Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Trip to Where?!?!?

In light of the, um, colorful reception that POTUS-43 received in Baghdad over the weekend (see above)-- even in a controlled environment -- one wonders if the Secret Service is rethinking the wisdom of allowing POTUS-44 to make a speech in an Islamic capital, as has been rumored.

Regardless, the visual will almost certainly be different than the one this summer in Germany, simply because it's unlikely to be in such an unstructured environment:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Angler vs. Backseat

"Angler" is Vice President Dick Cheney's current Secret Service codename. (It is also the title of Bart Gelman's new book on Cheney.)

When he was Chief-of-Staff to Gerald Ford, his codename was "Backseat." His background -- a staffer at the highest level -- has given him an unprecedented ability to manipulate the White House staffing process. And his unprecedented access to a President who disdains details (according to Gelman's account.)

"Backseat" spent his formative years learning the ways of bureaucratic Washington: major policy decisions effected well below the "principal" (cabinet) or "POTUS" (Presidential) level; controlling a meeting by controlling the agenda; inserting allies throughout government to insure timely information is being reported back; and 'reaching down' through the layers of government to see real, raw information -- direct and unfiltered. (This last modus operandi was not limited to Iraqi or al Queda intelligence.)

As "Angler", Cheney was able to taking staffing to the next level. Unlike staff -- or even Cabinet principals -- the vice president cannot be fired. Further, Cheney scheduled regular lunches with 43, without any other staff; such unfettered access is the holy grail of White House personnel.

As "Angler", Cheney also removed himself -- and his thinking -- from political calculations. Gellman shows only one example of politics playing a role in Cheney's actions, and even that -- the use of the Klamath River for irrigation -- was more by accident. Cheney's Western-sensibility, and instinctive opposition to federal governmental intervention, ended up being good local politics in Oregon. But such political ramifications were by accident -- Gellman makes it clear that the politics were often the last thing from Cheney's mind.

Perhaps it is this element of "Angler" that is most interesting and surprising. For a person a heartbeat away from the peak of political power, Vice President Cheney seemingly spends no time thinking about politics. Indeed, highly political initiatives -- like funding for faith-based programs or No Child Left Behind -- are ignored by "Angler." The ultimate political insider has been transformed into a constitutional officer who rarely, if ever, considers grubby day-to-day politics.

November Jobs Numbers

The Department of Labor announced this morning that the November payrolls were down by more than 530,000. While economists expected job losses to be significant, the reality far exceeded consensus expectations of 320,000.

Reaction to the news (as compiled by the WSJ) was very negative:

History tells that once the labor market weakens as much as it has in the past several months, job-shedding takes on a life of its own and tends to persist for a long while. We expect labor market conditions to be dreadful for many months to come... -- Joshua Shapiro, MFR
This was much worse than was expected and represents wholesale capitulation. The threat of a widespread depression is now real and present. –Peter Morici, University of Maryland
The traditional view is that job losses gradually build, and therefore the sharp break (60% over the expected number) is a terrible sign. But at the risk of being too contrarian, one has to wonder whether in a world of cable news and 24-hour information accessibility, sharp cuts in jobs may get us to a bottom faster. Employers saw the market meltdowns of September and October, and made decisions to act decisively in November, before the holiday season.

Or else welcome to the Great Depression II.

Insult to Injury

It's bad enough that Notre Dame has not won a bowl game since the 1993 season (losing nine straight in that period).

But "little brother" Boston College -- having lost the #1 pick in the country last year in Matt Ryan -- plays in the ACC Championship Game tomorrow. A win sends BC to the BCS, in Miami (Orange Bowl), and will mark the tenth straight season that the Eagles have played in a bowl game.

And the Eagles have won 8 straight.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Are You Ready for Some...College Football Playoff?

Head-Coach-Elect Barack Obama wants a college football playoff system. This Saturday he (and the rest of the country) will get a preview of what such a system would look like in the SEC Championship Game.

#1 (AP/BCS) Alabama plays #2(AP)/#4(BCS) Florida. The winner advances to the BCS title game.

Since a late September loss to surprising Ole Miss, Florida has been -- with all due respect to Oklahoma -- the hottest team in the country, winners of eight in a row.

Florida has rolled to a combined score of 414-97, although Coach Urban Meyer's team did roll up scores on Arkansas (5-7), Kentucky (6-6), Vandy (6-6), and The Citadel (4-8 in I-AA).

But if you just look at the four ranked teams in that eight game streak -- #4 (at the time) LSU, #6 Georgia, #25 South Carolina, and #20 Florida State, the Gators still rolled by a combined 201-52.

That's an average score -- against ranked opponents -- of 50-13.

Wonder if Coach Meyer ever regrets not taking the Notre Dame job?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wake Up the Echoes???

The controversy swirling around Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis seems to be about to be resolved as unconfirmed reports out of South Bend indicate that the fourth year coach will be given at least one more season.

But the real question is not who would replace Charlie Weis, but what are reasonable expectations for Notre Dame football in the modern era? Or put another way, when did the downward slide begin?

If you are looking for the "Last Night of the Notre Dame Dynasty," you might try November 20, 1993.

On that day, up-and-comer (at the time) -- and the only other I-A Catholic football team -- Boston College went into South Bend and shocked the #1-ranked Irish in the final game of the regular season. It was also the first time BC had beaten Notre Dame.

While ND did win the Cotton Bowl that year (24-21, over Texas A&M, played on January 1, 1994), it was their last bowl win; Notre Dame has never won a Bowl Game in the BCS era, and the bowl losing streak is now at 9.

While Lou Holtz had a record of 100-30-2 overall at ND (.765 winning percentage), his record after November 20, 1993, was 24-11-1, 0.666.

After Holtz came Bob Davie (35-25, .583), Ty Willingham (21-15, also .583), interim coach Kent Baer (0-1), and now Weis (28-21, .571).

Overall, since that fateful BC game: 108-73-1, or .593 winning percentage over a decade and a half. 1-9 in bowl games, no wins since that 1994 Cotton Bowl.

ND's record in the 15 years preceding the BC Game (which included the Gerry Faust years): 122-51-3, .693 winning percentage. 5-4 in bowl games.

As Weis "mentor" Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are."

Notre Dame has lost 6 straight to Boston College.