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July 11, 2006

Majikthise for White House ethics advisor

Think Progress lists the four most overpaid White House Staffers:

  • Deborah Nirmala Misi, Ethics Advisor: $114,688
  • Erica M. Dornburg, Ethics Advisor: $100,547
  • Stuart Baker, Director for Lessons Learned: $106,641
  • Melissa M. Carson, Director of Fact Checking: $46,500

Okay, I know what job I want when President Russ Feingold appoints his staff.


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President Feingold. Syd Barrett just passed away, so you must be having a delusion in his madcap honor. Though I consider a Feingold presidency a possibility, and certainly a great desirability, I do not consider it a probability. Alon Levy would disagree with that assessment, and I respect that and sincerely hope I'm wrong. I'll be the first and probably only citizen of Wyoming to wear a "Feingold 2008" pin, and will most assuredly donate to his campaign. If he wins he better give you some sort of job, because right now you appear to be his most well-known supporter in the leftie blogosphere. (I'm sure there are others, but you are his most vocal advocate of whom I'm aware.) He ought to establish a Department of Philosophy, with you as its Deputy Secretary. Who would be the Secretary? Me, of course. I have no philosphical expertise whatsoever, but if we learned one thing from President Bush it's that experience is NEVER necessary. Just ask Heckuvajob Brownie.

My main fear is that the current administration, in conjunction with the major networks, will abolish recounts in favor a round of penalty kicks.

"Director for Lessons Learned"?! Is that a real position? If it is, it must be the cushiest job in the world, at least in this Administration.

My main fear is that the current administration, in conjunction with the major networks, will abolish recounts in favor a round of penalty kicks.

Nah, that's too un-American to ever have a chance of happening. A Home Run Derby, on the other hand...

Lindsay, at the rate the blogosphere seems to be lining up behind Warner, I think you'll be able to make Deputy Chief of Staff if Feingold wins.

Oh well - the person who could be 2008's Howard Dean minus the phoniness and the last-minute crash is turning into its Dennis Kucinich.

...abolish recounts in favor a round of penalty kicks

If by "penalty kicks" you mean "Rochambeau", South Park-style, I'm all for it. As long as our side goes first, anyway.

"C'mon, I'll Rochambeau you for it!"

Well (as bitched about elsewhere) considering that Howard Dean was disqualified from the Presidency because he whooped with a slightly different timbre than the rest of the whooping people in the room full of whooping people that he whooped in front of, I'll be surprised if a good candidate actually makes it into office from here on out. No reason for disqualifying a good person from office could ever have been stupider than that, and on the other hand, Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governator for positive reasons exactly that stupid.

The people have spoken, and they are extremely stupid.

And Alon, I have to disagree: what do you mean, "turning into" its Dennis Kucinich? Howard Dean was a good candidate, marginalized for absolutely no good reason. So was Kucinich. So will Feingold be. We will eventually be left with a finger-to-the-wind Democrat as President, and as badly as the GOP fucked up with Bush, the Dems will have their chance to do the same thing.

Don't mind me. Just in a pessimistic mood at the moment, I guess.

"Director for Lessons Learned"?! Is that a real position? If it is, it must be the cushiest job in the world, at least in this Administration.

Or, the most hellishly Kafka-esque existence imaginable.

"Shit. Why the hell did we do that again?"
"Obviously, we didn't learn our lesson from all the other times."

Lindsay, if you're organizing Netters for Feingold, count me in. We're all going to go down anyway, so we might as well go down swinging for the fences.

Sorry to say, Lindsay, but I'm pretty sure "Ethics Advisor" in this case means a lawyer who is supposed to advise on compliance with federal ethics statutes, not, sadly, anything like what I think you or most people mean when thinking about ethics.

White House "Director for Lessons Learned"!
That's the all the proof I need. I really have landed in a parallel psycho universe.

I would be interested in knowing what sort of staff each of these positions has!

1984, Dean was the frontrunner for several months, ending about a day before the Iowa caucuses. He was also a faux leftist, who pretended to be an anti-war urbanite liberal when it suited him and a Christian populist when his campaign got bigger. Kucinich, in contrast, was never a serious candidate, and never had a chance in hell of winning either the nomination or, if by Infinite Improbability it came to that, the election. Feingold is a real liberal, has solid leadership credentials, and knows how to win on issues conservatives are usually stronger on.

I've already donated to Feingold, and if he runs for President I'll max out my donations even if it means eating peanut butter sandwiches for six months. Hopefully I'll be rewarded with a position as Deputy Secretary for Fluffy Little Beasts.

I find the appellation "overpaid" odd in this context. What could this -- or any -- president need more than ethics advisors and fact checking? (I admit "director for lessons learned" sounds odd, in more ways than one -- "director OF", surely?)

If anything, I think the fact checking position woefully underpaid.

Like Bill Hooker, I'm amused at the paltriness of the fact checking director's salary. In fact, I notice that the vaguer and less specific the job title there, the higher the pay. Facts? Facts are stupid things.

Thanks Alon,

I missed Dean's Christian populist phase. I agree with your assessment of Kucinich's chances.

The larger point that I wanted to make was that we're deluded if we think there's going to be a white knight right now. Look, instead, for W's Boy Who Cried Wolf, or Boy Who Cried Hawk, when there were no wolves around, to be matched, when there is really a wolf, by a Democrat Boy or Girl Who Cried Dove. A perfect two-step. I think that real threats will emerge by the time our next Democratic President comes along, but that war will be taken off the table, at just the time when, no, you guys, there really is a threat.


I didn't see the Christian populist part of Dean's show. Perhaps he pandered or dabbled in being that finger-to-the-wind guy I mentioned; I wouldn't be surprised. I agree with your assessment of Kucinich. I'm firmly convinced that we absolutely will not get a President with his/her head screwed on straight until we have the false dawn. Watch: the next Dem President, we'll all say: "Whew! The light at the end of the tunnel! Peace and prosperity again! Clinton years, here we come!" But I'm laying you money: following the GOP Boy Who Cried Wolf (Hawk), George W (who cried wolf at Afghanistan when there was a wolf, and then at Iraq when there was no wolf), we will have the false dawn Dem President, who will screw up by _not_ going to war, when they should. A Boy or Girl Who Cried Dove, if you will.

As long as I'm doing crazy Internet guy predictions, I predict:

1) now that China and Japan have begun pulling out of dollar bonds, as they (and others, following their lead) did last year, interest rates will keep rising, the housing market will keep softening, the economy will keep taking the hit, and we will soon have more serious economic difficulties.

2) problems in East Asia will continue to worsen.

3) our false dawn Dem, if we have peace long enough to elect him/her (or if he/she is chosen as the fall guy for the above-mentioned difficulties), will keep out of East Asia, remembering the Iraq debacle, and figuring that it will only exacerbate our economic difficulties to get in another war (since we'll still be paying for Iraq) and that our troops will be too exhausted to fight another (since we'll still be paying for Iraq in that sense too).

4) Japan, very vulnerable without us, will be brought well to heel by those that threaten her (such as North Korea, whom Japan has recently--ridiculously--threatened with a pre-emptive strike, which Japan is in no position to do, without our help; or China, which has disputes with Japan over natural gas reserves and territory in Japan's southwest), either militarily or economically. If militarily, the disruption in the supply chain will hurt us economically in ways we can scarcely imagine.

5) the world will marvel at the confusion with which we addressed a non-threatening Iraq by treating it as a threat, and treating the new threat as a non-threat.

6) defense budgets around the world will go up.

Hope my earlier post didn't seem too caustic. As you can see, I'm just pessimistic about our politics at the moment. No disparagement intended.

>Peanut Butter Sandwiches
>Fluffy Little Beasts

With that many PB sandwiches, you should at least make Deputy Secretary for Fluffernutters.

Note: Japan and North Korea, if their disagreements remain only between one another, are fairly evenly matched in air power, and if anything, North Korea's air force materiel is more obsolete. But if Japan were to attack North Korea, as it recently mentioned it might think about doing, North Korea has a very, very daunting anti-aircraft defense, especially for a country with only several hundred planes (and, incidentally, no bomber strength to speak of).

My post seems to have disappeared for no good reason... to summarize it, I said that Dean and Kucinich were very different: Dean was an electable faux liberal, who was a day away from winning the nomination, and Kucinich was a lightweight progressive who'd never been a serious candidate.

Dean's Christian populism was inherent in his remarks in late 2003. First, he flip-flopped on trade: whereas in early 2003 he supported the principles of free trade and only called for slight tweaks in NAFTA, articulating the position of most urban liberals, by late 2003 he had become a protectionist whose trade policy was no different from Gephardt's. Then, he flip-flopped on religion, saying he was a devout Christian and contradicting his earlier comments about his secularism. In that light, it's justified to say he changed his image from urbanite liberal to left-wing populist (which in the US means Christian).

I think that the soft underbelly in your predictions is that things can only unravel as you think they will if they happen very quickly, so that step 6 is already underway by about 2012. Otherwise the American electorate will see isolationism as a failure and vote in a hawk in 2012. But China's internalized a soft-power foreign policy, which is here to stay at least until Hu leaves office.

Alon, TypePad went down yesterday and mulched a lot of posts and comments. Sorry about that.

Thanks Alon,

You're correct--

>things can only unravel as you think they will if they happen very quickly,

The things that make me think that are mainly these two things: first, that the Chinese and Japanese divestment from or failure to keep supporting the US dollar, via their massive treasury-bond purchases, has already begun happening as of last year. Second is the fact that (and it alarms me how little this is noticed by our leaders, or Europe's either) Kim Jong Il is so very paranoid. It's so plain in the urgency with which he reacts to the mildest stern talk from Washington, much less the "Axis of Evil" speech (unless that _is_ what he keeps reacting to). I expect him to pop very soon, as he becomes more and more convinced that he will be attacked. If he does not, then it might be a safe bet that only predictions 1 and 4 (with 4 modified to exclude military action but still to include economic concerns) will come true.

The caveat is that, appearances aside, I think that China is playing a stealth game, and is very conscious of all military rivalries facing it, including especially India, whom we're arming. The Chinese don't go to war at the drop of a hat, they choose their moments. But they do choose their moments. I wouldn't put it past them to use muscle at the right time, though it's true that it will be carefully chosen. Energy disputes with Japan seem to interest them a bit, but Taiwan has always been where I've expected it. They now have such huge trade with Taiwan that they simply might bag the whole idea of reclaiming them (I certainly would); if they did, one wonders if North Korea couldn't extend their Sunshine Policy to reach a similarly permanent accommodation with South Korea. Such accommodation, though, will exclude the United States, and where possible, India.

Also, as a random thought, it is strange to me, not to say insane, that Japan would saber-rattle and threaten a pre-emptive strike against North Korea (!). I would entertain the possibility that they didn't come up with that crazy idea by themselves, but that we may have put them up to it. I say entertain the possibility; but they are in no position to strike North Korea without us.

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