All posts filed under “Politics

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China in Space – This is BIG!

I personally don’t believe a recent news story has received nearly enough attention: on Saturday, 27 September 2008 a Chinese astronaut made a successful spacewalk from a Chinese craft.

HOLY ****!

Why do I say this?

In less than two years the Space Shuttles are scheduled to be retired, leaving the United States without the capability to get manned missions into orbit. Meanwhile, we’ll be paying the Russians to get to the International Space Station and the Chinese will be progressing toward their stated goal of putting a Chinese astronaut on the moon.

Here’s a quick reminder: the United States went from the first spacewalk to landing men on the moon in 4 years and 1 month. I don’t think there’s anything standing in China’s way from doing the exact same thing. (Though according to Wikipedia their plans aren’t nearly that ambitious time-wise.)

I bring this up because I’m quite concerned about the United States’ competitive capacity and ability to innovate on the governmental level. While smaller firms have seen good success (Scaled Composites with the X Prize/Virgin Galactic, SpaceX with modern launch vehicles) I feel we’re falling behind on major government-level initiatives. That it’s feasible in five years’ time that the United States has to pay Russia just to get into space while China is landing missions on the moon at will is unacceptable. It’s a competitiveness issue and a national security issue, and it needs to be better understood by Americans.

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Day and a half left…

So the countdown to our departure to Beijing is getting very short. Tomorrow we do the online checking and pray for decent seats, and finish the day by packing. (I’ve made our list, but haven’t packed a thing yet.) That should be straightforward, though. It’s damn hot, and we aren’t doing anything fancy, so mainly t-shirts, shorts and sandals.

But before we go, here are a couple of cool links/stories I wanted to pass on:

  • Checklists for Doctors (from the New Yorker): A simple four-step checklist managed to reduce infection rates in intensive care units by 66%! In eighteen months, the group of hospitals saved 1500 lives and $175million.

    No matter how good someone thinks they are, and how much study they’ve done of complex procedures, checklists are absolutely necessary. After three years running a nuclear reactor, I can say this with certainty. While we were trained to be able to do everything without instructions, we failed any procedure where we didn’t use them.

    I really hope this is something that actually catches on in the medical community. It’s long overdue

  • Looking for a quick laugh? I keep forgetting to check McSweeney’s. This feature is great: “Corrections to last month’s letters to Penthouse Forum.” (via kottke)
  • If you like politics, and don’t mind a little math, you have to check out FiveThirtyEight.com. Developed by Nate Silver, who’s a pioneer in sabermetrics (aka baseball statistics), it’s a really deep look into the state of the Presidential and Senate races for this election. Very light punditry, very heavy math.

And to end this post, photos of Elise and Sarah’s bronze in Athens 2004, as well as Elise and Anna’s World Cup gold in June of this year.

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I’m not sure what to make of this…

but Club for Growth (the radical Republican tax cut advocacy group) just linked to a YouTube video I made for my company, explaining “What is a prediction market?”.

http://www.clubforgrowth.org/2008/04/what_is_a_prediction_market.php

I somehow doubt they know that they are currently featuring on their front page a video created by someone who’s a strong supporter of Barack Obama.

Like I said… I’m not sure what to think…

(If you’d like to watch the video, click here to get to it on YouTube.)

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Obama and the Presidency

Marc Andreessen had the opportunity to sit down with Barack Obama for a long chat a while back. There were a couple of really interesting insights that I wanted to highlight here.

One of the supposed questions about Barack Obama is based on the fact that he doesn’t have the executive experience that many recent Presidents have had, as a Governor or leading a major agency of some sort. Marc asked Obama about it, and here’s what he wrote:

We asked him directly, how concerned should we be that you haven’t had meaningful experience as an executive — as a manager and leader of people?

He said, watch how I run my campaign — you’ll see my leadership skills in action.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of his answer — political campaigns are often very messy and chaotic, with a lot of turnover and flux; what conclusions could we possibly draw from one of those?

Well, as Marc wrote, the answer is pretty clear:

Well, as any political expert will tell you, it turns out that the Obama campaign has been one of the best organized and executed presidential campaigns in memory. Even Obama’s opponents concede that his campaign has been disciplined, methodical, and effective across the full spectrum of activities required to win — and with a minimum of the negative campaigning and attack ads that normally characterize a race like this, and with almost no staff turnover. By almost any measure, the Obama campaign has simply out-executed both the Clinton and McCain campaigns.

This speaks well to the Senator’s ability to run a campaign, but speaks even more to his ability to recruit and manage a top-notch group of campaign professionals and volunteers — another key leadership characteristic. When you compare this to the awe-inspiring discord, infighting, and staff turnover within both the Clinton and McCain campaigns up to this point — well, let’s just say it’s a very interesting data point.

Compare that to the NYTimes article on Hillary Clinton:

But even as Mrs. Clinton revived her fortunes last week with victories in Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas, the questions lingered about how she managed her campaign, with the internal sniping and second-guessing undermining her well-cultivated image as a steady-at-the-wheel chief executive surrounded by a phalanx of loyal and efficient aides.

“She hasn’t managed anything as complex as this before; that’s the problem with senators,” said James A. Thurber, a professor of government at American University who is an expert on presidential management. “She wasn’t as decisive as she should have been. And it’s a legitimate question to ask: Under great pressure from two different factions, can she make some hard decisions and move ahead? It seems to just fester. She doesn’t seem to know how to stop it or want to stop it.”

and

Still, interviews with campaign aides, associates and friends suggest that Mrs. Clinton, at least until February, was a detached manager. Juggling the demands of being a candidate, she paid little attention to detail, delegated decisions large and small and deferred to advisers on critical questions. Mrs. Clinton accepted or seemed unaware of the intense factionalism and feuding that often paralyzed her campaign and that prevented her aides from reaching consensus on basic questions like what states to fight in and how to go after Mr. Obama, of Illinois.

Mrs. Clinton showed a tendency toward an insular management style, relying on a coterie of aides who have worked for her for years, her aides and associates said. Her choice of lieutenants, and her insistence on staying with them even when friends urged her to shake things up, was blamed by some associates for the campaign’s woes. Again and again, the senator was portrayed as a manager who valued loyalty and familiarity over experience and expertise.

As I’ve written a couple of times before, he’s got my vote!