August 31, 2007
This Time article on Edwards is an interesting document, painting Edwards as something near to an insurgent candidate, the underdog behind the campaigns of Obama and Clinton. This, too, is an important point:
For 30 years, Democratic contenders have hugged the political center and avoided such talk because they believed that populism scares away middle-class voters. But Edwards thinks those rules are finally changing, that voters everywhere are ready for a sharp critique of what's gone wrong. And he has one advantage his opponents lack: a sweet-tea voice that makes his tough talk go down easy. He isn't ranting; he's twanging like a bluegrass banjo, rolling along in full control—outraged on behalf of people who have lost their jobs or pensions to corporate restructuring, people who watch their children go off to "this mess of a war in Iraq."[...]
Edwards joins us on the bus, and soon he's musing on electability too. "I think most journalists would agree that I'm the most progressive, Senator Obama next, and Senator Clinton closest to the center. But I'd be willing to bet that if you ask most Americans the same question, they'd reverse it." That's not only, he says, because "she's a woman and he's an African American and Ah talk lahk thee-is. It's simple geography. Ask Middle Americans: You've got three Democratic candidates. One's from New York, one's from Chicago and one's from rural North Carolina. Who do you think is most like you?"
Edwards' ability to speak populism with an accent and tone that's mentally associated with common sense moderation is a significant advantage, one that allows a left-leaning run the other candidates can't replicate. An interesting sidenote to these comments is that Edwards made a similar argument to me when I interviewed him for my profile. But it was off-the-record. That he's making this appeal more publicly and explicitly shows his frustration with the hammerlock Obama and Clinton have on the media coverage, and his own frustration that the ideological differences between the candidates aren't being sussed out.
I'll be on tonight at 5:35 Eastern. Talking Snow, Craig, Gonzales, Katrina, etc....
The Cars Are Too Fast And Big!
Was just look,ing through yesterday's press briefing, and this struck me as funny:
Q Tony, since you are in a good mood --
MR. SNOW: Not according to Plante, I'm not. (Laughter.)
Q -- you could give me a serious answer on official motorcades, which I've spoken to you about earlier. Now, in the wake of this tragic -- second tragic death of a motorcycle policemen, and in the wake of, actually, an incident that happened last week to me and lots of others on Rock Creek Park when we were nearly wiped out by Cheney's motorcade, which are the biggest, the fastest and most aggressive I've ever seen in 40 years -- why in this day and age are official motorcades necessary? Can't they avoid narrow and windy roads where you can't get to the side, like Rock Creek? And thirdly, why do they have to be so fast and so huge --
MR. SNOW: Connie, I would refer all those comments to the people that do protective details. But I think in this day and age, a protective motorcade is, in fact, a necessity.
Q Do they have to be faster, do they have to be --
MR. SNOW: Connie, I'm just not competent to comment on that. Again, I would refer you to talk to the protective services.
Anyway, this may all be true. Seems like something DCist could look into...
What would happen if Larry Craig came out as a gay man, apologized for his tortured life in the closet and the unseemly things his personal conflicts made him do, and then said that, nevertheless, he'd always been a good and dedicated senator to the people of Idaho, and he meant to retain his seat and keep fighting for the upward redistribution and failed wars (or whatever) that first turned him onto public service?
He might lose the next election, of course. But maybe he wouldn't. And maybe he'd tap into an unexpected wellspring of libertarian attitudes and relative tolerance. Why not try?
Tony Snow And The Money
As expected, Tony Snow is resigning his post to, as Atrios put it, "spend more time with his conscience." Sorry, just kidding. I have no idea whether Snow has a conscience. He's resigning because he's out of money. Not long ago, he told Hugh Hewitt that "I’m not going to be able to go the distance, but that’s primarily for financial reasons. I’ve told people when my money runs out, then I’ve got to go."
Snow makes $170,000 a year. Real median income in this country is about $50,000. So this White House spokesperson doesn't think you can live on $170,000, but repeatedly told the press corps that "It is worth reminding people of how good this economy is."
Vacation Time Unplugged
The New York Times has an interesting article on vacation time practices at IBM. The company doesn't track vacation. Every worker gets three weeks, but they don't have to submit requests to use them, plan them in advance, or keep track of how much they've taken. They make informal arrangements with supervisors, leave some contact info, and jet.
Netflix is even better. They don't offer a set number of vacation days. You can take as many as you need, so long as you're getting your work done. "When you have a work force of fully formed professionals who have been working for much of their life,” Patty McCord, the chief talent officer of Netflix, said, “you have a connection between the work you do and how long it takes to do it, so you don’t need to have the clock-in and clock-out mentality.”
But there's a dark side here too. Having a set or tracked number of vacation days meant the company would encourage you to take them, or cash them out. If don't have a set number and they're not tracked, you're not encouraged, nor can you transform them into salary:
Frances Schneider, who retired from an I.B.M. sales division last year, after 34 years, said one thing never changed; there was not one year in which she took all her allotted time off.
“It wasn’t seven days a week, but people ended up putting in longer hours because of all the flexibility, without really thinking about it,” Ms. Schneider said. “Although you had this wonderful freedom to take days when you want, you really couldn’t.
Since IBM doesn't track the days, we don't know if Schneider's experience is representative. According to Netflix, most of their employees take three or four weeks a year, so maybe it's not a big problem.
This, too, was striking: "40 percent of I.B.M.’s employees have no dedicated offices, working instead at home, at a client’s site, or at one of the company’s hundreds of “e-mobility centers” around the world, where workers drop in to use phones, Internet connections and other resources."
Currently, I'm typing from my couch. This makes me feel lazy. But it also ensures I get much more done. I occasionally work from home in the mornings, but only when I have a mid-day event or a piece due. Otherwise, guilt propels me into the office. This is very stupid. On an average day, I wake up at 8, spend a bit of time not wanting to get out of bed, leave for the office around 9:20, spend about 45 minutes walking to/waiting for/taking/walking from the bus, get to the office, spend some time settling in and getting into work mode, and then begin blogging, sometime in the 10 o' clock hour.
If I'm working from home, I roll over, look at my computer, and begin writing by 8:30. Time wasted? Almost none. Productivity difference? High, particularly considering that there's no machinery or infrastructure that makes the office a more efficient spot from which to work. And my guess is that my experience is in no way rare. Yet few folks work from home. For a culture as obsessed with productivity as ours, it's strange we haven't embraced this near-costless way of boosting it.
Graph of the Day: George Bush Doesn't Care About Black, Brown, White, etc, People Edition
From EPI's analysis of the Census data:
The Bush years have been really bad if you're black. But they've been pretty weak if you're white, Hispanic, or simply living in this country.
How Do We Fix Inequality?
This may shock you, but the answer is more equitable public policies.
This is very funny:
I think it was Abraham Joshua Heschel — after he broke off with Reinhold Niebuhr and formed Jefferson Airplane — who observed that though the ancients counseled, “Know Thyself,” in 87 percent of actual cases, profound self-knowledge is not transforming. It’s just disappointing.
And this is never more true than when the beach self takes over. There is a boardwalk game near where we vacation where you roll balls into holes to try to get your mechanical horse across a track faster than your 11 opponents. You pay a dollar a game and if you win you get a stuffed horse worth 75 cents. My beach self has played that game for 15 years, and I have never once gotten up without secretly wishing I was playing again.
In my heart, I’d be happy to play that game 11 hours a day at the cost of several thousand dollars, and the only thing preventing me is that the Slovakian girl behind the counter might conclude that American men are pathetic.
Though this is definitely a difference -- at least in my experience -- between East Coast "shores" and West Coast beaches. Very few beaches in California have boardwalks, or ski-ball, or stores that sell shirts like this one:
You go to the beach to...sit on the beach. Or possibly surf. That's the activity. The beach isn't cover for a whole lot of other activities that are generally considered gauche, but suddenly --and thankfully -- become acceptable when your shorts have internal netting.
The Surge's Untrustworthy Numbers
The big factoid in favor of the surge is that violence is down. As Bush put it a few months back, "Within Baghdad, our military reports that despite an upward trend in May, sectarian murders in the capital are significantly down from what they were in January."
Devil, meet details. The Pentagon classifies violence as "sectarian killings," not simple murders. So those numbers don't count, among other things, Shia on Shia violence in the South, Sunni on Sunni violence -- including between al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and Iraqis Sunnis -- in the North, carbombings, and much else. But even within this vastly constrained definition, the Pentagon, without letting anyone in on their methodology, is changing the definition from month to month. Ilan Goldberg did the lord's work by graphing the Pentagon's numbers from the last few reports, and watch how the numbers for the very same months change with each successive report:
And we're not just seeing random fluctuations -- they're mainly changing downward, in order to reflect lower sectarian violence. But why would the January 2006 be lower in the June report than in the March report? Were the dead resurrected?
"But wait!" You say (because you're rude, and you interrupt a lot). "In the June report, killings were revised upward! That's true. But the timing matters. As Goldberg explains, "The impact here is that it makes the “pre surge” situation look extraordinarily dire and therefore signals progress thereafter."
The shell game here has to do with the term "sectarian murders," which the Pentagon is apparently defining differently from month to month, albeit without telling anyone what's changed. In other words, you can't trust these numbers. But they're the ones that are being used -- and will be used -- to argue for the Surge's success.