhower
1960: Nixon
1964: Johnson
1968: Humphrey
1972: Nixon
1976: Ford
1980: Carter
1984: Mondale and Reagan
1988: Bush
1992: Bush
1996: Clinton
2000: Gore
2004: Bush v 1.1

I guess the only exception you could make to this is if you called Hillary an incumbent. Full list of presidents and VP's here

UPDATE

I didn't just bury the conclusion, but left it out entirely. The point is that 2008 is likely to be a zoo. Not one but two wide open nominating battles, plus of course the general election. Can we please, please before then try to figure out a way to choose our candidates other than just letting Iowa do it?

UPDATE #2

Welcome Instapundit (guess I need to send a check to my host for more bandwidth). While you are here, you might check out my latest roundup on Kyoto and Global Warming, as well as an interesting analysis on the economic and political success of ex-French vs. ex-Anglo/American colonies. Short answer is that you didn't want the French as masters.

UPDATE #3

Check out the comments section, which has several good posts handicapping the Republican candidates in 2008. Several people suggest a Republican strategy to replace Cheney mid-term with their next candidate. I know that the leadership of both political parties lament their loss of control, due to the primary system, in selecting their nominee, and this certainly would be an intriguing way of getting around that and the Iowa/NH problem. However, the move is so transparently Machiavellian, and I think unprecedented, that the first party to try it will probably get punished in the court of public opinion.