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Carly on Palin

with 18 comments

I’m not a big fan of Carly Fiorina, but she’s at least an experienced CEO who knows what a meritocracy of ability is about. She’s also one of McCains key economic advisors. Here’s what she said about Palin yesterday during a radio interview:

Do you think she [Palin] has the experience to run a major company like Hewlett-Packard?”

“No, I don’t,” Ms. Fiorina said.

I said there’s no way she could run Goldman, and I agree there is no way she could run HP. But apparently she’s good enough to run the country.

I can’t imagine how McCain, Palin and their economic advisors (among them Fiorina) would fare in dealing with the current mortgage problems. Bush is very lucky his last Treasury Secretary is not a dud like the first two. Thanks, Goldman!

Common incorrect belief: it doesn’t matter who the president is, or what his IQ is, he’ll just bring in the right advisors. Now replace the word “president” with CEO (or Lab Director or Head Trader or Commander in Chief…) and tell me whether you still believe it. Smart people bring in even smarter advisors, and are better at deciding between conflicting streams of advice. As we say in science: first rate people hire first rate people. Second rate people are in danger of hiring third rate people.

…The Obama campaign could not have been more gleeful: “If John McCain’s top economic adviser doesn’t think he can run a corporation,” said Tommy Vietor, an Obama spokesman, “how on Earth can he run the largest economy in the world in the midst of a financial crisis?”

Let me clarify something: I’m not an IQ fundamentalist. There are many smart people would not make great leaders. They cannot connect with average people, lack common sense, are not pragmatic, etc. To be a great leader, one needs all of those qualities and intelligence.

The very fact that Obama was able to defeat Hilary in the primary implies that he can effectively run a big, complex organization. His silicon valley approach to fund raising was novel and wildly successful. Any of the other candidates (D or R) could have tried it, but no one else did. Does that mean Obama is a technologist? No! But he was smart enough to understand and adopt the proposal when it was brought to him by technologists! That’s why I think he has the pragmatic smarts to be a good president.

As of the spring: nearly $200 million raised from over a million donors. In February, the Obama campaign reported that 94 percent of their donations came in increments of $200 or less, versus 26 percent for Clinton and 13 percent for McCain.

To understand how Obama’s war chest has grown so rapidly, it helps to think of his Web site as an extension of the social-networking boom that has consumed Silicon Valley over the past few years. The purpose of social networking is to connect friends and share information… A precursor,, helped supporters of Howard Dean organize gatherings during the last Democratic primary season, but compared with today’s sites, it was a blunt instrument.

Obama’s campaign moved first. Staffers credit the candidate himself with recognizing the importance of this new tool and claim that his years as a community organizer in Chicago allowed him to see its usefulness. Another view is that he benefited greatly from encouraging a culture of innovation and lucked out in the personnel department, with his own pair of 20-something wizards. Joe Rospars, a veteran of Dean’s campaign who had gone on to found an Internet fund-raising company, signed on as Obama’s new-media director. And Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, took a sabbatical from the company and came to Chicago to work on the campaign full-time.

Written by infoproc

September 17, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Obama and race

with 5 comments

I agree with this. I think political correctness prevented many democrats from thinking clearly about how race would influence the final outcome of the election. Political correctness also prevents us from understanding many other obvious things about society today.

Related discussion here.

WSJ: …Democrats’ fatal blindness to the brute fact of race in America. When, during the primaries, the Clintons seemed to allude to the subject of Sen. Obama’s electability in light of his race, they were accused by many of their fellow Democrats of “playing the race card.” It is fairly incredible that it was, for the most part, not until this summer that liberals began publicly asking themselves if the country was ready for a black president. That it was not until recently that liberals began wondering with any forcefulness whether people really were telling pollsters the truth about their attitudes toward race. (“Will race influence your vote for president?” “Race?! Me? Are you kidding? Of course not!”)

For 18 months, the majority of liberal commentators wrote so rapturously and unskeptically about Sen. Obama’s candidacy that you would have thought he was just a white guy with a deep tan. It was as though people were afraid that if they spoke honestly about racism as a stumbling block to his candidacy, they would be taken for racists themselves. Indeed, it was as though by ignoring racist attitudes when writing about Sen. Obama, liberal commentators conferred on themselves the virtuous idealism that they were fantastically attributing to the country as a whole. It is an elementary psychological fact that we sometimes praise to an absurd degree what makes us slightly uncomfortable — or that we put the source of discomfort in an impossibly ideal light in order to put as much distance as possible between us…and the person we fear we may actually be.

What polls show about racism and voting:

…Some people who are telling pollsters they’re for Obama could actually be lying.

Such behavior has been called the “Bradley Effect ,” after Tom Bradley, a black mayor of Los Angeles who lost his bid to be California’s governor back in 1982. While every poll showed him leading his white opponent, that isn’t how the final tally turned out. Things haven’t been far different in some other elections involving black candidates. In 1989, David Dinkins was eighteen points ahead in the polls for New York’s mayoral election, but ended up winning by only a two-point edge. The same year, Douglas Wilder was projected to win Virginia’s governorship by nine points, but squeaked in with one half of one percent of the popular vote. Nor are examples only from the past. In Michigan in 2006, the final polls forecast that the proposal to ban affirmative action would narrowly prevail by 51 percent. In fact, it handily passed with 58 percent. That’s a Bradley gap of seven points, which isn’t trivial.

Pollsters contend that respondents often change their minds at the last minute, or that conservatives are less willing to cooperate with surveys. Another twist is that more voters are mailing in absentee ballots, and it’s not clear how those early decisions are reflected in the polls. Yet the Bradley gap persists after voters have actually cast their ballots. Just out of the booth, we hear them telling white exit pollers that they supported the black candidate, whereas returns from these precincts show far fewer such votes. Thus they lie to interviewers they don’t know and will never see again.

Written by infoproc

September 14, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Hank in charge

with 14 comments

This Times article details who is running the show when it comes to the Fannie and Freddie bailout.

NYTimes: …“Bush was in charge when it was cut taxes, deregulate, have free trade, etc.,” said Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. “But then the old paradigm broke down, and it fell, frankly, to more serious thinkers to figure out how to cope with the current reality.”

…Mr. Paulson, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs, joined the White House in July 2006 after an intense courtship by Mr. Bush’s chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten. He demanded clout and got it, in part because “Paulson did not need the job; the administration needed Paulson,” said Vincent R. Reinhart, a monetary economist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Mr. Reinhart says Mr. Paulson, like Mr. Bush, would ordinarily resist government intervention. “I think the economy is taking Bush and Paulson to a place where they wouldn’t go on their own,” he said. “In a crisis, you start bending principles, and Paulson bent principles.”

By relying so heavily on Mr. Paulson, Mr. Bush is doing more than bend conservative principles. He is taking himself out of public view in the one area of policy making that matters most to Americans: the economy. Mr. Wehner, Mr. Bush’s former adviser, does not see that as a problem so long as the markets stabilize. And Mr. Frank, the Democratic congressman, said Mr. Bush’s reliance on the Treasury secretary is “one of those things that, historically, will be to his credit.”

Do the people who think Sarah Palin is up to the job of President of the United States think she could have been CEO of Goldman Sachs as Paulson was? (“After all, Alaska is a lot bigger than Goldman Sachs! And, it’s closer to Russia! How much oil does Goldman have, anyway? Hey, she does have a journalism degree from U Idaho!”) Anti-elitism can only go so far…

Who has more responsibility, the President or CEO of Goldman?

Written by infoproc

September 9, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Bye bye Fannie and Freddie

with 5 comments

On my way back from Europe, I noticed that Fannie and Freddie have been nationalized, with shareholder value going to zero! It’s a huge development — much bigger than Bear earlier in the year. The housing bubble still has further to pop, so stay tuned!

Here’s economic guru John McCain on the subject — his sentiments are right, but the fact that he can’t get the exec compensation to within 3 orders of magnitude is a bit worrisome. (I suppose Palin could have nailed it within two orders of magnitude or better 😉

NYTimes: “It’s hard, it’s tough, but it’s also the classic example of why we need change in Washington. It’s an example of cronyism, special interest, lobbyists. A quasi-governmental organization, where the executives were making hundreds of — hundred some billion dollars a year, while things were going downhill, going to hell in a handbasket,” Mr. McCain said, adding that the two companies need “more regulation, more oversight, more transparency, more of everything, and frankly, a dramatic reduction in what they do.”

But not to worry, McCain / Palin’s grasp of economics and finance is every bit as solid as that of our most recent great Republican leader George W. Bush, and look how well he did!

Video: [Bush, blathering off the record on something he doesn’t understand — was that Bush on July 18, or McCain this weekend?] “There’s no question about it. Wall Street got drunk —that’s one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras — it got drunk and now it’s got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments.”

I’d post the video itself here except it’s old news, and, well, nobody wants to talk about GW anymore — especially not the people (the same ones who are backing McCain and Palin, more or less) who predicted what a great president he’d be. Too bad we don’t judge voters on their records like we do traders. I know who I’d fire.

You voted for GW? Twice?!? Your P&L is negative one trillion dollars for the united states. Put your stuff in this box and follow the security guard out the door. No, you don’t get to take a position on this election or advise any geneticists on evolution.

Note I’m not trying to blame Bush for the credit disaster — the trillion dollars is for Iraq alone.

Written by infoproc

September 7, 2008 at 7:27 pm

Palin, RNC, Romney: the view from Italy

with 17 comments

I didn’t get to see any of the coverage of the RNC since I’m here in Italy.

Regarding Palin, there is a natural instability in democracy towards anti-elitism. Many voters are attracted to a leader like themselves (a hockey / soccer mom with dysfunctional family and modest IQ), forgetting that they themselves would make a terrible president or vice-president. I do think the Republican base will like / likes Palin, and there is a chance she will appeal to lot of swing voters.

I don’t know who said it first, but Palin has that naughty librarian look from 80’s heavy metal videos! If you are not familiar with the term MILF, you might look it up — only because it’s being used in a lot of discussion 🙂

Is Romney the favorite for 2012? I’ve heard a lot of good things about him, but his RNC speech is pretty thoroughly middlebrow. Not that I disagree with every point, and certainly he had to tailor it to his audience, but I detect no signs of a large brain (unless you normalize to the MBA population).

I know few Americans care, but people in Europe think Palin is a joke. Another thing I’ve heard is that they don’t believe Obama can overcome all the (perhaps hidden) racism to win the election. We will see!

Exciting action photo from Trento:

Written by infoproc

September 4, 2008 at 10:08 am

Posted in obama, physics, politics