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      Quantitative Easing, to put it simply, no matter what form you do it in, is only marginally effective. Most of the money goes to the rich, you may or may not get a technical win in GDP, and in many cases the money may flow out of the country. If you want to improve the [...]
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Tuesday Morning: Melange

There’s no consistent theme in this collection of posts.  Or maybe there is but I can’t find it yet.

To start off, let’s say for a moment that Democrats actually get their $#@% together and decide to primary Obama.  (not exactly a fantasy and not nearly as remote as it was last week at this time)  Who is the most likely person to succeed, I mean, besides the obvious?

My guess is Jim Webb, Senator from Virginia.  Now, Webb has a few liabilities and I’ll get to them in a minute.  But with Webb versus Obama, you would get the classic matchup between the Stevensonian and Jacksonian parts of the Democratic party.  The Stevensonians have their hands on power right now, or what’s left of it, since they’ve made a total mess of things.  But the Jacksonians have the votes the Democrats need to win next time.

RealClearPolitics featured a conversation with Webb yesterday about how to win back the Reagan Democrats.  I actually don’t like the term “Reagan Democrat”, which is why the media is probably going to use it every chance they get.  I’m certainly no fan of Reagan and have been a liberal all my life.  But Webb actually gets it better than most people who are sticking a label on disaffected Democrats:

We’re talking about why voters didn’t come around. Webb is weighing my report the morning after the election: Democrats won the smallest share of white voters in any congressional election since World War II.

“I’ve been warning them,” Webb says, sighing, resting his chin on his hand. “I’ve been having discussions with our leadership ever since I’ve been up here. I decided to run as a Democrat because I happen to strongly believe in Jacksonian democracy. There needs to be one party that very clearly represents the interests of working people … I’m very concerned about the transactional nature of the Democratic Party. Its evolved too strongly into interest groups rather than representing working people, including small business people.”

[...]

Webb seems less at home today. He identifies himself as a Democrat. But he has few Democratic leaders to identify with. He won’t say this. His criticism is discernibly girdled. He begins to tell a story about a conversation with a Democratic leader and pulls back. “I don’t want to talk about that,” he mutters. “I have had my discussions. I’ve kept them inside the house. I did not want to have them affect this election, quite frankly. I didn’t want to position myself in the media as a critic of the administration.”

But criticism is in order. Democrats’ suffered historical losses from Congress to the state houses last week. It’s an apt moment for Webb to step in. He is an atypical politician. Politics is not his alpha or omega. He’s authored more than half a dozen books, succeeded as a screenwriter and won an Emmy for his coverage of the U.S. Marines in Beirut. This success outside politics empowers him to be less political. Yet what suits Webb to criticism is not that. It’s the political sociology he embodies.

Webb represents an endangered species. It’s more than his red state Democratic stature, although that would be reason enough. The moderate House Democratic coalition lost more than half its lawmakers last week. But that Blue Dog set is still more common than Webb.

Webb’s one of the last FDR Democrats. An economic populist. A national security hawk. His Democratic politics are less concerned with social groups than social equality (of opportunity, not outcome). His values were predominant in the Democrat Party from FDR to JFK, the period in the twentieth century when Democrats were also dominant.

Before we go on, notice how the conventional wisdom saturated media, in its quest to shape a narrative (or under orders from someone else) positions Blue Dog Democrats as “moderates”.  Anyone who has been paying even a minimal amount of attention to politics knows that Blue Dog Democrats are just as conservative as their Republican colleagues.  But I digress.

In some respects, Webb is similar to Hillary Clinton.  (He could have lifted that last paragraph right out of our credo.) He’s got enough governmental experience to make Obama look completely unqualified: Combat vet, former Secretary of the Navy, Congressional liaison, novelist, journalist, Emmy winner, lawyer, Senator.  His son enlisted and served in Iraq, yet he is not an Iraq War proponent.  In 2008, there were rumors that he was up for consideration as Obama’s VP.  But he made it clear that he wasn’t interested in the VP position.  Is it because he had concerns about Obama or because he wanted the top position some day?  As far as superdelegates go, I think he held out as uncommitted for a long time.  Actually, I wish all of them had waited but that’s besides the point.  Karma will take care of the ones who jumped aboard the Obama bandwagon early.

Now, for his liabilities.

Continue reading

Obama: “…the big difference…you’ve got me.”

Politico’s Glenn Thrush finds it “jaw-dropping” that, according to retiring Representative Marion Barry (D-Arkansas) President Obama believed his “personal popularity” would rescue blue dog Democrats from voter anger over the Health Insurance bill and other supposedly “progressive” initiatives. Thrush quotes from the story by reporter Jane Fullerton of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (subscription only):

Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.

“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.” [snip]

“I began to preach last January that we had already seen this movie and we didn’t want to see it again because we know how it comes out,” said Arkansas’ 1st District congressman, who worked in the Clinton administration before being elected to the House in 1996… “I just began to have flashbacks to 1993 and ’94. No one that was here in ’94, or at the day after the election felt like. It certainly wasn’t a good feeling.”

Now I have no sympathy for any of the blue dog Dems, who as Jane Hamsher points out have grabbed all the lobbyist money they were offered and

were responsible for jamming every single shitty piece of lobbyist-written legislation into the health care bill. They decided early on to try to make the House bill more like the Senate bill, because they said that would be more popular. Take a look at the polling — it isn’t by a long shot. In swing districts like Berry’s.

If Berry wants to blame anyone, he should look to his Blue Dog bretheren who have been soaking up the lobbyist cash — and delivering.

It doesn’t surprise me anymore that Obama would make a claim like that, but I still find myself wondering what is going in the man’s head. What kind of person is he? Is he really as empty, self-involved, and passionless as he seems? And what does it say about us as a country that we would put such a person into the most powerful job in the world?

This is an open thread.

Thursday Morning Breakfast

A month from now, I will have lost the muffin top and will be lounging around somewhere in Maui drinking Bad Ass Coffee for breakfast.  I will toss my red hair in the trade winds and laugh, “ha-hahhhh!”  Until then, four more weeks in frickin’ New Jersey with an eighth grader who is making my life miserable because I decided to do an academic intervention and send her to an intense five weeks of algebra this summer.  (No, she didn’t fail anything.  She’s just an underachieving G&T kid who refuses to do her homework).  Seven more days of adolescent sturm and drang before she aces the final and killing her becomes a lot less attractive as a coping mechanism.  I can’t wait.

Bad Ass Coffee

Bad Ass Coffee

In the meantime, lean your surfboard against the wall, grab a cup of kona and read the news.

Corzine *still* trails Christie by 10+ points in the NJ Governor’s race.  {{smirk!}}  Karma’s a bitch, Jon.  Oh, by the way, Hillary hasn’t completely ruled out running for President but she says it’s really unlikely.

Obama has pulled out all of the stops and is asking the public to support his health care plan. First bloggers, now a direct appeal to the rest of us.  What’s the hurry?  It won’t take effect until 2013 anyway and as reform goes, it isn’t that great.  As long as we have four years to implement it, why not take it niiiiice and sloooow and work all of the bugs out of the system.  if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?  Color me suspicious on the rush job.  For instance, take this “Oh, really?” bit of BS:

With Republicans and some moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill balking at both the specifics of the legislation and Mr. Obama’s timetable for House and Senate passage of the bills, the White House is now trying to rally legislative support and public opinion by linking health care to the nation’s economic health and offering the promise of tangible benefits to Americans.

“If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit,” he said. “If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket.” He acknowledged that Americans were anxious, saying, “Folks are skeptical, and that is entirely legitimate.”

Folks are skeptical because for the vast majority of us, reform ain’t gonna happen.  We’ll be locked into our current plan and insurers can continue to maximize profits.  Costs and deficits are going to continue to rise for four more years until this baby takes effect and eve the Congressional Budget Office says the current plan will do nothing to curb costs.  The insurance industry seems to be getting a great deal out of this one.  Maybe that’s why they want to seal this deal before anyone finds out.  Call it Son of TARP.

And this is just silly:

At first, House Democrats were weighing a tax on Americans making more than $280,000 a year; now there is talk of imposing the tax on those households earning $1 million or more, an idea Mr. Obama said he favored because it would not put the burden of paying for the bill on the middle class.

“To me, that meets my principle, that it’s not being shouldered by families who are already having a tough time,” he said.

Mr. Obama also signaled that he might be open to another idea under consideration in the Senate : taxing employer-provided health benefits, as long as the tax did not fall on the middle class.

I don’t think the middle class who make less than a million a year would mind a small tax increase if the quality of the health care insurance that everyone received improved.  You can make a small tax very attractive if the results are significantly better than what we’ve got.  Think Social Security.  That’s not what this bill proposes.  But it doesn’t surprise me that Obama would throw out this not-very-well-thought-out, disjointed statement. He doesn’t lead from principle.  He doesn’t lead.  He follows.  And it’s becoming clear that he is worried about media driven public opinion but not terribly worried about doing the right thing.  So what else is new?

Meanwhile, back in Sudan, Iraq, Iran, China and Kyrgystan (Kyrgystan??)…  There are a heck of a lot of foreign news stories on the frontpage.  What’s up with that?  Are these all turning into hotspots or are they just bright shiny objects?

The Birthers are back. Birther prophylactic: we are not nor ever have been associated with the birther movement.  It’s a pointless distraction.  I figure that the Clinton Campaign would have been perfectly within its rights to have Obama disqualified if he were not a natural born citizen.  It wouldn’t have been character assassination.  It would have been a constittuional issue.  But Bill Clinton himself said that Obama met the minimum requirements for being president, which I interpret to mean that they looked into it and there’s no THERE there.  I don’t know why Obama needs to produce the exact original of his birth certificate to satisfy the birther crowd but I can think of a really good reason why he wouldn’t: it makes the birthers look like a bunch of complete loonies if he occasionally stirs up the issue.  Birthers, please don’t try to defend yourselves on this blog.  We’re really not interested.

For those of you who are getting blindsided by the shifting frames of the media on who’s who in the Democratic caucus and who’s screwing up health care reform, check out The Blue Dogs Flunk Obedience School. In summary, Obama, who doesn’t have a political philosophy but for some reason really, really likes bipartisanship for its own sake, has ignored his progressive base and has now become hostage to conservative blue dog Democrats.  These DINOs come from conservative districts where voters are vulnerable to media messaging about tax and spend liberals.  So far as I’ve seen, our current Congressional session skews heavily to the right.  There’s still a lot of taxing and spending going on but nary a liberal intiative in sight.  And as long as the blue dogs remain unprimaried, that’s the way it will stay.

H1N1 is laying low for now but could be a real problem in the fall.  Still no need to panic.  Get your flu shot if you’re offered one, have your doctor’s phone number available if you get sick, ask your employer about plans in case of a public health emergency and follow your public health official’s guidelines to prevent spread of infection.  Let’s hope our precautions make this the biggest non-story of the year.

Podcasts of the day: I have heard it said recently that the world is undergoing a shift in consciousness in a way that is similar to the shift from polytheism to monotheism.  It is a shift away from traditional monotheism to a more logical, holistic vision of the universe and its source of wonder.  It was difficult to see this shift while the country was in the grips of the fundamentalist evangelical base and their Christ for Rich People stuff.  It’s funny that so many religious people vote for politicians who do not believe in holding people accountable for bad behavior.  I might be wrong but it feels like it is time for the country to regain its sense of ethical behavior.  And as we know from bitter experience, it isn’t always to be found in the pews of your nearest megachurch.  Here are several podcasts that have common themes though they aren’t all obvious at first. There is a lot of material to chew on about reason, first principles, inclusiveness and the evolution of the human spirit:

Melvyn Bragg’s in Our Time discusses the Vienna Circle’s Logical Positivism

Bill Moyer’s interviewed Robert Wright on The Evolution of God

Anything from Krista Tippett’s Speaking of Faith.  I have really become addicted to her podcasts. There’s something here for everyone, atheists included.  Tippet is the Terry Gross of the divine but what passes for divine these days may surprise you.   Most of her interviews are not overtly about religion at all but are more about how different faith and ethical  experiences allow individuals to view life, the universe and everything from a more holistic point of view. The Ecstatic Faith  of Rumi won a Peabody and it’s easy to hear why.  It’s poetic and beautiful.  But Tippett also explores The Biology of Spirit with neurosurgeon Sherwin Nuland, freelance monotheism with Karen Armstrong and a more modern form of logical positivism with Echard Tolle.  Her interview with Rick Warren and his wife Kay was fascinating.  The Warrens initially sound like shallow, corporate religious types and don’t quite shake that image with the listener in spite of all of their recent philanthropic efforts. Quite revealing in completely unexpected ways.  All highly recommended.

Heartless employer of the day: Drugmaker Wyeth, in the process of merging with equally heartless Pfizer, sent an email offering a resume writing workshop to all employees. (no link.  I was informed by some former colleagues) I love the way they are promoting the fiction that there are any companies, not in India and China, where their employees have any hope of actually finding a job.  All of the companies I know are in the midst of their own layoffs and endless hiring freezes, leaving projects short staffed and scrambling for outside contractors.  The Pfizer-Wyeth merger will result in the loss of thousands of scientific jobs, burdening further the unemployment rolls of NJ, PA, CT and NY.  I’m sure the workshop is  going to lead to greater productivity between now and when the real layoffs begin.  Just write off real drug development from that new behemoth for the next several years.  The Wall Street guys and the mega shareholders just won’t be satisfied until these companies are reduced to cheap, overseas scientific staff and a bunch of stateside marketers and executives.  So much for American innovation.  Contracting your brain trust from overseas is incredibly short sighted.  It’s like eating your seed corn.  Pretty soon, all that will be left are MBAs.  And what have they innovated lately?

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Thursday: We are so screwed

Remember this from the convention last year?  The scripted dog and pony show that Obama’s and Nancy’s people put together to deprive voters of their right to self determination?  Nancy gets a role at the end when she gives biggest FU to Hillary and liberal voters who might have objected.

Do I blame Nancy Pelosi for the stimulus package problems?  Um, yeah.  I kinda do.  Last primary season, Obama was her guy.  She was even committed to scuttle Hillary as his VP pick because she was concerned that *her* baggage would make *him* unelectable.  Now, the party is coming apart at the seams.  She’s got Blue Dogs lead by Steny Hoyer on her right complaining that they didn’t get enough bi-partisan input into the stimulus bill.  WTF?  I’m sorry, but did you ever heard of such a thing when REPUBLICANS were in charge?  Republicans would never have thrown a temper tantrum because their Democratic colleagues didn’t get a chance to monkeywrench a bill.

But Nancy’s biggest sin was in not standing up to the Wall Street Boyz last year during the election season.  The money pouring into Obama’s coffers must have looked like Niagra Falls.  An awesome, gobstopping sight.  With all that cash and the fellating media, it must have seemed like she could rule the world!  Finally, a weak executive, completely beholden to her.  All she had to do was suspend every single principle she had in order to get him elected.  So what if it split the party right down the middle and the real winner “lost”?  The upcoming economic crisis would unite us all.

Then, her protege takes office and turns out to be just another fricking Blue Dog.  Nope, didn’t see that comin’.  Maybe she thought all that post-partisan shtick was just campaign rhetoric.  But not only is he not listening to what she’s telling him, he may be actively undermining her.  Well, what did Nancy expect after one of the most misogynistic campaigns in history?  He’s going to suddenly be Mr. Feminism?  Whoops!  Only the braindead editors at Ms. think that.

Barry has been contacting the Blue Dogs and telling them to resist Nancy.  Oh, sure, they’re backing off of that claim now.  (Obama is busily putting out fires of his own.)  But the story has legs.  PBO has to help his friends, the bankers, and he needs the Blue Dogs to add critical mass to the Republicans to get it done.  On top of his scheming with the Dogs, he appointed Sen. Judd Gregg to head up Commerce after Richardson bowed out.  Now, why the heck would you appoint a Republican, dedicated to privatizing Social Security, to a position of power where he might actually get to accomplish dismantling the ark of the covenant of the Democratic party?  Wasn’t it enough that the bankers spent our 401K’s and ruined the economy?  Must they get their greedy little hands on our social safety net insurance policy too?

But, wait!  There’s more.

Paul Krugman says we’re headed for a deflation trap.As my tiny, pea brain sciency mind understands economics, I think this means:

1.) A bubble bursts.  Lots of people lose money.
2.) There is a lot of inventory in the general economy but no one is buying anything.
3.) Companies lower prices to sell off inventory.
4.) Lower prices lead to less money coming in to the company.
5.) Companies with less money can’t retain staff, forcing them to lay off.
6.) Laid-off workers have less money to spend.
7.) No one is buying anything or making anything.  Very little economic growth going on.

Social Security was created in part to combat the deflationary cycle.  It gave money to seniors who lost their money and pensions in the crash and subsequent Depression.  Elderly people were living on charity and at the poorhouse.  They had no money to spend to stimulate much of anything.  Social Security got money into the hands of seniors and back into the economy.  I think it had that Keynesian multiplier effect that Dakinikat talks about.  And David Broder is creaming his jeans that Gregg is going to be in charge of “reforming” it.  Joy!

Where’s the plan?  Why is this most eloquent, most intelligent, bestest judgement in the whole world president so slow to get his act together?  This is a crisis of monumental proportions and the fixit bill he is proposing has no unifying theme.  It’s a total compromise with Republicans and the banking industry, getting away with murder once again, while we get stuck with the bill.  And now the media is in jumping back into bed with the Republicans to make it seem like a tax break here and there for the least among us is a sign of moral weakness.

Here’s where Nancy Pelosi could use a united party behind her.  Of course, it would be better if the party actually stuck to its principles and crafted a bill with heart, soul and a goal.  But here we are looking at a turkey.  It’s a patched up wreck mashed together by a guy who thought that Democratic stuff was negotiable.  We’re not going to help him pass this thing if it doesn’t represent the Reality Based Community.

As Krugman said the other day, there is no middle ground.  Either there are steps that must be followed that will get us out of this mess or we might as well cave to Republicans.  How sad is it that with overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate we can’t act like the good guys?

Who is to blame if not the Speaker?

She let the wolves in sheep’s clothing into the fold.  She *forced* more than half of her own party to capitulate to the lesser half in the name of “Unity”.  She allowed the party’s foundations to be eroded by Obama’s “post partisan” propaganda.  This is the result.

Elections have consequences.

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