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The Myth of Competence

By Al Schumann on Wednesday June 9, 2010 08:04 AM

Here's something to place stress on the responsible, neutrally technocratic, delegating procedural heart. Obama is neglecting the federal court.

Can Obama Do This Job?

Evidence from appointments suggests not.

In my inbox this morning:

a majority of federal court vacancies remain without a nominee (only 46/104 -- so let's not blame the Senate), and of the 21 known vacancies that will appear in the next year or so, there is only one nominee in place...

A president is, first of all, chief of the executive with the duty to take care that the laws be faithfully exacted. That means, first of all, hiring people to execute the laws. A good president hires people--or makes sure that people are hired. If hiring people does not interest Obama then, as i have said before, he needs to go to a Chris Edley or a John Podesta or an Erskine Bowles and give one of them the baton and his proxy to make sure that the bureaucracy can function.

So far he has not.

Professor DeLong

Adjudication is just not that important to modern corporate management. It suggests a struggle for relatively clear epistemic lines, or at any rate winners and losers, which arrive through a process that circumscribes executive needs and actions. Management is much easier to handle through administrative fiat. No mess. No fuss. Very efficient. The only difficulty lies in marketing the outcome. And that can be outsourced, most often for free.

It's helpful to think of it in business terms. As a rational self-maximizer, Obama would be a fool to spend precious time inserting more middle men. He's the Decider. There are opportunity costs to consider. Selling an appointment, and the intense search for appropriate human capital, consume resources better spent on selling the necessary outcome. Small "r" republicanism is messy, right? It entails small "d" democratic participation, which means (theoretically) that the tin foil hat people have as much say as the cognitive interventionists. We could wind up with laws that mandate the grant of honorary degrees in economics to fainting goats. Groundhog Day could become a federal holiday. The occupations could be defunded. Legislators could face cavity searches before congressional sessions. There's no end! Better to keep the focus focused on core competencies and leverage them into full spectrum market-ready solutions.

To add a touch of clarity to the imperial logic, which one would you prefer to see advising the president on important matters?


* * * * *


There now.

Comments (12)


No question whatever. I go with fainting goats every time. Narcoleptic dogs will also serve just as well.


I like Brad's Freudian slip in 'exacted' -- I hope that's really his, Al, and not a sly little contribution of yours.

Al Schumann:

RedPhillip, I too found it an easy call. The goats have a much better track record. Of course personal situations are not directly comparable to national policy, but I base all my own macro-economic decisions on their advice and I've never regretted it.

MJS, it's all Brad's. He might try to blame it on the goats, but the truth will out.


I was going to make a joke about Summers eating all of his goat rivals, Cronus-style, but when the man himself actually insists on starting every morning with bacon, eggs, cheese, a full banana-split and a coke, what's the point? Eating every economist-aged fainting goat in America would actually constitute "trying to eat healthy".

Al Schumann:

A full banana split? I wonder if he does that to upset all the puritanical, waistline watching types.

In his op-ed columns, while he was in Beltway exile, there was something about him that suggested real human mischief. It made him almost likable—and makes his actual performance all that much more contemptible.

Fresh from KVH at La Nacion:

"And you can make an impact by subscribing to the reader-supported magazine read by progressives and policy makers--including one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington."

Could there be a more efficient display of the core problem with the pwog-bwoggers?

Al Schumann:

MD, that's got to be a new low in bootlicking. KVH should know that Obama is too busy playing golf to read The Nation. Although as digestive purge, I'm sure it has its Oval Office moments.


"In my inbox this morning"

your inbox !!! your INBOX !!!
up your out box
seniorita bradolini

you pompous
sow sized pamplemousse

There's a no-brainer.

The goat, FTW.

No, really, man; I'm fucking serious.



the arkansas dust devil win by
right to work blanche suggests to me
the dems can hold the center
and the repugs can't

the dems are the proper home
the corporate center aisle party
going forward
clinton and ohbummer rallied to blanche

they know the score

"look wall street we saved your
dutiful thrall
and the repugs ??
check out the secene
the gop will toss
their corporate thralls
to the jay birds


[...] as digestive purge, I'm sure it has its Oval Office moments.

When reduced to an ultra-fine slurry it surely acts much like psyllium. Cleansing!


There is no evolutionary advantage for goats to have frequent fainting spells. So we are probably breeding so-called "fainting goats" for our personal entertainment. This is more evidence that we enjoy watching the suffering of others, both humans and animals alike.

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