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paperworkToday it was broadly reported that bloggers must inform consumers when they receive contributions for promotions they make on their blogs. But one wonders where it stops. Shouldn’t one’s day job have as much, if not more, material impact on what one says and doesn’t say? What about one’s stock portfolio?

For the record, this site makes me $0.  I work for Cisco Systems.  I won’t reveal my stock portfolio, but will tell you that I constrain my postings on this site to at least not completely inflame my superiors on business-related matters.  That means that if you’re looking for someone who is critical of MPLS and many Internet Service Providers, while I am, I’m probably not going to rant here about it.  Some of those people are customers, and they might reasonably ask what I am doing to make things better.

I will say this about my stock portfolio.  It hasn’t stopped me from talking negatively about some of the companies whose shares I have owned, believe it or not.

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Guess Who Thinks He’s Running for President

Bureau of EconomicsIt’s January 25th, and President Obama has been in office for only a few days, and it seems as though there is jockeying for the Republican nomination for 2012.  Here is how it works: take one of President Obama’s or Congress’ new and somewhat popular initiatives, and bet against it – heavily – by criticizing it in every which way you can and being an obstacle.  You know you’ll eventually lose the battle that the initiative will go through, but then if it doesn’t work, you can claim “I told you so.”  Doubly down if the initiative the economic stimulous package, because even if it does work, you can claim that the economy would have recovered in spite of it, and now the deficit is larger.

This is precisely the tact currently being taken by Senator John Cornyn of Texas.  And he’s gone further by challenging the appointments of Hillary Clinton to Secretary of State, and Eric Holder to Attorney General.

There are risks with this strategy.  First of all, if they are simply mowed over, and the policies are effective, the Democrats will enjoy popularity for a recovering economy.  if the obstruction works, and the economy doesn’t improve, then the Democrats can weild that failure against the Republicans – again – in 2010.

But I have a simple suggestion for the Democrats regarding the economy: allow those congressmen and senators to who oppose the stimulous to refuse it on behalf of their states and their districts, and let the voters judge them.

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Who needs an opposition party? We’ve got Democrats

RooseveltAs long as I could recall, we Democrats have prided ourselves on being the “Big Tent” party.  This probably stems from a combination of deft political maneuvering by FDR and a singular hatred of the Republicans after the stock market crash of 1929.  The downside of the big tent is that nobody inside agrees on much.  Here is an article by Peter Baker and David Herszenhorn of the New York Times that talks about how allies in the U.S. Senate are criticizing President-elect Obama and his team about a stimulus package that they claim looks a little too much like trickle-down economics.  Everyone agrees that we need more jobs created.  Even Republicans!  But nobody agrees on how to go about it. President Bush was the darling of the party (not to mention their leader), and was able to set the agenda.  But he certainly did that with a lot of support from Republican congressional leaders.  Obama doesn’t seem to be doing the same.

This does not bode well for the next administration.  If Democrats form a circular firing squad, as they did in 1994, we can expect a Republican Congress just two years from now.

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A Question I keep getting asked: What do you think of Obama?

President-elect Barack ObamaAs an American living abroad, very few people ever asked me what I thought of President Bush.  They all have their opinions, it seems.  And while few Swiss generally share their opinions with me, they are very intrigued about my own opinion of the incoming president.  To this question, I’ve developed a pretty stock answer: “I don’t know.  Ask me in a few years.”

President-elect Obama has demonstrated thoughtfulness in the few times I have heard him speak extemporaneuously.  He also seems to have assembled a very competent cabinet with vast amounts of political experience.  This can be put another way- it’s the same old faces we’ve come to know.  Another young president did his best to put together a superstar team, and it led us to the war in Vietnam.  All this says is that brain power isn’t everything.

President Carter is perhaps one of the smartest men in the world, and yet his presidency is generally views as a failure.  It took President Bush to eclipse him in that department, showing that failure is not limited to one party or another.

Given the choice between having brain power and experience and not having it, clearly I’d rather have it.  But something more is required: wisdom.  While it’s easy to demonstrate a lack of wisdom, I’m not sure how easy it is to demonstrate that one has it.  Again, the thoughtfulness that he has applied to complex issues leads me to hope, but that’s the best I can do for now.

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Obama’s team, thus far

President-elect Obama has selected key members of his cabinet to be nominated.  Here is the list of which I am aware, in order of succession.

  • Secretary of State: Hilary Clinton
  • Secretary of the Treasury: Timothy Geithner
  • Secretary of Defense: Robert Gates
  • Attorney General: Eric Holder
  • Secretary of Commerce: Bill Richardson
  • Secretary of Homeland Security: Janet Nepalitano

Here are some key members of his staff he has named:

  • Director of OMB: Lawrence Summers
  • National Security Advisor: James Jones
  • Press Secretary: Robert Gibbs
  • Ellen Moran

These choices do not reflect a radical shift from the Clinton era but rather a subtle change.  This is probably a good thing, since Clinton seemed to have gotten it mostly right.  The most provocative choices, of course, are Senator Clinton and Ellen Moran.

Ellen Moran, coming from Emily’s List sends a strong message that the issues that group holds dear will be front and center in an Obama administration.  The right will certainly not be pleased with such a choice.

And it’s not clear who should be pleased with Mrs Clinton as a choice for Secretary of State, aside from perhaps President Clinton, as she has very limited foreign policy experience, and clearly does not see eye to eye with the President-elect regarding Iraq.  Worse, she has her hands dirty with her vote to go to war, having perhaps lost a primary over that very issue.

In the meantime, the President-elect is very busily cleaning out southwester governors’ mansions with the choices of Janet Nepolitano and Bill Richardson. Perhaps he will name Arnold Schwarzenegger back to his old job as head of the President’s Council on Health and Fitness.

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