Choice Election

The best moment for me in Obama’s Thursday night jobs speech was his description of the basic choice that will be put to the electorate in 14 months. On the one hand there is the Tea Party view.

In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own — that’s not who we are.  That’s not the story of America.

And then there is Obama’s view.

Yes, we are rugged individualists.  Yes, we are strong and self-reliant.  And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.

But there’s always been another thread running throughout our history — a belief that we’re all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.

We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union.  Founder of the Republican Party.  But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future — a Republican President who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad — (applause) — launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges.  (Applause.)  And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.

This is an essential truth. America has prospered because of our ability to provide the public goods that private enterprise could utilize to raise productivity. The airports, interstate highways and research universities created the greatest surge in middle class incomes in the history of the world during America’s Great Prosperity from 1947-1979.

But in 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected on the platform that “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” This was the beginning of our long slide into our present crisis. Why did productivity skyrocket while wages flatlined? Because every manufacturing job could be outsourced under Milton Friedman’s now dominant orthodoxy.

And so we moved from a society of makers to a business culture of traders as the FIRE segment (Finance,Insurance, Real Estate) came to dominate our economy. As finance came to dominate the economy, their political clout grew and so the orthodoxy of Reaganomics is with us today with only minor changes during the Clinton and Obama Administrations.

Now I will acknowledge to my Libertarian friends that I believe the provision of public goods is better administered at the state and city level than at the federal level. The problem with Federalism lies in the very issues that are plaguing Europe this fall—the vast breach between a currency union and a fiscal union. The big states (Germany/California) become financially responsible for the small states (Greece/Mississippi), without having any control over their fiscal policy.

I think Obama opened the Presidential Campaign season for real on Thursday. Whether he can sustain that tone and approach for 14 months is the big question.

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43 Responses to Choice Election

  1. Michael Rose says:

    Jon — you write about the picture I watched being painted in Detroit as manufacturing jobs and the middle class began to disappear in huge numbers during the Reagan years. Granted the employees of the US car makers didn’t earn much support since they were tainted from years of building gas guzzling cars that didn’t last but the devastation to their way of life should have been a warning to the rest of America.

  2. JTMcPhee says:

    I forget — was it the actual hands-on workers who built the sexy finned tanks that were supposed to let us “See the U-S-A in your CHEV-ro-lay, America is asking you to call…” the ones who designed and marketed and manufactured demand for those Valiants and Desotos and Crown Vics and Fleetwood Broughams? Like so many of us, seems to me they just wanted a job, and suffered in part due to the all-too-human baseness and greed of their leadership.

    Also seems to me that for the species to survive, there is going to have to be some kind of spiritual change, to bring enough of us around from the “dominionist” point of view and grasping self-interest, to a little different and more stable and sustainable notion about our relations to one another and what we have had in the way of a planet to live on.

    My betting is that the forebrain has too much of a technical head start on the painfully slow and mortally necessary evolution of a different kind of limbic system, that would embody more species-survival-friendly impulses and preferences and maybe dis-incentivize the kind of “thinking” that leads to “financial industries” and wars-of-choice and all the rest.

  3. Alex Bowles says:

    this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own

    I just watched No End In Sight. Turns out this is the exact same policy that produced total and complete chaos in Iraq following the American invasion, which was “managed” with near-total disregard for reconstruction.

  4. len says:

    which was “managed” with near-total disregard for reconstruction.

    It can be spun like that. You may want to look at the tactics and conditions that led to the defeat in Karbala. After that, reconstruction became a much lower priority.

  5. Ken Ballweg says:

    Sadly, at this point, I think we are in too deep. The very wealthy have globalized, so there is little incentive to hold together home markets, and the level of fiscal liquidity among the middle class keeps dropping as the very rich find more ways to avoid picking up any of the tab for social services and infrastructure.

    Like any Emperor, the very wealthy end up surrounded by sycophants who make a living telling them what they want to hear: “Your part of the Market is Fine, but would be so much better if you just had total control to do anything you want.” Economic War Lords currently control the economy, and can afford to pay for quality disinformation that turns their class warfare on it’s head and makes it look like it’s Socialists vs. YOU, rather than the reality of “It’s us (the richest 10%) vs. you, and by the way, we’ve won.”

    It’s looking more and more like a Great Depression is inevitable.

  6. Roman says:


    “I think Obama opened the Presidential Campaign season for real on Thursday.”

    Was last Thurs’ speech the seminal moment you were referring to in your previous thread, when the President was to take on the MIC and Wall Street “Establishment”? Or is that still to come?


    “It’s looking more and more like a Great Depression is inevitable.”

    This has been a recurring nightmare since July 2007 when the two Bear Stearns hedge funds collapsed. As the drama has unfolded over the past four years I’ve wondered if the latest “it” was actually “it”.

    But I also recall several bloggers on Roubini’s site referring to it as the beginning of the “great leveling”. They maintained that collapse (i.e depression) wasn’t the end game.

    They thought the next decade or so would bring a giant redistribution of capital, with significant wage deflation in the developed world, and marginal wage inflation in undeveloped countries. Of course such change would result in periods of tremendous instability.

    Unfortunately, our media and government have a penchant for sensationalism and demagoguery, making it difficult to know if we are merely working through the latest redistribution wrinkle or if “it” really is “it”.

  7. Ken Ballweg says:

    Current census data says it pretty much is it for a significant portion of Americans, and the depth of it was worse than was being reported at the start.

    What’s hard for people to remember is that The Great Depression did not directly effect everyone. Many people still had jobs, but the drain on the overall economy was a direct effect of the lack of consumer purchasing power. We’re seeing that, but since we don’t yet have the dramatic marker of a “Black Friday” the majority of the country can proceed believing that this will turn around; any day now, real soon. Why it will come just as as soon as businesses are even more unregulated and even more untaxed.

    To believe that requires a massive cognitive disconnect from actual experience. As corporate wealth and power increase (as the rich win their culture war against the New Deal) the recession/ localized Depression spreads. Lowering tax rates over past 40 years = largest drop in median household income. Lowering tax rates over past 40 years = largest drop in available jobs. There is no trickle down, and never has been.

    Yeh it’s not just the greed of the monied; the middle and lower classes made a bunch of stupid decisions collectively. But there was a carefully orchestrated campaign of encouragement to do so. Borrow against the ever wealthier future, what could possibly go wrong with that? Throw out the tax & spend bums and put in the tax-cut and spend models of what we all aspire to; ‘cus it’s Morning in America.

    Sadly, that was actually spelled “Mourning” in the Gipper’s original draft, but that got edited by his handlers, much as they continue to edit all things done by St. Ronnie.

    So NY sends another Republican to the House to repudiate any “socialism” and to continue the policies that take liquidity out of the lower and middle classes, oblivious to the true effects of that.

  8. len says:

    They’re not oblivious; transnational wealth does not care about the effects on any given population as long as the global profits remain high. It’s a race to the bottom for labor. The implicit and now explicit threat is unless we Americans give up our labor unions and allow wages and benefits to fall so that we equalize those costs against transportation and other international costs, they will continue to invest elsewhere.

    And this is working. Once outside the Silly Valley CaliFried delusions of culture, one discovers the real conditions for those trying to keep their families off welfare and that this is fast reaching into the formerly comfortable well-educated and very docile middle class families who did not over buy, over spend or take huge risks. In fact, they did all the right things only to discover those whom they trusted with their retirement funds, the company owners whose promises they accepted for working that free overtime that typifies the commercial concerns…. lied and cheated them…. and there are no police, no agencies, no black helicopters, no Matt Dillon to set things right.

    And Obama is powerless. And they now know it. So there isn’t a very good choice here and in fact, we are watching a race between middle class anger and middle class fear. Do they submit to this or find means to rebell? Fear outlives anger and that is the bet the transnationals are making: their guard dogs can protect them long enough for this to be the cultural norm.

    Again, Wall Street is American in location only. It is the Papacy and Vatican of transnational wealth with the private banking systems acting as the Swiss Guard. You can’t see what they are doing directly; only the side-effects.

  9. Roman says:


    I noticed your post on the previous thread, I picked up “This Time Is Different” by Reinhart and Rogoff at a local Borders liquidation sale last week – talk about depressing.

    So it’s not just another redistribution wrinkle, “its” “it”, we’re just taking “it” in in small pieces.

    If another Great Depression is slowly evolving before our eyes, what’s the end game? Given the power of transnational wealth, where do sovereign states fit into the post-apocalyptic world?

  10. JTMcPhee says:

    I’m probably not alone in thinking that the Obama people have secured their place in history as The Gang Who Couldn’t (Or Wouldn’t) Shoot Straight. Personification aside, “Obama: The Team” is doing more, over the long haul, whether with intent or out of ineptitude, to destroy all the last tatters of commensal mythology that have kind of softened at least the contours of the psychic shock of the Great Decline into Wasted Imperium, than anyone I can recall from what I have learned of history.

    What’s changed over the decades since the Gilded Age and the Business Plot is the completeness of centralization and penetration of the kleptocracy.

    And what really chaps my posterior is that each of the individuals who have grabbed so much of the common good to tickle their limbic systems’ infinite capacities for pleasure will be long gone and/or immune to consequences for all the pain they are trickling down on the rest of us. Seems to me that condition, all by itself, ensures a kind of dead-end for our species.

    What goes better with Soylent Green — Grey Poupon, or Maj. Grey’s Chutney?

  11. Alex Bowles says:

    Today the Times is reporting that Obama’s Jobs Act is facing substantial push-back from Democrats. The last time I saw a situation like this, Gary Cooper was playing the Sheriff whose own townspeople refused to help him fend of a murderous menace promising violent mayhem in High Noon.

    It’s completely insane.

    One of the (many) great things about High Noon is the scene in which Cooper expresses – in the finest way possible – his bottomless and profoundly justified contempt for the shits who would let him fight for them alone.

    What’s astonishing to me is that the Republicans have yet to realize the raw hatred that the Democrats routinely inspire among Independent voters, as well as their own membership. This isn’t due to their positions so much as their toxic blend of cowardice and bad discipline which inspires a desire to punish with all the bat-swinging fury Robert DeNiro displayed in The Untouchables.

    The scary thing is that unlike Republicans – who would never punish their own by voting for the opposition – the left and left-leaning will signal extreme displeasure by doing exactly that. What anyone thinks of this is irrelevant. The point is, it’s what happens (Case in point: Scott Brown). Only an exceptionally deep reliance on candidates from Crazytown is keeping this dynamic from erupting with full force, but the slightest movement towards sanity by the GOP will be enough to trigger it. Presently, there’s no danger of this. But if the worst of the lot self-immolate during the primaries, things could change. Banking on your opponent’s weakness is a dicy way to play, since you’ve got no recourse if they start playing to win.

    Mark Morford has some choice words on this.

    Despite all his power and formidable intelligence, Obama seems to have no real capacity to deal with, you know, morons.

    And it’s largely his own fault. The president, I believe, still wants history to tag him as the peacemaker, the grand unifier, the great Middle Way. Despite all gruesome evidence to the contrary — not to mention his own toxic poll numbers — he still seems to think he can bridge the violent disparities in Congress, reach consensus, simultaneously serve as the lighthouse to the Dem’s lost ship and the truckload of Zoloft to the GOP’s unchecked madness.

    No surprise, then, that Obama often looks to be in a state of stunned disbelief that no matter how hard he tries, no matter how many compromises and concessions he makes to the malignant right, the wingnut contingent still blocks him at every turn. And then spits in his face. And bashes him in the kneecaps. And then hits itself in the head with a brick. And then cackles.

    To say this is the most shamelessly weird, unscrupulous right wing in modern history doesn’t seem to adequately capture how far Boehner & Co are willing to go to undermine and sabotage Obama’s presidency. They will insult and demean their own constituents, yank insurance from children, hold the world economy hostage, cost the nation hundreds of billions, hobble the FAA, endanger lives, eat their young. And it’s not even an election year yet.

    Which is why I believe Obama needs to make a change. He needs to bring in someone who will get the dirty work done, who is utterly fearless and without shame, qualms, reasonable moral compass when it comes to dealing with dingbat creationists and dinkbucket “mama grizzlies,” juvenile science deniers and tiny-brained freshman congressmen with IQs that match their shoe sizes.

    What Morford doesn’t mention is that this ‘someone’ needs to spend as much – if not more – time bashing together Democratic heads as they spend inflicting pain and misery exercising checks and balances among GOP reps in Congress. Because let’s face it, he’s not getting anywhere without getting his own house in order first.

    And if he can get his own party to support a reasonable Jobs Bill during the worst employment crisis in living memory, then he really will go down as one of the greatest failures in Presidential history. If that opens the door to a Tea Party favorite, then the American public will be 0 for 3.

  12. len says:

    where do sovereign states fit into the post-apocalyptic world?

    You mean as in the innovation juggernaut that is Apple?

    Jon can’t see it because he dare not. And in that are our foibles in a single perplexing picture: incompatible plausibles that as long as the thinker can compartmentalize, the whole hypocrisy of it doesn’t have to be discussed. It’s always “them”, the Others, Alabama, Mississippi. When you’re a cheerleader, only the sights and the acrobatics have value.

    Apple succeeds because it keeps very high walls around itself. It is the archetype of isolationism. China? Pretty much the same. They invest globally but like so much of the Pacific Rim, they are the world’s most pronounced zenophobes and dammed proud of it.

    Jon believes if the US will simply give back all their tax money, but still protect them, bail them out, yadda, the state will be a shining example, but of what? Conceit? Selfishness? Isn’t that Ayn Rand to her last pimple?

    Callie asked the question, what is a limousine liberal, and I reply and repeat, a liberal in a vehicle that consumes far too much energy for the cargo it carries.

    There are also those who say America can rebuild itself if it buys American, sells American and invests in America First. Isolationism? Yes. A repudiation of globalism? Certainly. And so what? What has the globe done for US lately? Wall Street will tell us that the world today is so interconnected that we can’t economically survive any other way. Well… don’t Apple and China show that up for the lie it really is. Maybe Wall Street can’t do as well in a world of floating currencies, can’t ride the fluctuating surf on the endless summer of more iPads and iPods and other overpriced stuff. But the rest of US?

    We’re being had by both sides.

  13. len says:

    So Alex, what you’re saying is you want Obama to be Lyndon Johnson with H.R. Haldemann as his Chief of Staff?

    Obama was elected, or so it is said, by a grass roots movement of the web. It felt good to believe that despite evidence to the contrary and maybe that is a lesson for your generation: quit blaming the boomers and take the hit that your values, sweet as they are, don’t work for more power loaded situations than you realize yet. Don’t give up your values, but understand this: we are a very rich country and we have a very powerful military and the day we give up one, we give up the other.

    So it is in the Beltway: a zero sum game where if you are up they are down and vice versa. Don’t send newbies. Don’t send anyone who doesn’t have the machine in place, their own gang, to enforce discipline. We are a pirate nation and a captain without a strong crew doesn’t keep the ship for long.

    Sad but so.

    When guys from my generation tell you otherwise, they aren’t just being foolish: they are using you. Don’t trust anyone under 30. 😉

  14. Alex Bowles says:

    I was thinking more along the lines of an Eisenhower / RFK tag-team, but yes, you get the idea. And you clearly understand – all too well – why it matters.

  15. Amber in Albuquerque says:

    Why are you all talking like the far right wingnut tactics are a SURPRISE? This began in Clinton’s first term and has simply continued to escalate. I sure hope they peak soon (full implications of the metaphor intended because I’m sick of getting screwed).

  16. Jon Taplin says:

    Alex-who do you suggest as Obama’s new enforcer? I suspect you are right about the Left’s tendency towards the circular firing squad.

  17. Jon Taplin says:

    Len-I am coming around to your “fortress America” concept. We thought we were so smart with our outsourcing strategy. We make the Maytag in China, thinking 60% of the value is retained in the design and brand equity, whichof course is “made in America”. but the knowledge component of a Maytag washing machine employs very few people, so all those laid off American Maytag workers can no longer afford the product.

  18. Ken Ballweg says:

    Jon, the problem with outsourcing to people who are gifted at reverse engineering is that it negates the value of the design, and brand “equity” is even easier to copy.

    One of the characteristics of an economic collapse is that people get angry, and very confused about who to blame. Which is one of the reasons fascism tends to get real attractive prior to, and during depressions. Sadly, economic depressions appear to have an inevitable cyclical nature. Three generations out is all it takes to loose the insights of the last collapse.

    Is it hopeless? Well given the number of “liberal” voters threatening to punish Obama’s weakness by not voting for him. I think we are in trouble. For those Liberal/Progressive/leftists who are moaning about Obama’s failures (not Roosevelt enough for you you say) you need to look at the fact that the neo-cons never doubted their mission, or the dogged tenacity it took to accomplish it. Sadly, the folks who have slowly persistently pulled the center rightward an inch or two at a time don’t get discouraged by set backs, they keep fighting. And because of that, and the liberal tendency to fold when the just-ness of their cause doesn’t prevail, the center has moved so far right, that there will be no miraculous massive change. We’ve got to scrap for every fraction of an inch we might drag it back to the left. But the sad reality is that the only thing that is likely to cut through the well paid, well oiled neo-con noise machine is a massive economic reality forcing people to stop focusing on those well armed, Christian fetuses they’re being promised and start noticing that it’s the distraction that allows the greedy to fleece them.

  19. Alex Bowles says:

    @JT – For reasons I can’t quite explain, I think Pelosi (who I’ve spent a long time not being a fan of) is exactly who he needs in his corner. Perhaps it’s time for Joe to go.

    The right would go absolutely ballistic but that’s the point. I can’t imagine a stronger, cleared way to signal that the ‘bipartisan’ act is over.

    She’s nothing if not a street-fighter, and very very accomplished.

  20. len says:

    I’m hoping for something other than fortress America. I live inside those particular walls. I live with those people every day. They are good folk but there is a brutality in a helix with pride and anger that is… stressful.

    It would be good enough to be in America First, not only, or either, or always, but first. And this is a generational issue as much as a cultural one. I don’t want or need to write a diatribe on the subject, but here is where the left has failed: we cannot seem to convey both discipline and love of country at the same time in the same thought. We have to quit being global citizens and return to global competitors. We have to quit apologizing for success and bribing our enemies.

    However it is done, Apple IS a shining example of quality and proves a very basic economic fact: if you make the best and people know that, they will pay more and that is the difference between being a lending nation and a borrowing nation. Not everyone can buy it but those that do will keep buying it if they can afford it.

    Once they had to do it, GM and Ford stopped making crappy cars. Once they quit whining about it, Burnette and those like him have started making very high quality vinyl, recording very high quality music. If the Siffy Channel would pick up on it, they’d quit making crappy movies for TV. Quality matters.

  21. Amber in Albuquerque says:

    Oh Len, no more movies in the “Chicks in Tank Tops” series? Say it ain’t so! Happy Friday people.

  22. len says:

    @amber: I cringe watching Day playing a characature of her own characatures. A Redstone has the throw power of a minor league outfielder and the mettalurgy of a cheap charm bracelet, so Siffy pretty much sux. Warehouse 13 is holding on to a little magic but let’s fact it, these are all cartoon series for the gamer generation: long on cleavage, guns, foot chases, effects and slow lingering looks, and way short on anything remotely resembling a compelling storyline.

    And that the nut of it: substance and quality have to marry, not just make out in the parking lot. As people say about the Apple products: yeah, it’s a lobster trap but they just work.

  23. Amber in Albuquerque says:

    So far, I’ve enjoyed Falling Skies (not on siffy). It’s more drama than science, but it’s well acted and written. And now I’m going to sign off before this thread goes completely astray.

    Oh, but could we talk about the economics of fixing the Post Office someday, kind host?

  24. Flint says:

    Hey Jon… Really small point in there. Obama’s problem is partly rhetorical. There was a ‘but’ clause in nearly every statement, which negated the previous statement. Seriously, search the speech for ‘but’. While I found myself agreeing with the first clause, I disagreed with the second one. It ended up sounding dishonest — especially with the strawmen thrown in.

    Add to that the embarrassing ‘Popeil’ sounding ‘Pass this Bill’ and he sounded like a huckster, especially given that he knows, as do we all, that he can’t even get support from Democrats who face contested races this year. Fair or unfair, the stimulus is perceived as a failure as is the rest of Obama’s economic strategy

    So what was the speech really about? Not sure. Either it was a really a ‘whuff up the base’ speech using Congress, the Supreme Court, Joint Chiefs and various luminaries for props, or he is really out of touch not only with America and the Republicans, but with his own party?

  25. len says:

    …people get angry, and very confused about who to blame.

    That is part of the problem but not exactly in that way. That is the learned behavior that is causing us to lose our way. Culturally, we devolved from a society that manages incompetence of process, technology, and so forth, that is, technical incompetence to one that manages blame.

    I see this every day in projects with people who manage the managers who manage the producers. Meeting after meeting filled with high sounding rhetoric the intent of which is to psychologically corner someone else into accepting the responsibility for errors instead of discovering the faulty means. When you deal with technologies such as XML which have draconian precision and you watch a group trying to explain away how a processing step failed by beating up the messenger when it takes only a few minutes and competent geek to show precisely what the problem is and where it originates, you know why the majority hate the competent.

    Nature and society conspire against intelligence. The cultures that develop traits for routing around that conspiracy thrive. They learn to manage incompetence instead of blame.

  26. Alex Bowles says:

    I’m not sure that the majority hate the competent unreservedly, or even consciously. Any number of star players on field, stage, and screen indicate that humans love rooting for the best – provided their incandescence is displayed at a safe remove from the (relatively) shabby and insecure haunts from which most people conduct their daily lives.

    Consider άριστος (aristos), the Greek word for best and the root of ‘aristocracy’. Democracy stands in overt opposition to the tradition this represents. Remember, too, that Machiavelli considered the supreme virtue in a ruler to be competence. At the same time, he maintained a strong admiration for the independent city-states of Germany, which fostered independent judiciaries, and embodied the political and economic tranquility and stability which he considered the highest good. That is to say, management is a two-way street. The aristocrats need to serve something bigger than themselves, which isn’t an obligation they’ll all fulfill voluntarily. A middle-class stripped of leverage is a bad omen for everybody.

    Our own constitutional republic embodies this insight remarkably. Neither a true aristocracy nor a pure democracy, it represents an attempt to make a virtue of necessity, in that it frames their opposition in a way that produces benefit for everyone.

    I’ll be the first to agree that the norms of American corporate governance fall far short of this mark, and that bad is becoming worse with time. Not to oversimplify, but I suspect that much of this has to do with the idea that an unstructured muddle can be successfully substituted for a natural opposition carefully engineered for balance and well-being. Much of this rests it the (absurd) tendency to conflate management and leadership.

    After all, Management is the quintessential upper-middle-class occupation – one synonymous with leafy suburban comfort, cultivated consensus, and calm collegiality. All that’s well and good – essential, in fact, to the health of any enterprise. But the value it places on conformity and compromise is utterly antithetical to άριστος.

    And you, len, have pointed out exactly where this muddle goes bad. Aspiring to a level for which they’re fundamentally unsuited managers lose the essential degree of detachment from the problems they handle that makes them so effective when they know (and accept) in their place.

    As the link above points out, the essential role of good management is the removal of obstacles from the paths of the capable and talented. In this regard, it’s very much a subordinate position. The pioneering, risk-taking work falls to others – a requirement that management is happy to oblige. But they’re less keen on giving up the rewards and authority that the actual leaders expect. Hence, the muddle – followed swiftly by dysfunction, apathy, and resignation on the part of the exceptionally talented.

    The thing I admire about companies like Amazon and (until very recently) Apple is that they’re actually led by the guys whose very unorthodox visions they embody. These people employ competent and well-respected managers by the cartload, but I can’t imagine that Bezos or Jobs ever considered themselves to be members of this tribe, any more than they would think that hiring lawyers makes them ‘senior counsel’.

    So sure, a guy like Michael Eisner can turn the legacy of a genuine leader (Walt Disney) into a multinational conglomerate of unprecedented size. But it’s worth remembering that the worlds greatest animation shop effectively died on his watch. In the end, the place had been so thoroughly strip-mined by ‘management’ that its own DNA proved incapable of reviving the enterprise when it became clear that barrels were being scraped. Were it not for the heart (and brain) transplant it received from Pixar, it’s inconceivable that Disney would be anywhere near as viable as it is today.

    On that note, consider one of their brightest stars, Brad Bird, who recently observed that Hollywood isn’t brave enough to copy the Pixar process.

    Everyone in Hollywood says they wish they could do it like Pixar, but they really don’t. There’s no secret at Pixar, but there is a belief in letting people pursue something with passion and take chances, and most of Hollywood, really, doesn’t like that. It’s too scary. Some studio executives will say they love obsessive creators who take risks, but really most of them would rather play it safe. Projects cost a lot of money and people would rather follow patterns they know and make things safe and accessible. Hollywood wants there to be a math formula for making hit films. To make something really great and different and interesting means taking risks and following these ideas in your head.

    Management is something you want on tap, not on top, and Bird is describing the exact pathology that develops when you get that hierarchy reversed. Were Pixar a hit-and-miss shop, this reticence would be understandable. But when you see an unprecedented string of hits – made all the more remarkable by the embarrassingly low batting averages of management-led operations – you really begin to see how destructive the manager-as-leader concept really is.

    Defenestrate this, and I think you’d be well on your way to seeing the best and the rest working – and living – together much more profitably and harmoniously.

  27. Martin Pitts says:

    For me there’s little doubt that the American Body Politic will renew our deal with Barack Obama next year. Let all the aging and flabby Fox News poseurs look at the Harry Truman campaign in 1948 against Republican Thomas E. Dewey and States Righter Strom Thurmond. We have all heard the story over and over about Truman’s fights with the republican congress. And we all know that all the press gave it to Dewey until they counted the votes. Truman won easily even if Thurmond’s portion was given to Dewey. The Body Politic saw through all the fog.
    And there’s one big thing we should all consider about the Obama presidency:
    When Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009 the Dow Jones Average was about 8,000 and by March it bottomed out at 6,600. Last Friday the Dow was at 11,500.

  28. Jon Taplin says:

    @Len-America First. I like that. We rebuild America first, before we spend Billion rebuilding Afghanistan/Iraq/Egypt/Libya/Greece/Portugal. We incentivize companies that put American workers first. We work to ket our K-12 Kids to be first.

  29. mark lipsky says:

    This is all very interesting – intellectually – but the reality is that Obama is not going to be re-elected and unless a 3rd party candidate who can beat the Tea Party-backed republicans is identified and vigorously supported, this country will never recover short of riots in the streets. More here

  30. BERNARD. says:

    Sadly, at this point, I think we are in too deep. The very wealthy have globalized, so there is little incentive to hold together home markets…

    They better invest in their own country because ounce you loose your leverage point… there is no return sure you can globalize have a miriad of passports hidden accounts and all kinds of convoluted schemes, but your origin your family friends and memories are all in one place. There is no other way but forward with an idea of a country that goes beyond small personal gains.

  31. Morgan Warstler says:

    Ok, sure a choice election.

    But we’re gong to run it like a vote on Obama, and if / when we win, make you are ADMIT America made a choice.

    Because when Rick Perry is President, and starts letting California keep their money and their regulations to themselves….

    I’m expecting you to be big enough to apologize.

    Obama’s problem is your problem, you can’t tell a consistent story about decentralization.

    And since Obama doesn’t put out a government product as easy to use as Apple, and he charges Apples prices, the Android version of government (states’ rights) is going to win.

    And you will be doubly a hypocrite.

  32. len says:

    @Len-America First. I like that. We rebuild America first, before we spend Billion rebuilding Afghanistan/Iraq/Egypt/Libya/Greece/Portugal. We incentivize companies that put American workers first. We work to ket our K-12 Kids to be first.

    That’s the way. I see it daily where I work. These people do not necessarily do thing the efficient way, but they don’t leave people behind and if there is a job they can provide to one of their own, they do that first. It means they have to hire folks like me to glue bits together, to train them, to organize the bits they aren’t trained for, but they only have to see it done once and they never tell “it’s not my job”; they might tell me “that’s n’s job” and that’s fine.

    To the “Obama can’t win” crowd: I’ll take that bet. So far, nothing better has been shown and if Rick Perry is the best you’ve got, that fact that he sounds like G.W. everytime he gives a speech is enough to cost him enough votes that even in a close election, he loses. Get ready for a second term of the Big O.

  33. Larry T says:

    The most successful nations in the world today are the Nordic countries and Germany. I’ll go with Sweden as the best since they do it without oil, and with more style than Germany. So what does that mean for the US? (Not that only small homogeneous countries can succeed) But the following.

    – A shared concern for the nation and the citizens is key, without this nothing is going to work.
    – Money is not the goal, quality of life is
    – Being average is good, having a lot more than your neighbor is not
    – Being efficient is a religion
    The days of saying the Swedish model leads to laziness and mediocrity are over. Low unemployment, low debt, high tech and high style (at low cost) prove the middle social model is the model for today.

  34. Morgan Warstler says:

    The Swedish are boring and don’t invent squat.. they are Vanilla. They need more guns.

    Note: Our less fortunate have more STUFF than the Sweden’s. Who cares about health insurance?

    They get to be fat, they have more living space, they have more TV channels, etc.

    What they don’t get is no big deal compared to the awesome upside of cowboy capitalism.

    You want to live in Sweden, go.

    One country, my country is going to be like Texas.

    UNLESS, you liberals vote states’ rights and let California try to be Sweden while Texas gets to stay Texas.

    You will live your whole lives in angry desperation for a personal life unfulfilled.


    Why write silly Nordic odes, when you can HAVE 50 unique states, some of which will become Sweden?

  35. Rachel says:

    Those of you pondering the decline of America in this thread may be interested in Adam Gopnik’s very good article on the concept of competing civilisations in The New Yorker of Sept 12. It’s entitled “Decline, Fall, Rinse, Repeat”, and it’s an excellent read. Alas, like many things these days, it’s behind a paywall, but you can access it here:

    I usually don’t respond to Morgan, but the line: Our less fortunate have more STUFF than the Sweden’s is too much. Have you ever been to McCool, MS, Morgan? Go visit, then come and tell me a place in Sweden that’s worse off. There are thousands of places like it in middle America.

    Sound and fury, and all that.

  36. V says:

    To call the Swedish boring is the work of a bore.

    Americans stand astride the world like a colossus. They are supermen. Americans are generous and happy and modest and kind and good. Men of peace. Men of commerce. Don’t cross the Americans. They will fuck you up.

  37. Jon Taplin says:

    @V- We all know Morgan is a bore.

  38. Morgan Warstler says:

    Read this carefully…

    If you compare Swedes in US to Swedes in Sweden – we rock!

    It is the same thing for Texas students vs. say Illinois or Wisconsin.

    Our black kids beat their black kids.
    Our Hispanic kids beat theirs.
    Our white beat theirs.

    But the OVERALL #’s make it look like Texas loses by comparison. Living on border of Mexico does that.

    I know this is NOT what you want to hear, and that logic HURTS your brain.

    Just try to keep up!

    You can do it Rachel!

  39. V says:

    Read this carefully…

    You are obnoxious.

  40. Morgan Warstler says:


    true. but I was more obnoxious to Rachel’s – whose been rude to me before. And that didn’t seem to bother you as much as the personal slight.

    And you were OUTRIGHT WRONG.

    (happy dance)

    It’s ok V. I think you are the kind of person who actually read it and took it in and saw in the back of your mind it was new information, and it didn’t exactly change your mind, but it planted a seed.

    That’s what teachers do with students, we plant seeds.

    Ask Jon.

  41. V says:

    You have BAD TASTE and BAD MANNERS.


    You are IRRELEVANT.

    (I was responding to your crass, condescending words to Rachel.)

    You are of the past. Get out out of the way, old timer. Your day is done.

    I feel bad for you that you failed so miserably in your life. In the past, a person could make something of himself in the second part of his life. Hopefully you will be able to prove that that can happen again in the dilapidated future we face.

  42. Morgan Warstler says:


    just as long as I’m right, everything else has taken care of itself. 😉

    Notice you still don’t have the good taste to thank me for the new information.

    Real men when beaten knock down their king. They don’t call their opponent rude.

    Small note: Do you know how much time it has taken to identify the counter culture warrior most able to adopt a states rights mindset and then PULL that guy over to his most original and truly “counter culture” idea yet?

    We’re pushing past three years.

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