January 31, 2010

Executive Branch Management

People warned that one of Obama’s faults was that he did not have any executive experience and the presidential management style that has emerged over the past year is indicative of those claims.

Historically there are two approaches to Executive Branch management. The first is the Spoke and Wheel model popular in the pre-modern presidencies. The president took a more hands on approach and the staff had wide access to the president. The advantages are a President that is well informed and connected to all that is occurring in the various offices.

The disadvantage to this approach is that as the Executive Branch has grown in size and scope this model is time consuming and leaves the president vulnerable to being overwhelmed with trivial decisions. Administrative tasks and tending the minutia of governing makes it hard to think and act strategically which has a negative effect on a president’s legacy.

The ever expanding Executive Office of the President led to the second model known as the Pyramid model which places the president at the top of the hierarchy in the role of delegator. This requires a strong Chief of Staff who handles the administrative duties and acts as a gatekeeper to the president. The president’s time is a valuable asset and this frees him up to act strategically which can have a positive effect on legacy.

There is however a danger of presidential isolation and a distorted view of reality. It also leaves subordinates in the position to act without authorization which requires the president to place loyal, trusted, and competent individuals in prominent positions.

Presidents since FDR have opted for the Pyramid, although Carter and Clinton initially took the Wheel approach, both eventually transitioned to the Pyramid model when their administrations began to flounder. Also, since Eisenhower created the Office of Congressional Relations in the 1950’s, the Executive has relied on negotiation with the Legislative Branch to help guide their agenda through Congress.

Carter and to an extent Clinton in the early years took a more direct approach with Congress with the idea that they should act on the presidential agenda simply on its merits. Congress of course recoiled at this encroachment on their prerogatives making progress nearly impossible. Contrary to appearances the most powerful person in Washington is rarely the President, but as Obama has discovert, the Speaker of the House.

Obama has chosen the Wheel approach but this is a wheel on steroids. Besides the traditional cabinet departments Obama has also added a cabal of czars, interest groups i.e. PPI, Unions, and Acorn plus his ongoing and active political concern the OFA. To avoid the added burden of negotiating with the legislative branch he has essentially deferred actual policy formation to Congress.

The outward results of this management scheme is a schizophrenic administration that has turned its legislative agenda over to the left wing, has been forced to backtrack on nearly every initiative it has undertaken, and is unable to generate a coherent unified message. The President, in his attempt to manage every spoke on this wheel, now finds himself speechmaker in chief, knee deep in issues that are often beneath Office of the Executive, and increasingly aloof and out of touch with the electorate.

The question then; is this chaos merely the result of executive inexperience or is it intentionally generated as a means to his liberal ends? If he reorganizes like his two democratic predecessors we can say he is the former, if it’s the later...

January 28, 2010

From the Salmon Library

Editors note: I recently added an Amazon widg-gidget to the sidebar and as I rotate out the old selections for the new I would like to briefly comment on those selections from The Salmon Library.

“The Shack”, by William Young

This best seller drew criticism from some corners because I think there were objections to the main character, despondent over the murder of his young daughter, spending a week end with the Holy Trinity. No doubt the embodiment of God, in what I pictured as a jolly Oprah Winfrey, cooking the four of them dinner and doling out bits of Divine wisdom over coffee could be viewed as some sort of heresy by some.

That said, I personally liked the book and I think it was commercially successful because it focused on the importance of Love above everything else. If you can simply follow the instructions of Jesus and love your neighbor as yourself, or better yet go so far as to love your enemies, everything else will more easily fall into place. For me it circumvents the human bias or institutional and doctrinal elements that can be so troublesome in organized religion today.

As someone once wrote “All you need is love, love, love is all you need.” How hard can that be?

"The Box Car Children" by Gertrude Chandler Warner

You are probably wondering how a children's book ended up in the Salmon library. A funny thing happened at the used book store I frequent. Arwen went with me and I planted her in the kids section while I browsed the store. When I came back, I couldn't find her which of course scared the heck out of me, thankfully I located her two aisles over in the kids "chapter book" section.

She had her heart set on a Hannah Montana book so I quickly looked around to find something a little more literary if that is possible in the kids section. I looked up from where she was sitting and lo and behold there was an assortment of the "Box Car Children" series , a book I remember from my youth.

This is bit ridiculous perhaps but this book was something (along with an overdose of John Wayne movies) that I think helped shaped my world view. Here was a group of orphans during the depression that stick together as a family and through hard work and self reliance set up house in an old boxcar. Of course, just like in real life, they discover they have a rich grandfather and they all live happily ever after.

After a few minutes of negotiation I convinced Arwen that this was way cooler than Hannah Montana and that we would read a chapter a night. She really latched on to the adventure as I related our own camping trips. Our nightly reading session became a hit. Now in my quest to turn her into a mini-me I am thinking we might move on to the adventures of Tom and Huck.

"Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team" (2001)

From the library's video section I have added this HBO documentary about the 1980 Olympic Ice Hockey gold medal win. I wrote on this several years ago when it was presented as part of an American History course I was in a the time. I recently found a copy at our local second hand store for four bucks and couldn't pass it up. If this story doesn't bring a tear to your eye you got to be a commie;)

January 27, 2010

It's the Values Stupid

Is there anyone out there that believed that the Miracle in Massachusetts was a epiphany for the President? In an interview with George Stephanopoulos , Obama had this to say about what the loss of the Massachusetts Senate race ultimately means to him.

Obama …That also means, by the way, that we can spread out what we do so it's not so cram packed. It doesn't mean I back off the agenda of health care, or energy, or education, or financial regulatory reform, or dealing with our deficits. But it does mean that it doesn't have to be all on top of the other piled on. And we've got a lot more time to explain to people why we're doing what we're doing. We have a lot more time to answer critics who argue that we're not doing the right thing."
This is obviously a man that can't or won't get it. He has no plans to adjust his agenda (but expect it to be repackaged). He feels that if he had just done a better job educating the masses they would certainly come to understand all the good things he wants to do to us. This is as absurd as the Democrats argument that goes, "If only we could get health care passed the people will see what a great thing it is and praise us for our benevolence." He continues;

Obama: What I haven't been able to do yet -- and this was what I was hired to do -- is to close the gap between the values of the American people and the values of Washington, and the values of Wall Street. The values of our big institutions.

These values -- the American people's values are sound. They're right. You know, people take responsibility for their lives, they work hard. They're doing right by their families. Our institutions aren't matching up to those values. And my job over the course of this year has been to see A, if we can just solve the immediate crisis. But now I've got to spend a lot more time just focused on how we get those things to align.

And, you know, If there's one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here -

Stephanopoulos: That people would get it.

Obama: That people will get it...
Yes, Americans are hard working and responsible but those things the president identified are traits that are the result of American core values not core values themselves. Values such as,

Justice; my life and the fruits of my labor will be protected not just from my neighbor but from the institutions we form.
Order; that the rule of law applies equally to everyone including those that run the those institutions.
Freedom; the ability to follow one’s own path without interference from those same institutions.

These three values better known as Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are non- negotiable to the American people and as long as these values are in equilibrium the American people are a pretty placid bunch who pays little attention to the machinations of our institutions. When these tenets become out of balance, or are seemingly under attack, the American people rally around them just as tenaciously as they rally around a President when the nation is under attack from outside forces. Protesters over the past year were not chanting "I'm a hard worker and dont like your health care bill" they were screaming "get your nose out of my personal affairs and your hand out of my pocket!"

The Presidents problem is not how he can educate the people about their values but instead how he can formulate reforms and allign our institutions to those set values. That is a tall order considering that his own values are diametrically opposed to the majority of Americans and after reading this interview I just don’t think that kind of change is in his nature.

Cf; The American Cause. by Russel Kirk

For a further examination of this interview see Doctor Zero "The Context Of Middle-Class Frustration"

January 26, 2010

Econ 101

Via American Digest

January 25, 2010

How to Squander the Presidency in One Year

As we know its been a tough year to be an idol, but there is nothing more pathetic than someone publicly crying in their beer when they come to the realization that their idol is not what they thought. Should you empathize or just go ahead and laugh your ass off with the knowlege that hubris inevitably brings all idols crashing back to Earth crushing the hopes and dreams of the idolitors? I vote for a good laugh.
Here, Hofstra University Political Science Professor, David Michael Green gets all wee-weed up over Obama's performance one year in.

The Thesis:

Barack Obama has now, in just a year's time, become the single most inept president perhaps in all of American history, and certainly in my lifetime. Never has so much political advantage been pissed away so rapidly, and what's more in the context of so much national urgency and crisis. It's astonishing, really, to contemplate how much has been lost in a single year...

The Evidence: (condensed version)

* He does not lead.

* I have never seen a president so utterly lacking in passion.

* He has therefore let Congress ‘lead' on nearly every issue, another surefire mistake.

* Another possible strategic move even stupider than deferring to Congress to write major legislation is to cozy up with the least popular people on the planet.

* Another brilliant presidential tactic is to be such a Mr. Happy Nice Face (This is a College Professor?) acknowledge no enemies for the country, or even yourself.

* While you're at it, if you're trying to run the most failed presidency ever, a really good idea is to campaign in the grandest terms possible, and then deliver squat.

* Even more importantly, if you're trying to run your presidency into the ground you'll definitely want to avoid mobilizing the general public behind your agenda.

* A successful president is one who articulates a strong and compelling narrative for the nation. So, in your quest to avoid rising even to mediocrity, be sure to leave a great big gaping canyon where that whole narrative thing is supposed to go.

* As long as you're walking away from the grand narrative, why not let the opposition define you as well? ... Never engage, never respond, never preempt, never attack, never fight back.

* In general, you'll also want to take the most important power the president has - the bully pulpit - and totally piss it away.

* Another great trick for crashing a presidency is to pick all the wrong priorities to ‘fight' for.

* And, finally, perhaps the most important thing one can do - and the thing that helps explain many of the other items above - is to adopt really, really pathetic policies.

The Conclusion:

And thus - while anything's possible, of course - I am hard pressed to see how the Obama administration is anything but finished.

I pity the fool that has to endure one of Professor Greens lectures this semester. He obviously got caught up in the same herd mentality that he should be teaching his students to identify and avoid. If I was paying tuition I would want my money back.

The extended version of "How to Squander the Presidency," can be found HERE.
Illustration: "The Lament For Icarus", by Herbert James Draper

January 24, 2010

The Errors of Social Justice

For the political science nerds out there, philosophy professor Craig Smith lectures on the topic of social justice and makes a moral case for why social justice is not compatable with a liberal society.

Craig Smith - 'The Errors of Social Justice'
Recorded at Balliol College, Oxford on Tuesday, 25 November 2008

January 21, 2010

Grumman's Goose

Dean Scream Two

I thought Howard Dean may have been positioning himself for a run against Obama in 2012 but I'm sure that Obama operatives are at this very moment cutting and pasting the Iowa scream together with this gem.

Dean is arguing that because polling showed that health care reform is popular the election of Scott Brown was a message to the Democrats that the bills in congress are not socialist enough. This logic is so perverse that even Chris "Thorozine" Matthews was able to identify it as such.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news

January 20, 2010


On the first anniversary of the World According to Obama pundits will be working overtime gauging the success or failures of the President in 2009. I would like to leave the minutia of his performance to others and examine instead who exactly is Barrack Obama. We have been told since the election that he was merely a post partisan pragmatist but I propose he is, like any new and improved laundry detergent, nothing more than a repackaged version of the same failed promise.

We can trace the ideological beginnings of this promise back to Marx and over the last century there have been several iterations of the idea that communal organization would be the perfected society.

In Russia, revolutionary communism upended the social order with promises of bringing Russia into modernity. The Russian experiment appealed to those in the United States that felt that political Progressivism was moving too slowly towards utopian goals. This split was apparent in the fractured labor movement which spawned the political Socialist Party, the activist Socialist Labor Party and its short lived radical step brother, the apolitical International Workers of the World.

By the 1960s the obvious failures of revolutionary communism did not kill what had by then become the religion of the left in the west. Most fellow travelers were appalled by the invasion of Eastern Europe in ’68 but even then they did not reject the religion; it only necessitated a repackaging. By replacing Marx’s proletariat revolutionary with the intellectual elite they proposed that you could create a multicultural utopia where social and economic conditions are free from misery real and imagined. The result is the elitist egalitarianism which Obama exudes and dominates the democratic leadership today.

Political scientist Kenneth Minogue identified this new and improved communism as Olympianism. In a 2003 New Criterion article which I have dissected to focus on how this effort is being played out on the national level Minogue wrote;

The foundational elitism of the Olympian lies in the self ascribed rationality generally picked up on the academic campus. Egalitarianism involves adherence to democracy as a rejection of all forms of rational authority but with no commitment to taking any series notice of what the people actually think. Olympians instruct mortals they do not obey them…

Equally ideally, democracy is the only tolerable mode of social coordination but until the majority of people have become enlightened, it must be constrained within a framework of rights, to which Olympian legislation is constantly adding.

Without these restraints, progress would be in danger from reactionary populism appealing to prejudice. The overriding passion of the Olympian is thus to educate the ignorant and everything is treated in educational terms. Laws for example are enacted not only to shape the conduct of people but also to send messages to them…

I’m sure we could cite a pagefull of examples of how this has played out over the past year; from the president rejecting American Exceptionalism, Congress ignoring public opinion, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin granting us the “right" to health care. Or the administration attacks on the Tea Party movement.

The best example however may be that the American public is keen to Olympianism and the growing backlash is palpable. As David Brooks wrote last week, “The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.” Americans are able to see through the new and improved label.

Cf: Kenneth Minogue. “Christophobia” and the West. The New Centurion, June 2003

Massachusetts Miracle

The dead Kennedys are surely rolling over in their graves this morning but the Drudge headline above has to be taken as pure sarcasm. The reason we needed a Massachusetts miracle at all is because the American public was duped by a first term Senator with great oratory skills. And hows that working out?

The backlash against the Obama agenda is certainly amazing but it is not the end of the fight because the Democrats have shown they are willing to kamikaze their agenda through Congress and Obama will not pull a Clinton and move right or better yet a Palin and move out. This was a remarkable victory but lets not loose sight of the fact that the country will not be out of the woods until the progressives are deposed in November.

Update: Via Powerline
Then again, Brown had this to say last night:

"And let me say this, with respect to those who wish to harm us, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation - they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them."

What Others Are Saying:

From the WSJ: (Who doesnt like a good Jefferson quote)

'It is to me a new and consolatory proof that wherever the people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."

—Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, January 8, 1789.

Two hundred and twenty-one years later, the sage of Monticello has been proven right again. Aroused and well-informed by a year of watching a liberal majority go very far wrong, Massachusetts voters handed a Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy for 47 years to Republican Scott Brown, a little known state senator from Wrenthem.

From RCP:
Barack Obama has made some mistakes in the last year. He misjudged the mood of the country. He misjudged the capacity of Congress to legislate with a decent respect for the national interest. He misjudged the extent of the recession - how it would affect unemployment and ultimately the public consciousness.

Tonight's result in Massachusetts is the first price he pays for his political mistakes. It will not be the last. Republicans may or may not take back the House of Representatives next year, but they are set to make big gains in the lower chamber. Only the hardiest of Democratic partisans doubt this, and even they are starting to come around.

January 18, 2010

Alaska Airline's Salmon Jet Landing in Anchorage

January 16, 2010

Iowan's Protest Westboro Cultists

When news that the Westboro Baptist Chruch was coming to town to picket the Theatre of Cedar Rapids production of "The Larimie Project" a hundred people mobilized to stage a counter protest. The folks from Westboro did not show.

January 15, 2010

Conservative Orthodoxy: The Voyage

G.K. Chesterton begins the argument in his book “Orthodoxy” with the story of a man that sails away from his native Brighton in search of a new land, he writes.

I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas. I always find, however, that I am either too busy or too lazy to write this fine work, so I may as well give it away for the purposes of philosophical illustration.

There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale.

His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? What could be better than to have all the fun of discovering South Africa without the disgusting necessity of landing there? What could be more glorious than to brace one's self up to discover New South Wales and then realize, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales?
Chesterton of course was using the man in the yacht to illustrate his sailing away from what he thought he knew in search of what was missing in his faith only to rediscover it right where he left it, within himself and the 2000 year old teachings of the church; the Apostles Creed being the central tenet.

I steal this philosophical illustration from Chesterton only to suggest that Americans in general and conservatives in particular have taken a similar voyage of discovery. I won’t venture to pinpoint today exactly where and when we embarked on this voyage, if that is even possible with any exactitude, or expound on how and why we drifted so far off course. It is safe to say however that the vessel has been pushed to and fro by a variety of forces both internal and external but like Chesterton’s yachtsman we today find ourselves coming full circle.

Now you may be saying to yourself that this was a strictly religious analogy and you certainly could not apply to the politics of today. I don’t feel it is a leap to argue that America was uniquely founded on a particular creed (some have gone so far to call it a civil religion to the ire of others) with the Declaration of Independence the central tenet.

I also don’t feel it is a leap to argue that we are seeing an upsurge that is re-asserting this creed into American politics with the Tea Party movement the most visible example. Less obvious is the shift in the message of conservative politicians who have embraced practical conservative values without the religious conservative baggage. We are also witnessing a growing turmoil within the liberal coalition as voters flee a vision bereft of historical American values.

January 12, 2010

Flotsam and Jetsam

Ouch, high winds blew this Super Cub off its tiedown at the Palmer Ak. airport. Photo Courtesy the ADN

Alaska Ex-Governor Lands Fox Gig : A smart cat always lands on it's feet and this one is shredding the furniture.

Why Government Should Stay Out of the Private Sector: I was not aware that the state of Iowa had spent $58 Million on a golf resort until I found out that the socialist operation was slated to loose $1 Million bucks this year. They should change the name from Honey Creek to Honey Bucket.

Bill Clinton's Mistress: Mistress? Color me Shocked!

Video: PJTV: The Power & Danger of Iconography

Abandon Every Hope Ye Who Enter Here: Discover which level of hell are you headed for in this Dante's Inferno Test. If you are lucky I'll meet you in Purgatory.

Thx Dave

January 06, 2010

Iowa Wins the Orange Bowl

I'm afraid I bought into the hype about Georgia Tech's vaunted triple option offense. GT unstoppable force, let me introduce you to the Hawkeye immovable object. The Iowa defense totally ruled the day holding the GT to 142 yards rushing and 12 passing.

Quarterback Ricki Stanzi returned after missing the last two games with an ankle injury. Unlike his previous 9 victories that were done with a nail biting wing and a prayer he controlled the ball and threw for 231 yards and 2 TDs.

Congratulation Coach Ferentz and the entire Hawkeye Team. You have given us all a season to remember.

Gore On Ice in Fairbanks

Fairbanks News Miner: The two-ton “Frozen Gore” sculpture isn’t exactly a tribute. It’s a tongue-in-cheek critique of Gore’s vocal belief in man-made climate change, complete with hot air pouring out of his mouth.

Local businessmen Craig Compeau and Rudy Gavora contracted the piece from award-winning sculptor Steve Dean and say they’ll keep erecting one each winter until Gore accepts an invitation to discuss the global warming issue in Fairbanks.“We do want to invite debate,” Compeau said. “We don’t agree with his theories — we’re suspicious of the financial motivation behind them.”

This year’s version includes special effects, thanks to a system that pipes the exhaust from a Ford F-350 out of Gore’s open mouth. Compeau will fire up the truck periodically this winter to create the “hot air” effect.

January 05, 2010

Unique Plane Expected to Fetch $1-Million

National Post: A unique antique airplane that saw service in Alaska in the 1940s is expected to sell for at least $1 million at auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., this month. The 1929 Hamilton Metalplane is fully restored and is one of only two examples of the aluminum-bodied bush plane left in the world -- and it's the only one that is still flyable.

January 02, 2010

On Beaver Pond

Pic courtesy of the Anchorage Daily News.

What Are We Up Against?

It's too cold to play outside this morning (-10 on the Salmon shack back porch) so take an hour, pour yourself a steaming cup of coffee, Baileys optional, and watch these two videos. It is interesting that democratic operative Pat Caddel is livid over the direction that his party has taken and the oligarchy behind it.

January 01, 2010

Welcome Twenty Ten

Times Square ca. 1904

The Salmon would like to wish you and yours a very happy and prosperous New Year.
Lets pray that the next decade is better than the last one.

I went back to the site where I swiped this photo when I realized that the sign said Admiral Televisions. This is certainly a Joe Biden moment for the Salmon. I thought they were implying that this photo was from 1904 but instead I learned that it recieved a name change in 1904 from Longacre Square to Time Square.