Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden late than never

(Joe's got Barack's Back, courtesy of BAGnews Notes/Defense Department?)

Sorry about the no-post yesterday. I had a very busy (and good) day Friday on the job hunting front. More descriptive news to come once things are finalized. And someone else had a good job hunting day yesterday: Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Barack Obama's VP pick.

While I am underwhelmed (like many others) after all of the hype and teasing (and wrong about my guess that it was Vilsack), I think the more interesting topic of discussion is what this choice says about what Obama wants in a running mate and as a VP (assuming he wins the election).

  1. Obama wants someone who will get down and dirty and attack McCain on his behalf and not sully himself with attacking. Biden can get off some great one-liners (calling Rudy Giuliani a guy whose every sentence only contains "a noun, a verb, and 9/11.") but can also have some duds. Obama's willing to bet that Biden's stupid statements will be greatly outweighed by some terrific slams of McCain and whomever McCain chooses. All in all, I think Joe is a much better defender/attacker on someone else's behalf than his own.

  2. Obama talks about change, but he wants people who know the Washington players (and are players themselves) to be deeply intertwined in his campaign and administration. That is how he ran his senate office and primary campaign, and how it appears he will attempt to leverage his agenda in the first 100 days. Remember, most of Obama's key staffers are Daschle and Gephardt people; he is trying to learn from Bill Clinton's mistakes in his first 100 days which featured lots of people who weren't as familiar with the powers that be...and who made lots of rookie mistakes.

  3. Since Biden will be in 73 by 2016, the VP slot is as high as he will ever go. Joe will only have as much power in an Obama Administration as Obama let's him have, and Joe's ability to tone down that famous ego during the campaign and behind the scenes in the White House will be what gets him more power, not leaking key details to reporters or grandstanding.

  4. This also means that Obama really wanted to pick Mark Warner, who I think is the odds on favorite to be the party's nominee in 2012 or 2016, depending on whether or not Obama wins in November. Why? Obama told John Kerry jokingly that what he really wanted for his birthday was "Indiana, Colorado, and Virgina." And while picking empty suit Evan Bayh might have kept Indiana in play, Virginia would have been locked up with the selection of Warner, their beloved ex-governor who is cruising into the U.S. Senate (like Obama was in 2004). The key note speaker slot is now the grooming appointment for a nominee's successor, like the Secretary of State slot was in the early days of the U.S.

  5. Joe Biden is the vanilla pick. A choice that placates most "wings" of the Democratic party, but doesn't exactly get them all worked up like a more daring pick would. Obama is enough excitement for one cycle.

  6. Obama decided his biggest vulnerability as being seen as too green for the job and that some wing voters might be concerned with his "finger on the button" since he is a newcomer on the national scene. Biden is designed to reassure such voters that Biden will be there to talk him out of making a bad call. And since Joe is the "poorest" Senator (which means he is still a several hundred thousandiare), Biden helps present a contrast with McCain (especially if $200 Million man Mitt Romney joins the ticket) and tap into his "working class Catholic roots."
There you have it, my version of the CW. Have a great weekend and enjoy the end of the Beijing Games.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

McCain never means what you think he means

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. (Courtesty of IMDB)

John McCain, the senior senator "from" Arizona, had this to say about an 86 year old water compact between states within the Colorado River Basin, which includes his "home" state.
"I don’t think there’s any doubt the major, major issue is water and can be as important as oil. So the compact that is in effect, obviously, needs to be renegotiated over time amongst the interested parties," McCain said while on his way to the Aspen Institute. "I think that there’s a movement amongst the governors to try, if not, quote, renegotiate, certainly adjust to the new realities of high growth, of greater demands on a scarcer resource."
Democrats and Republicans from Colorado (as well as the Denver Post) read this to mean Arizona wants to get more water from the river basin, at the expense of Coloradans.

Lucky for McCain, Mitt Romney and Jon Hunstman came to his rescue, saying essentially the old man didn't mean what you think he means. First here's the former Massachusetts Governor, who is openly pleading to be on McCain's ticket.
“Senator McCain has no interest in reopening the compact,” Romney said. “Senator McCain believes as I do that a compact that’s been worked out between the governors and between the states is the right way to go. States are the ones who build these kinds of understandings. The federal government shouldn’t meddle in that compact."
That explanation clearly doesn't square with what McCain said. Let's try that again. Current Utah Governor Huntsman, the only prominent Utahn to endorse McCain?
"We're going to know over the next year whether [the Colorado Compact] is an interest for the governors," Huntsman said.
"It can't be Washington that says the time is right to open the compact," he said. "It's got to be we in the region saying, 'We're having trouble with this or that and, therefore, it's time to re-evaluate the mechanics of the compact.'"
So I guess it will be "reevaluted," just not on "Washington's" terms. Except John McCain is not a governor or a state legislator, he is a U.S. Senator, and is running for President.

Funny how that inane Romney quote never made it into the Salt Lake Tribune's version of the story.

Kind of reminds me of something:
I strongly disagree. Phil Gramm does not speak for me. I speak for me.
And yet...
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain’s chief economic adviser, [....] disputes the way the study takes suggestions McCain has made on the stump out of context. “This is parsing words out of campaign appearances to an unreasonable degree,” Holtz-Eakin said. “He has certainly I’m sure said things in town halls” that don’t jibe perfectly with his written plan. But that doesn’t mean it’s official.
So who is the authority for what John McCain means? It seems it isn't John McCain, or surrogates that say politically tone-deaf things, but only surrogates that clean up after McCain's "gaffes." Glad we cleared that all up.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Utah's legislative leaders whined to the media today that mean ol' Jon Huntsman didn't properly genuflect before them before he decided to switch state employees to a 4 day work week.
Left out.
That's how some state lawmakers felt when Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. instituted a four-day work week without their input or approval.
Huntsman announced the change in late June and on Aug. 4 state employees switched over to working 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday.
"The governor gave us a heads up, but I don't recall any consultation on it," said Senate Majority Leader Curtis Bramble. "We probably got 48 hours notice that he was going to announce it."

It takes a lot of nerve to complain about etiquette when you are the same guy who chewed out a pizza delivery girl for not taking his personal check because you see yourself as a very important and powerful person above such trivialities as the rules that apply to everyone else.

Other legislators were more diplomatic in their complaining:
It might have been wiser for Huntsman to get more collaboration at the start, said Rep. Douglas Aagard, R-Kaysville, who co-chairs the Government Operations Interim committee.
"Any time you involve stakeholders - and we definitely are - if you thoroughly vet it, you get a better product."
To paraphrase a commenter on the article, what about voters? When were we consulted about vouchers, the $24 million for Real Salt Lake, restricting wildlife ballot initiatives, and now the attempt to limit further initiatives/referenda? Let's go back into the wayback machine to Monday with our favorite senator who a few hours later was blacklisted by pizza delivery drivers:
Monday, Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, told the Deseret News editorial board that government doesn't work best when elected representatives are constantly, and frivolously, overruled by the citizens they are elected to make decisions for. In other words, the pure democracy of initiatives and referendums doesn't work well compared to the republican form of government of elected representatives.
Apparently, government works best when lobbyists and special interests can give lawmakers all kinds of perks, gifts, and campaign donations so that the lawmaker can pass laws that favor said interests and then lawmakers can retire on their campaign war chests before voter can get wise of the scam.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's Vilsack

(Photo Credit: Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)
[I don't have photoshop on this computer, so just imagine the O logo with the V logo]

Apparently the thing to do this week is to wildly speculate and denigrate any of Obama's "short list" VP candidates. First, it was VA Gov. Tim Kane and how he was bad. Then it was IN Sen. Evan Bayh, then there was a facebook page against him and some oppo dumps on how his wife is a corporate shill. Next up is DE Sen. Joe Biden, who is in Georgia now but is not liked for his pro-credit card stance on the 2005 bankruptcy bill, as well as voting for the War in Iraq and the PATRIOT Act. So who is left? KS Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who has ties to Ohio and is pretty progressive for Kansas, although not terribly exciting and the PUMA folks might dislike her being picked over Hillary Clinton. But my bet is on former IA Governor Tom Vilsack.

Why? First look closely at this promo image put out by the Obama campaign.

To me the first letter blurred out looks like a V, and he is the only possible candidate I could think of that starts with that letter. Also, I haven't seen him get a speaking spot, unlike the others named...he's as good a guess as any.

Here's Vilsack's advantages:
  1. He is from Iowa and has won multiple times there. Obama's path to the White House is dependent upon keeping Iowa in his column.
  2. Vilsack is pretty main stream to moderate Democrat. Nothing too objectionable in his policy stances for liberals save maybe his support for charter schools, but most Democrats aren't too worked up about that, and as VP he will have next to no impact on Education policy unless Obama allows him to.

  3. He was Hillary Clinton's biggest supporter in 2007-08, and John Kerry's in 2003-04. The establishment won't be upset

  4. Yet he is considered "outsider" because he isn't some long serving member of Congress or some administration.

  1. He ran such a terrible campaign that he dropped out before any other Democrat running for president.

  2. Vilsack is not going to excite anyone to go to the polls, he shores up a state Obama seems to already have in the bag.

  3. He lacks "foreign policy experience" that the beltway believes Obama needs to have on his ticket.

  4. He exudes "caution," signaling Obama will be a risk-adverse pol and not a game changer in DC.

What do you think?

Monday, August 18, 2008

leaving information behind

No Child Left Behind was premised on the idea that by testing students and giving parents information on which school did worse or better, along with increased federal funding, market principles would make schools/education better. Think of it as vouchers-lite. Yet Utah's administrators are either incapable or unwilling to give parents this critical piece of the puzzle.
Utah won't make public the list of which schools met goals and which didn't until Sept. 30, which is more than a month after most Utah schools begin classes. That could make it difficult for parents to take advantage of options offered by the law. Schools that accept federal money for serving low-income areas but fail to meet the goals of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for two years in a row must send letters to parents offering to bus students to better-performing schools. But schools can't send those letters if they don't know whether they met goals.
This isn't the first time Utah has released its results after the school year had started, and it might not be the last, said Judy Park, state associate schools superintendent. In fact, it's a problem with which many states grapple.
Among nearby states, Nevada, New Mexico, Idaho and Wyoming have publicly released their data. California, Colorado and Arizona have not.
States are supposed to release the results before school starts, but the results are based mostly on state tests that often aren't given until the end of the school year.
In short, schools test students at the end of the year to see how much they learned that year, but then the processing of the test results takes longer than the summer. Other states test only 120 days into the school year, during which I guess they test what students learned thus far in this grade as well as retention from last year. But that's also crazy. And keep in mind this lag time is with a mostly, if not completely multiple choice bubble sheets test. Not that anyone switches anyway...
In fact, very few students take advantage of the option to transfer.
Nationwide, only about 2 percent of eligible students chose to be bused to another school in 2006-2007, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Only 27 Utah students chose to transfer to another school under NCLB in 2006-2007, according to the Utah Office of Education, though that number might actually be higher because of confusion over a new data system, said Karl Wilson, state director of Title 1 programs.
So has NCLB had any positive impact on education at all? It has united liberals and conservatives that something needs to be done to get rid of NCLB or at the very least radically overhaul the system. I guess that's something.