Bush Appointees Having Hard Time

Is it  because the economy is terrible or because nobody wants them? The Wall Street Journal report on the high unemployment rate among former Bush administration appointees:

The jobless rate is hanging high — for many of the roughly 3,000 political appointees who served President George W. Bush. Finding work has proved a far tougher task than those appointees expected.

“This is not a great time for anyone to be job hunting, including numerous former political appointees,” said Carlos M. Gutierrez, Mr. Bush’s commerce secretary. Previously chief executive of cereal maker Kellogg Co., he hopes to run a company again because “I have a lot of energy.”

Only 25% to 30% of ex-Bush officials seeking full-time jobs have succeeded, estimated Eric Vautour, a Washington recruiter at Russell Reynolds Associates Inc. That “is much, much worse” than when Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton left the White House, he said. At least half those presidents’ senior staffers landed employment within a month after the administration ended, Mr. Vautour recalled.

SciFi Weekend: Return to the Island; Party Down with Kristin Bell; Another BSG Remake; Doll Hunting; Dharma and Baby; Sci-Fi Porn

We all knew they would be going back to the island this season, but it was a surprise to see them back at the start of the last episode, 316. In retrospect it does make sense. When we look back at Lost after the series concludes it will be a show about the people on the island, even if there was a brief time away (and they may or may not wind up there in the end). There’s no doubt that the show will continue to have flashbacks to the time the Oceanic Six was off the island due to all the loose ends left. Mysteries include why all of the adults in the Oceanic Six came to the airport as they did, what happened to Ben, and how they got from the plane to the island.

Heroes is somewhat more on track compared to the first half of the season but they still suffer from having to come up with story lines for all those characters they don’t want to get rid of.  I really wonder about Sylar’s new sidekick. If Sylar killed off Kristen Bell (Elle) when he tired of her, what chance does this guy have?

While Kristen Bell has been killed off on Heroes, she still has work. She will be appearing in the season finale of Rob Thomas’ new series, Party Down.


Life on Mars has possibly begun a story line which could lead to answers as to why Sam is back in the 1970’s. Sam ran into a city councilman who claimed to have come back from 2009 and has found a way home before he was killed. It also looks like Sam’s relationship with Maria is over, presumably leaving him free to get involved with Annie. Sam also has to look into the guy above. He just looks like the guy in a television show who is behind whatever might be going on.

Ron Moore’s remake of Battlestar Galactica is winding down and we have already received the answers to many of the show’s mysteries. Moore’s show is a considerable improvement over the very weak original, but apparently there are still some fans of the original around. Universal is talking with Glen A. Larson, creator of the original, about making a movie version of the original show. Personally I see little point in this. Moore has already re-imagined the show in a way far better than the original. We don’t really need a remake of the weaker version.  Perhaps those who aren’t satisfied with the new version just need to sit down and watch it with a good Battlestar Drink.


I continue to be hopeful about Dollhouse despite the implausibility of its premise. If the episodes were merely standalone stories in which Echo takes on a new identity I would quickly lose interest, but it is clear that there is a continuing story in progress, and that Echo’s memory wipes between episodes are not complete. This week’s episode, Target, could have been see as a simple retelling of The Most Dangerous game but it also provides more on the back story to the series. Last week I assumed we were seeing Echo’s first jobs after going to the Dollhouse, but it is now clear she had earlier adventures and a previous handler.


Dharma will be returning, and I’m not referring to that group of ill fated scientists on Lost. Jenna Elfman (above in  Allure) is returning to network television in a show which sounds a lot like a television version of Knocked Up:

Jenna Elfman who starred in the sitcom “Dharma & Greg” has been cast in the lead role of the CBS comedy pilot “Accidentally on Purpose.”

She will play Billie, a San Francisco movie critic who finds herself “accidentally” pregnant after a fling with a younger man, and builds an unconventional family around her “mistake.”

The nude picture of Jenna Elfman above leads into the final item for this week. AMC, yes I said AMC, has presented the following item on sci-fi porn:

Quote of the Day: Take the Money

“We’ll take it. We’ll take your money.”

–Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm on Fox News Sunday in response to Republican governors who claim they will not accept the stimulus money. She elaborated further:

Elaborating in an appearing on “Fox News Sunday” with three other governors, Granholm said the issue “is not about philosophical theory. This is about real people who, through no fault of their own, are laid off because of a recession. They need to be able to put food on the table.

“So you better believe I’m going to take every dollar that is coming to Michigan. And if my colleagues here in Minnesota and South Carolina don’t get — don’t use theirs, I’m going to be first in line to say for my people, for our citizens, to put people to work and to make sure that they can survive through this, I’ll take their dollars, too.”

Anyone really believe that, once the grandstanding is over, there really are any states with Republican governors which will not accept the money?

Misunderstanding the Culture Wars

William Saletan does not really understand what the culture wars are all about when he writes of ending them. The culture wars are  a consequence of the religious right believing they can use the power of government to impose their religious views upon others. Other Republicans such as Karl Rove in recent years and Richard Nixon in the past found that they can mobilize these voters over wedge issues for political gain regardless of whether they really care about their issues.

Saletan promotes contraception as the alternative but fails to understand that the same people who oppose abortion rights are also the ones against abortion. They support making it more difficult for women to obtain contraception and support laws giving conservative pharmacists the ability to refuse to dispense contraception.

It will do no good to argue to conservatives that opposing contraception is counterproductive if they oppose abortion. Conservative base these positions on their religious views and this is not open to rational debate. Similarly, social conservatives will not accept his arguments with regards to the benefits of children being raised in stable marriages with same sex couples.

Saletan’s views on liberals are out of a conservative stereotype, not reality. Liberals who defend a woman’s right to choose do not condone irresponsible sexual decisions. We are just realistic enough to know that there are lots of Bristol Palins in the world. Planned Parenthood does advise women about contraception,  not only abortion. They are seen as the enemy by the religious right on both counts.

With all the talk recently of ending the culture wars, the only hope for an end will come if more Americans understand why the Founding Fathers wisely attempted to form a secular state with a strict wall of separation between church and state. While everyone is free to hold whatever religious views they choose, and worship as they choose, religious views must never be the sole justification for public policy. There will be culture wars as long as any group believes they can impose their religious views on others.

Starbucks vs. McDonald’s

While Matthew Yglesias’ predictions regarding taxation discussed in the previous post are reasonable, he sure does not understand the life style of affluent liberals.  He reviewed a study from the Pew Research Center which looked at whether Americans “would rather live in a neighborhood with more McDonald’s or more Starbucks.” The results:

Americans manage to typecast themselves by just about every demographic and ideological characteristic under the sun; overall, more Americans choose McDonalds (43%) over Starbucks (35%), but the split is more pronounced — and rather predictable — when analyzed demographically. Liberals want coffee; conservatives choose burgers. Younger Americans vote for caffeine; older Americans decidedly pick the value menu. When one controls for all the factors tested, the variables that do the most to explain whether someone chooses Starbucks over McDonalds are: having a college degree, having a high income, being a liberal, being a Westerner and being a woman.

Matthew responds:

But as someone who fits firmly into the Starbucks demographic, I can’t help but wonder what people are thinking. At the end of the day, if you want some coffee and there’s a McDonald’s nearby but no Starbucks, you can go to the McDonald’s and get some coffee. It’s not the same range of selection, and I do like Starbucks coffee more, but McDonald’s is a reasonably close substitute. By contrast, there’s no french fries at Starbucks. There’s no burger at Starbucks. No nuggets. No ice cream. And nothing that even vaguely resembles any of that stuff. It’s an assymetrical relationship where McDonald’s can imperfectly substitute for Starbucks but Starbucks can’t substitute for McDonald’s at all. And these days they both have WiFi. But McDonald’s has delicious Diet Coke and other sodas.

Long story short, the yuppies of America need to get real.

He fails to understand the tremendous differences between the Starbucks and McDonald’s experience. I ran this by a sample which was small but readily available–my wife and daughter. Both quickly voted for Starbucks. Actually my daughter’s reaction was the typical reaction of teenagers who think that adults don’t know what they are talking about. She thought the very question was ridiculous with only one plausible answer.

Of course this is a very biased sample. I suspect that my wife and daughter are responsible for the bulk of the profits at the nearest Starbucks. Ever since my daughter got her own car it has become common for one to go to Starbucks and be told by the baristas (who all know them both) that the other had just passed through.

Sure McDonald’s has more food choices, but I would very rarely actually eat at a McDonald’s. Some afluent liberals might eat there from time to time out of convenience but they could easily live without the McDonald’s. My wife will even drive through McDonald’s occasionally for a diet coke (which she does believe is better than that available elsewhere) but she would never give up a Starbucks for a McDonald’s coke. We would not use either Starbucks or McDonald’s as a primary place to get food, but have relied upon the limited food selection at Starbucks far more often than going to a McDonald’s.

People go to Starbucks for the experience, not just the coffee. We will go with other couples to a Starbucks after having dinner out with friends, but would never go to a McDonald’s for coffee after dinner. My wife will meet friends at Starbucks but would never do this at a McDonald’s. My daughter will even sit with friends and do homework at Starbucks but I can guarantee she would not be caught dead hanging out at a McDonald’s.

Incidentally, Matthew’s post is not the first time I’ve encountered people on line who did not understand the importance of the experience. While Starbucks is far preferable to McDonald’s, often I prefer to go to local coffee places which often have both better coffee and a better ambiance.

Last year while in South Beach (Miami Beach) we quickly found that coffee was available in the lobby at our resort and found a nearby Starbucks. While there were also many nearby restaurants and bars, we were unable to find any places we would like to go for coffee other than our lobby or the Starbucks. I did what I will usually do when wandering around a strange city–ask ChaCha.

ChaCha is a free service which researches questions submitted by cell phone and sends a text message with the answer. Generally they are very helpful, but this time I did not receive a response until the next day. They totally struck out on this one. I asked for coffee places near Lowe’s resort in South Beach other than Starbucks, hoping for a cozy place we could go at breakfast time or in the evening. The answer received was a Dunkin’ Donuts in Fort Lauderdale–hardly what we had in mind. Apparently people in South Beach hang out on the beach during the day and then at the clubs at night with far less interest in coffee places than we have in the colder midwestern cities.

Predictions Regarding Marginal Tax Rates

Matthew Yglesias makes three predictions:

  1. At the end of Barack Obama’s administration, like at the end of Bill Clinton’s administration but unlike at the end of George W. Bush’s administration, the top marginal income tax rate will be higher than it was at the beginning.
  2. At the end of Barack Obama’s administration, like at the end of Bill Clinton’s but unlike at the end of George W. Bush’s administration, median income will be higher than it was at the beginning.
  3. At the end of Barack Obama’s administration, conservatives will still be obsessed with reducing the income tax burden on the wealthiest Americans as the key to sound economic policy.

I’ll add a little to this. With regards to number three, many of those Republican supporters obsessed over this have little understanding of what marginal rates mean. Even if they do, they do not understand the different effects of a higher marginal rate on someone making over $200,0o0 per year and on their income. While nobody likes higher taxes, each dollar lost is far less important at higher income levels. Contrary to common conservative mythology, those of us who run businesses are not going to suddenly decide to stop making money because the income is being taxed at a slightly higher rate.

While marginal rates will be higher than they are now, they will not be anywhere near rates of the past which could more accurately have been called confiscatory, and actually could have reduced incentive to produce.

The definition of wealthiest Americans will also differ from that used by Democratic politicians in the past. Political divisions are far less based upon socioeconomic divisions than at many previous times. Affluent, educated voters making $200,000 and more are increasingly voting Democratic. Many Democrats realize this. In 2004 John Kerry emphasized that his tax increases would not affect those making under $200,000 per year. Barack Obama realized that even this amount was too low for successful liberals in the new economy and upped the figure to $250,000.