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LI(E)BOR

We have used the word “evil” to apply to bankers so often in the last four years that it’s become trite.  Nevertheless, the level of austerity imposed on us by the financial establishment in order for them to continue to seize money and power without accountability is so destructive that there’s really no other word that applies.  Once again, we have to go back to Hannah Arendt’s comment about the “banality of evil” to understand what we’re talking about here. It is the normalization of the unthinkable.  It’s not that these financiers are people who beat their wives or sell their children into sexual slavery.  I’m sure that some of these people are perfectly fine to socialize with.  You can play a few rounds of golf, have dinner, go sailing with them.  They seem like such nice, intelligent, clean-cut people, if a bit more ambitious than the average Joe.  OK, insanely more ambitious, but you know what I mean.  They don’t look like gun toting SS droogs in jackboots who will conduct you to the edge of the pit where they will shoot you in the back of the head for inconveniently living on land they had their eyes on.

And yet, isn’t that what they’re doing, in a so far non-violent way?  They’re leading hundreds of millions of people to the edge of the pit of financial instability and a lifetime of precarious existence and pushing them over with a swift kick to the back.  When you lose your job, your house, your marriage, everything but the clothes on your back and the student loans you will be paying off forever, and it’s all because some wealthy bankers need to preserve their bonuses, isn’t that evil?

Check out this unbelievable interview about LIBOR from the BBC with Harvard professor Niall Ferguson.  The second part is particularly outrageous.  Essentially, we are being pressured to turn generation against generation and Ferguson implies that Obama will sell us out at the end of this year:

Part 1:

Part 2:

(Roberto Unger’s call for the left to defeat Obama makes a lot more sense now.  Ahh, I see that Ferguson is one of the original Confidence Fairies that Krugman is always referring to.  What’s more, he’s married to Aayan Hirsi Ali, the Somali born former Dutch MP who works for the conservative American Enterprise Institute.  She has taken Christopher Hitchens’ place in the Four Horseman dialogues.  Man-o-man, no one is safe from the creepy thoughts of extreme right wing philosophy.  I can’t take the Four Horseman dialogues seriously now.  Not until she’s replaced.  She jumped from ultra religious conservatism to ultra right wing conservatism and is not a good ambassador for the New Atheist movement.  Sorry, Richard.  She’s going to damage your credibility.  You’ve got to be very careful about these people because in this country, the political right wing is inextricably tied to the religious right wing.)

The LIBOR scandal took me back to the fall of 2008 when Planet Money popped up on NPR.  At first, Planet Money was a good resource for non-financiers to get a grip on Credit Default Swaps and Collateralized Debt Obligations.  A few months later, that began to change subtly as the hosts of Planet Money got pulled into the realm of the serious people.  But in October 2008, they were on top of LIBOR.  I remember them talking about the TED spread and LIBOR and getting the sense that the LIBOR number, the interbank interest rate showing how willing banks were to lend to one another was an indicator of the global scale of the catastrophe.  No joke.  The higher the LIBOR number creeped, the more likely we were to spin off to a Depression that was bigger than the world had ever seen.  The thing is, according to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the banks were manipulating LIBOR starting in 2005, affecting rates on adjustable rate mortgages.  And the downstream effect of LIBOR was felt in just about every interest rate on every act of borrowing by every individual in the world.  We are talking about hundreds of trillions of dollars.  In this Planet Money snippet, Adam Davidson discusses the effect of LIBOR and the TED spread and what it means for global markets around the world.  Throughout October, Planet Money followed TED and LIBOR and the effect of the bailout money.  For some reason, LIBOR numbers should have gone down a bit after the infusion of money but they didn’t, probably because the LIBOR rate, as high as it was, wasn’t real and wasn’t high enough to reflect reality.

But reality might have set off a global panic, triggering much more severe regulation of the finance industry so it had to stay hidden.  In the meantime, we’ve been carrying the weight of these behemoth zombies for four years and if we don’t do something now, we will be carrying them for years to come- at our expense.  And they’ve gotten off with minor slaps on the wrist.  The CFTC fined British banks a paltry $450 million for their manipulations.  That’s an insult to American taxpayers and totally inadequate.  Democratic lawmakers should be outraged and demanding accountability.  Where are they??

In another Planet Money episode from October 2008, we find out what LIBOR meant to the little people:

Justin asks us today:

“I saw you mentioned student loan availability, but what about existing loans? Since many student loans have their interest rates tied to LIBOR or Prime, what does LIBOR hitting all-time highs this week mean for students? And, perhaps more ominously, graduates who are in repayment? How long can this go on before they start to see some effect on their loans?”

Even if Congress passes the bailout, many students across the nation will begin to see higher costs for loans in the coming months or could be turned away by banks altogether as the credit crisis intensifies.

The goes the same for graduates. The big issue is what kind of loans you have.

Most direct government-backed loans such as Federal Stafford and PLUS loans have fixed interest rates. This means the interest rate will remain constant for the life of the loan.

If you took out private loans, which have become increasingly common as students look for new sources to finance the soaring costs of college, they typically have variable rates and are projected to jump this year. Sorry.

Sorry, student.  Sucks to be you.  In the light of the LIBOR manipulation details, that seems particularly callous, along with Davidson’s subsequent attack on Elizabeth Warren for caring about homeowners and consumers and not being “serious”.  It was the influence of the serious people on Davidson (by the way, who was he referring to as his serious sources anyway?  Her colleague Niall Ferguson at Harvard, perhaps? And do “penis years” have something to do with why his word may have carried more weight than hers?) and on our elected officials that lead to the gouging of the taxpayers to pay the bankers’ unconscionable debts on bad bets.  We are talking about trillions of dollars of OUR money, OUR retirements, so that the weekend sailors and golf buddies would not feel inconvenienced.

I used to think my outrage meter was pegged but I have never seen such corruption go unchecked in my lifetime.  What we have here is a bunch of extremely irresponsible and unethical people playing with people’s livelihoods like it wasn’t real money to them.  And it isn’t real money to them.  The tens of thousands of dollars we’ll be collecting each year in measly pensions and social security, that’s nothing.  They can burn through that in a matter of minutes.  If it were several million dollars in Social Security payouts affecting their retirement packages, that might get their attention and they’d be furiously lobbying Congress to save Social Security at all costs.  Social Security and pensions would become holy sacraments. But because we are talking about such piddling amounts that amount to pocket change to the wealthy, it has no real meaning to them.  We might as well be flood victims in Bangladesh, clinging to a few square meters of dry land while the water rises all about us.  Those poor people.  Well, that’ll learn them to farm in a flood zone.

The careers we have lost? Not their problem.  Our children’s college funds, the roofs they have over their heads, the food we put in their mouths, barely registers.  On an individual basis, none of us make enough money to get their attention.  The significance of the figures of our incomes does not arouse their concern.  They are so caught up and preoccupied with making their numbers that they don’t have the time to care about your little problems.  They have jumped to a new level in the game where the sheer volume of money being swapped is intoxicating.  They’re not playing in the real world anymore.

It’s got to stop.  The manipulation of LIBOR was uncovered by the US CFTC.  That means, we’ve been aware of it for some time.  We probably knew about it when Occupy Wall Street was protesting last fall and we probably knew about it when their camps were broken up and they were hauled off to jail and when the DHS sent in their riot troops.  Yep, the Obama administration has known.  And so far, not one banker has been hauled off to jail.  No one has been penalized.

Think about that.  The scope of the LIBOR scandal affects every person who has ever dealt with a bank in the past 7 years.  It’s so outrageously immoral and has caused so much destruction and continues to wreck havoc in Spain, Ireland, Britain, the US, everywhere that if it isn’t prosecuted as a the criminal enterprise that it is, then I can only conclude that our elected officials are complicit.  They had to have known that the banks that are now too big to fail were in fact failing and were disguising the scale of the catastrophe from the public.  Those banks are still in business, thanks to our largess, and no one in the Obama administration, particularly Tim Geithner, has dared to declare them insolvent and break them up as Sheila Bair suggested in 2009. They are now bigger and more dangerous than ever and they are calling the shots about our jobs, retirements and money supply around the world.

Our money went into their bottomless gullets and continues to go in, and yet, they and their political arms have the outrageous gall to insist that we, the hardworking taxpayers who paid in advance for our social security benefits, WE have to take a haircut.  That is what the so-called Grand Bargain is all about, ladies and gentlemen. That’s why we must lose our jobs.  We cost too much.  They think they can dump the blame on us for having to eat and getting old and needy.

We are living in a world that is run by criminals.  You may think that’s they way it’s always been but this is now institutionalized criminality.  No one can be trusted.  And when no one can be trusted, all hell breaks loose.

More on LIBOR:

Boston Globe- How a LIBOR scheme works and what it means to consumers

Joe Nocera- LIBOR’s Dirty Laundry

Yves Smith- Yes, Virginia, the real action in the LIBOR scanda was in the derivatives

Here’s an interesting take on LIBOR from 2007 when banks were manipulating the rate up: Why LIBOR won’t hurt that much.

Also, this Fresh Air interview with Paul Krugman in Oct 2008 is very revealing.  He was right about almost everything except the unemployment rate. (his prediction was too low).  But even more striking is the last 5 minutes of the interview when he talks about the two presidential candidates and why Ben Bernanke was struggling to get a handle on this.  Could it be that the measures were inadequate because the LIBOR rates had been artificially lowered?

Matt Taibbi’s most recent posts in the Rolling Stone:

A Huge Break in the LIBOR Banking Investigation (6/28/2012)

Another Domino Falls in the LIBOR Banking Scam: Royal Bank of Scotland (6/29)

Why is Nobody Freaking out about the LIBOR Banking Scandal? (7/3)

LIBOR Banking Scandal Deepens: Barclays releases damning email, Implicates    British Government (7/4)

Matt Taibbi discusses the LIBOR scandal with Eliot Spitzer:

Richard Cordray is not Elizabeth Warren

Oh, so *now* Obama has the balls to make a recess appointment to the Consumer Financial Products Buereau. He’s going to catch hell for it from Republicans. He should have appointed Elizabeth Warren, but the boys club at Treasury is not going to let some broad give orders to them or anyone. They don’t even want to work with her. (Tim Geithner didn’t like Christine Romer, Sheila Bair either.  Huh!  Maybe the problem is Tim Geithner, eh?)  So, Obama did nothing.  The outrage from Republicans will be the same this year but the optics will look different, right Mr. President?  This is an election year.  All the human sacrifices of the past three years were painful but necessary so that you could get to January 2012 and announce that you are finally going to appoint someone.  And like the Lily Ledbetter Act, you will boast and strut like the cock on the walk as if you have really accomplished something that will make a difference to millions of people.

But Richard Cordray is no Elizabeth Warren.  She had conviction.  She knew what she was doing.  She made the financial services industry very nervous.  So, she had to go.  Cordray might be a nice guy but the emphasis is on “guy”.  Once again, we have an example of an old boys’ network where the alpha males are seeing who can piss higher on the wall and the beta males are kissing asses to get a plum appointment.  With a wink and a nod, Cordray will take his place and like so many Obama “accomplishments”, it will all be a bunch of sound an fury signifying nothing.  He’s not going to rock the boat if he knows what’s good for him.  He’ll be a team player.

The Republicans may try to block Cordray, but it was the Obama Administration that blocked Elizabeth Warren.

I saw a Hillary bumpersticker today.  It looked new.

Just sayin’.

**************************

In other news:  Some over the counter medications are dangerous.  In 2010, a 2 year old boy died from liver failure that was attributable to a children’s Tylenol (acetaminophen) product.  The parents are suing but to be honest, the trouble with Tylenol has been known for years.  Acetaminophen has unpredictable activity and serious liver damage is a well known side effect.  A few Tylenols might cure your headache, one extra might kill you.    It’s probably one of the more dangerous products on the market and you can get it over the counter, along with bubblegum and batteries.

Tuesday: Exasperation

How to administer a dope slap

Update:  I didn’t know this but today is “Pay a Blogger” day.  Jeez, is it that time again?  It seems like it comes earlier and earlier each year.  We now have a button in the left sidebar but it may disappear and reappear randomly.  Zhat vay, ve vill train you to hit zhe bar vhen it appears.  Ve haff found zhat habituation leads to disinterest.  Yah?  Zo, hit zhe button vhen you zee it.  Proceeds will help me get to various events and will keep Katiebird in her technical manuals.

I haven’t criticized Paul Krugman for awhile now, and I don’t really like to do it.  I feel like we’re almost neighbors, what with Paul living just down the road a-spell and all.  Theoretically, I could run into him.  {{Paul shivvers at the thought of that and considers hiring body guards}}

It’s not that I disagree with him in any way.  In fact, I don’t.  But one of his latest blog posts bugs the stuffing out of me.  In Mission Not Accomplished, Krugman writes:

Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum say the right thing about revelations that big banks got very easy terms during the financial crisis: the real scandal isn’t so much that those banks got rescued as that the rest of the population didn’t.

For sure, the Fed and Treasury should have driven harder bargains. I think the political landscape would look different and better right now if the Obama administration had in fact taken at least one big bank into receivership. But in the crisis, money had to flow freely, and the truth is that the gifts bankers received are more a source of annoyance than a source of current problems.

What’s unforgivable is the way policymakers, both at the Fed and elsewhere, basically declared Mission Accomplished as soon as the panic in financial markets subsided and stocks were up again.

This is not news to any of us who have been paying attention.  It’s certainly not news to Krugman either because I read his blog and column pretty regularly.  No, what ticks me off is that we have another example of citing male bloggers as having had a great revelation, in this case Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum.  Kevin, Paul?  Kevin, “I trust Obama’s judgment because he’s smarter than I am” Drum?  Or Matt Yglesias, who snickered in 2008 that if only the Clinton voters knew how the party powerbrokers were setting things up they’d go with their second choice and stop wasting everyone’s time (but they won’t do that because they’re not that bright)?  Come to think of it, that post by Matt Yglesias in The Atlantic in 2008 has to be the most stunning example of what the Obama contingent was thinking when they decided to f^%& over the Clinton voters that I have ever seen.  Let me cite it for you because it really is that breathtaking:

After all, consider the situation in Pennsylvania. All indications are that a clear majority of Pennsylvania Democrats would prefer for Hillary Clinton to be the nominee than for Barack Obama to be the nominee. But there are few indications that they understand the real structure of the race — that a miracle Obama comeback in PA would mean that Democrats enter May with a nominee and a financial advantage, whereas a sizable Clinton win in PA may mean that Democrats don’t get a nominee until August and that that nominee, who’ll almost certainly be Barack Obama anyway, will have a much tougher time winning in November. I think if voters better-understood the situation, they’d be much more inclined to vote for their second-favorite Democrat in the race, much less eager to do volunteer work for Clinton, much less inclined to donate money to her campaign, etc. But people won’t understand the dynamic unless it’s explained to them by credible party leaders.

Did you catch that?  What Matt said was that he was talking to party movers and shakers and they told him that it didn’t matter if Clinton won Pennsylvania or any other state after that.  The party had already decided that she wasn’t going to be the nominee no matter how many people voted for her and that continuing to vote for her wasn’t going to change this outcome.  I cited this Yglesias post back in March 2008.  MARCH.

So, Yglesias and Drum haven’t had the best judgment in the world and they’re late to the “bailing out the banks was only part of the solution” party.  It doesn’t surprise me.  Neither one of them live in the middle class of the research worker that my friends and I live in.  They don’t know what it’s like to experience a devastation of their industry or see every one of their friends go through a layoff.  They don’t know what it’s like to be unable to find anything but contract work with no bennies in spite of degrees in the hard sciences.  Life is hard out here.  Three days after Thanksgiving, there is no one at the Mall and the parking lots are not full. I haven’t seen Central New Jersey’s retail sector look like this since 2008.  Matt and Kevin are somewhat insulated from that by what Elizabeth Bennett would call “their connexions”.  Why are guy bloggers so much more likely to have “connexions” that lead to jobs that pay?  Can you answer me that, Paul?  Greg?

By the way, in a couple of years, will we be reading Matt and Kevin’s posts that say, “Golly!  We don’t have a research infrastructure anymore.  The finance guys and MBAs with executive hair at all of our research companies gutted their R&D departments in order to extract “shareholder value” and big bonuses.  And now, there are no new therapeutic agents in the pipeline.  Dadgummit! Why didn’t I know this until now?  I thought President Obama, whose judgment I trust more than my own, said we needed more STEM workers.  Why are hundreds of thousands of them destitute or working for Wall Street?”

In any case, Elizabeth Warren was a proponent for bailing out the middle class way back in 2009 in that notorious interview that she had with Adam Davidson on Planet Money, an interview that we and other bloggers have cited on more than one occasion to make the same point that Yglesias and Drum are just now figuring out.  By the way, did you notice the dismissive contempt that Davidson had for Warren in that interview?  I wonder if guys realize they sound like this to those of us who know they are full of it. And if it is true that Matt and Kevin are suddenly discovering that, “Hey! We should have given money to people who weren’t rich so they could keep their jobs and pay their mortgages.  That way, we would have refilled our bank and treasury coffers from the bottom up!”, should Paul Krugman be using them as examples of bloggy enlightenment?  Putting aside whether female voices are underrepresented in the more prestigious online opinion journals, how do Slate and Mother Jones justify putting on their payrolls two people who have been so disastrously behind the zeitgeist, with histories of suspending their own judgments to adopt the clueless or malicious opinions of others, especially now that we know that our own judgment was correct and theirs was wrong?

Over and over again, we have seen male bloggers used as voices of authority in online opinion pieces.  Whether this is just a bad habit or preference doesn’t matter.  It could be that Paul Krugman is surrounded by sycophantic, toe licking, ego-massagers and these people just happen to be male grad student types and Yglesias and Drum seem familiar to him.   But if we want to make sure that voices like Christina Romer’s and Elizabeth Warren’s are not trampled on in meetings with the next president, we need to encourage Krugman and Sargent to go outside of their comfort zone.  We have to make sure that the public gets used to hearing opinions from people other than the toady male grad student types as authority figures at the grassroots level so that future presidents have a harder time ignoring and dismissing them.  Don’t whine about it three years later, Paul.

If Krugman is wondering why it took so long for the powers that be to realize that helping the middle class should have been a priority, he need look no further than Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum and Adam Davidson.

************************************

A little off topic: I found this clip of John Dominic Crossan, scholar of early Christianity, on the dangers of fundamentalism.  He sounds like what I have been trying to say about the malignant nature of fundamentalist Christianity.  I guess you need to live with it up close and personal to understand how dangerous it is.  When I say malignant, I am saying that fundamentalist Christianity spreads, it doesn’t contribute to the well being of society because it isn’t interested in the survival of that society, it’s harmful to other people that don’t follow its strict interpretation of scripture and the best you can do is suppress it and keep it in check.  You will never be able to eliminate it.  That’s why it has been such a disaster for the country to continue to treat fundamentalism so respectfully.  We must challenge it a lot more strenuously because it is dangerous if it gets out of control.

Gotta Love Her

Here’s Elizabeth Warren’s new ad in response to Karl Rove’s Republican funded Crossroads GPS ads:

Like I said about the Family Research Council prayer thing, what kind of person would want to dash the hopes of the poor and middle class in their struggle against the rich? Why don’t we ask Karl Rove?

But Karl’s attacks don’t seem to be hurting Warren like he planned. In fact it seems like they’ve have boomeranged on him and Scott Brown and rallied Massachusetts voters to Warren:

Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren drew about 1,000 supporters Sunday at a rally in Boston.

“The daughter of a maintenance man who made it to be a fancy pants professor at Harvard Law School. America is a great country,” she said to the audience, who had pledged to volunteer for her campaign at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury.

The turnout was remarkable for an election that is nearly a year away. The Boston Globe reported that her campaign said her opponent, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), has been drawing crowds of 200 to 500 at recent events. The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim reported on another recent volunteer event where Warren was heckled by a Tea Party supporter.

{{snicker}}

I would hesitate to call her bullet proof because there will always be an gullible contingent of voters and rabid nutcases who will find something they will turn into a kerning moment. But she’s smart and she will learn much more quickly than other people in her position. What more can we expect from Karl? Probably personal details. Everyone’s got’em. And then there’s the subtle misogyny. You know it’s coming. And then there is the time issue. As long as she’s the only featured candidate of the downtrodden middle class, she’s going to get the focus and relentless pounding. What we need are some other challengers for Congress and the Senate who will join her. Then Karl will have to play whack-a-mole. Imagine 435 moles popping up all over the place and Rove having to spend the money to smack them all down. How delightful.

Ahem, if you would like to contribute to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, see her donations page here.

And don’t forget Al Franken who has consistently supported Net Neutrality. His defense of New Neutrality last week is clear and eloquent. Do yourself a favor and listen to the first 10 minutes. There has never been a better case for Net Neutrality nor better examples of what might have happened to the things we take for granted now if Net Neutrality hadn’t been in place since the internet was rolled out to regular folks in the early 90s.

Reward good behavior. Check Franken’s page for more support of what you like.
***********************

The Plum Line Metric for 11/11/11 (last Friday, Happy Hour post only):
Male writers: 12
Female writers: 2
PLM = 0.17 (rounded up to two significant digits)

We are making progress, not that The Plum Line is paying any attention to this number (yet).
BTW, Paul Krugman congratulated a writer for scoring a gig for an online journal. It was Matt Yglesias and he will be writing for Slate. Slate must have been concerned about the number of male opinion writers it had and took affirmative actions to address this lack of diversity.

Everything, including discrimination with regard to access and hiring of opinion writers, can be quantified. ;-)

Clap harder, CLAP HAAAARDER!!!

Typed “daily” into the Google search bar looking for the Daily Show, got DailyKos instead.  What the heck, let’s see what they have on the first page.  Oh, it’s a post by DemFromCT titled “What if the Economic News Gets Better?

{{faceplant}}

First, there’s an oh so brief blurb on the Greek sovereign debt crisis, that looks like it’s going to turn out ok anyway!  Isn’t that great??  The stock market is doing ok and the Euro bounced back, but we still hate Wall Street.  But our 401Ks are doing well, not that any Kossacks care about materialism and filthy lucre made on the backs of working people all over the world.  Dayum, do you see the slope on that curve?  It’s f%c^ing *awesome*!

But then, the post gets serious and discusses the GDP.

Right, who are we fooling?  Oh, right, these are Kossacks, who were used as a giant male fraternity party clueless focus group for the Obama campaign in 2008.  So, the bad news is that GDP was only 0.7% for the first half of the year.  The good news is that it was 2.5% in the 3rd quarter!  Isn’t that great?  That will keep those nasty wasty Republicans (boo!, hiss!  boo!) at bay next year because if this keeps up for the 4th quarter, we’ll have an average annual GDP for 2011 of …

… wait for it…

.

.

.

… it’s going to be good…

.

1.6%!!

{{cue the bad magician music}} Da-da-DA-DA-da-DA-da-DA-DA, Da-da-DA-DA-da-DA-da-DAAA!!

Uhhh, guys?  That’s not that good.  And you know what?  9.2% unemployment is a bigger number and likely to stick in the public’s mind a lot longer.  Just think about it: next year, presidential candidate’s debate, Obama gets up there and announces a sensational 1.6% GDP, pats himself on the back, because that is so Barry. Romney furrows his brow (provided he can actually move it) and says, almost sotto voce “9.2% unemployment”, shakes his head, glances at Obama, looks down at his podium, shuffles his notes, shakes his head again, sighs.

See where I’m going with this?   A GDP of 1.6% is anemic.  Check out this post from Brad Plumer at WaPo.  Here’s the money quote:

The economy grew at a 2.5 percent annualized pace in the third quarter of 2011, according to new Commerce Department data released this morning. Seeing as how plenty of economists were grumbling about a double-dip recession not too long ago, even modest growth counts as cheering news. But 2.5 percent growth won’t bring us back to full employment anytime soon. So how much growth do we actually need?

Short answer: A lot more. Back in August, the Congressional Budget Office released its revised GDP forecasts and predicted that the economy would gallop along with 3.6 percent growth between 2013 and 2016. Now, as Jeffrey Frankel has shown, government forecasters tend to err on the optimistic sign, but even in the CBO’s sunny scenario, we wouldn’t hit full employment until 2017.

It’s not enough to keep Social Security payroll taxes streaming in to keep the system going.  One year or two maybe we can make up the difference.  But four?  With another four more years of Barry at the wheel carrying on the Bush legacy and trying to make Grand Bargains with the Republicans to give away virtually all we have left?  What are you guys smoking over there?

The next part of the post is the funniest:

Sure, none of this changes the huge need for jobs or fixes the housing crisis, but with Obama pounding jobs bills and student relief (and some of it actually getting into the headlines and onto the news), it might just reverse the bad news coverage Obama has been getting this year.

It’s of special importance because the GOP really has nothing beyond economic frustration to run on. Their plan, be it this week’s flat tax, last week’s 9-9-9 or Paul Ryan’s disastrous roadmap is all the same: coddle the rich and screw the middle class. No one likes their plan, but with a tanking economy, no one is going to reward incumbents.

So what happens if a year from now, the economy isn’t tanking? Keep in mind the Republicans have no Plan B if America does well.

So, we admit that Obama has been a failure, just as we Conflucians predicted him to be back in 2008, given that he was an inexperienced, political unknown who seemed to flinch whenever anyone called him a Democrat and was being funded by Wall Street in vast quantities (We HATE Wall Street! Remember? But look at my 401K!!).  And we admit that he clusterf^&*ed the housing foreclosure crisis and the unemployment crisis and sure, it looks bad.  But that’s just because Obama keeps getting bad news coverage.  If he gets *good* news coverage, we unemployed people who can’t pay our mortgages will just let bygones be bygones.

And what’s this about the GOP plan to “coddle the rich and screw the middle class”?  I thought that was Obama and the Congress’s plan.  Isn’t it?  Because that’s what it looks like to me.  If Obama and the Democrats have the same plan as Romney and the Republicans, how are we supposed to tell them apart?  Better yet, why should I vote for either of them?  There are other options on the ballot and, who knows, by this time next year, there may be a third viable candidate.  The Occupy movement has unveiled a deep dissatisfaction with both parties.

What is Obama’s Plan B anyway?  I mean, if he wins re-election in 2012, he doesn’t have to have one, you nitwits.  Which is why you shouldn’t be giving him a pass.  You should be on his case and vowing not to vote for him unless he does something for you *before* the election.  Unless all you care about is your 401K.  (Didja see the slope on that graph??)  Even Steve Jobs told Obama that his poor performance on the economy was going to cost him the White House in 2012.  True story.  It’s in Jobs’ new biography by Walter Isaacson.  And we know that Jobs was pretty damn good at getting a feel for what people want.  (Have you checked the quarterly earnings for Apple these days??  Amazing!  Oh, but we HATE Wall Street)

Look, you Kossacks screwed up good in 2008 and as a result, the pain and misery for millions of Americans is going to continue for a long, long time if either Romney OR Obama wins next year. Yes, YOU, You are responsible. The best thing you can do is stop trying so hard to make this sound better than it is.  Stop lying to yourselves and each other.  If you want to make this better, tell Obama to step down now and let someone else with longer coattails take on the Republicans.  Even you guys can’t possibly be as delusional as DemFromCT’s post.

By the way, he could have stopped what happened in Oakland on Tuesday night if he really cared about citizens and their first amendment rights.  There’s an Iraq War veteran who is now in the hospital in critical condition because of this out of control overreaction by “riot police”, if that’s what we’re calling them these days.

I don’t know what is worse, that they knocked this poor guy out and seriously injured him or that they tried to prevent other people from helping him.  I haven’t been so disgusted with the behavior of police in a long time.  This is outrageous.

**************************

In a bit of good news, apparently, Elizabeth Warren’s embrace of the Occupy Movement hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of the people of Massachusetts who want to work for her senate campaign.  This is a picture of the people who volunteered on Tuesday to lend her campaign a hand.

Golly!  Can we clone her??

Precariat- Learn this word

No, precariat is not a misspelling of a group of single celled organisms.  It’s a very disturbing word, an ominous word, a word that has already arrived here in the United States and is slowly moving up the food chain:

Precariat- a social group consisting of people whose lives are difficult because they have little or no job security and few employment rights

It’s a portmanteau of “precarious” and “proletariat”.  A precariat is a person who doesn’t have a reliable job.  Precariats initially were service workers who may have been working a 40 hour work week, but maybe not.  A precariat could be called in to work a 6 hour shift, every other day and one long 12 hour day at some other point in the week or come to work expecting a full 8 hours but sent home after 2.  The amount of work can vary from day to day, week to week.  This worker typically has no benefits.

I think most of us can see right away the limitations of the precariat world.  If you can’t say for sure how many hours you’ll be working each month, can you afford to rent a nice apartment or buy a house?  Can you buy a new car?  If you have children, how do you schedule and pay for their child care?  Can you depend on your paycheck to feed them?  Work and living become precarious.  Here is a video about the precariat from The Precariat: the New Working Class:

Precariats usually spring up in countries where workers are not protected by unions or strict labor laws.  Right now, the UK is starting to come to terms with the precariat but in a way, the Welsh precariat has it good compared to the American version.  Here in the US, there is no national health care system or reasonably priced, government subsidized schools of higher education.  So, the land of opportunity in America is starting to look like the last place you want to live if you are forced into precariatism.

Another feature of precariatism is the appearance of the middle man hiring agency.  That agency stands between the employer and you.  The employer hands off responsibility of hiring and paying the worker.  The worker becomes a true human resource to be hired when needed and laid off when not.  Benefits and risks are born by the employee.  The hiring agency takes a cut of the worker’s pay, I hesitate to call it a salary because that would imply some kind of security and regularity.

A couple of years ago, we who were salaried employees would have looked down on the precariat with pity.  Now, we are one.  From my vantage point, this is the way the pharmaceutical industry has decided to handle its well educated, experienced workforce.  We are now service workers.  More and more of us can only find contract work.  The work is parceled out in 3, 6 or 12 month contracts.  There are no benefits.  In some cases, the worker pays both sides of the social security tax.  It is hard to plan where to live because you don’t know if you’ll be able to pay the rent.  You can’t make any major purchases on credit because there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to afford the car payment.

One of the reasons I suspected that the McKinsey reports of employers dropping health insurance coverage for their employees after the passage of the Affordable Care Act was true was because it fits so well with the precariat worker norm.  Since a universal mandate meant that workers would be legally compelled to spend whatever the insurance companies could charge for health insurance, the employer could cut this benefit out of their compensation packages guilt free. To escape the employer mandate, all the employer would have to do is make many of its permanent employees into contractors.  The number of layoffs would be expected to increase. Responsibility and risk would now be transferred to the employee.   You don’t have to be a highly paid consulting company or economist to see how this would work.  All you have to do is think a couple of steps ahead. Mandatory universal coverage without a public option or a single payer system that requires employers to pay in puts much of the American workforce at risk of falling from the middle class into the precariat.

The new middle man hiring agency becomes the new growth sector.  Expect to hear more horror stories of foreign students brought to the US by a hiring vendor promising that they will learn English only to spend their summer in a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania doing manual labor for subsistence wages.  Expect Hershey the company to deny all responsibility.  Or Amazon.  Or {{your company name here}}

It’s hard to say whether Barack Obama was onboard with this or whether he was so overwhelmed by his job that it never was evaluated properly.  But I think we can say pretty unequivocally that the acceleration of the expansion of precariatism within the American culture is related to the measures that were  or weren’t taken in the wake of the financial collapse.  So much attention was focused on shoring up the banks at taxpayer expense that homeowners were allowed to foreclose, jobs were allowed to disappear and healthcare reform was rushed through to score political points without much thought of how  those reforms would affect the workforce.  In fact, hardly any thought at all has been spent on the workforce.  Well, Elizabeth Warren was thinking about it for years but as Adam Davidson pointing out in that blistering Planet Money interview from 2009, Warren’s opinions didn’t really count because she wasn’t a “serious” person.  Did Davidson see the rise of the precariat?  Does he know that free lancing is going to appear at an NPR station near him someday?

If the US economy is in a slump right now, it may very well be because there are so many more precariats where once there were college educated salaried people.  In my own sphere, precariatism is the norm these days, not the exception.  It wasn’t like this before 2008.  But now, if you’re a precariat, you can not plan for the future.  There IS no future.  Everyday is a struggle and stress about where the next mortgage payment will come from, what will happen if the car breaks down, how to pay for the plumbing that keeps getting backed up or the last of the orthodontic appointments.  It’s the reason why so many grocery stores are shuttering their stores and why Lowes is laying off workers in the northeast and why people are hoarding their money instead of spending it.  And it will get worse until more working people realize what is happening to them.  The people who are kissing the whip today are going to be tomorrow’s precariats.

We have been subjected to years of politicians relaxing the rules for the 1% and tightening the rules for everyone else.  The rise of the number of precariats can be attributed to the politicians who let this happen.  We need to replace as many of them as possible.  Because it wasn’t too long ago that Americans were pretty cool with capitalism.  When we were all making money and productivity gains went to the middle class, we had a vibrant, robust economy.  But when the rules went out the window and labor came under attack from the superwealthy and the whip kissers who brainlessly listen to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Fox News, an opportunity arose to force many of us to live on the edge of a knife.  Now, those of us who didn’t necessarily want to be rich but wanted to work for its own sake are considered losers.  And the infection of the precariat is bound to spread.  There is no profession that is safe.  Once the public unions are broken, precarianism will be the norm, not the exception.  Your degrees cannot protect you.  Even senior citizens are not sheltered from the effects of precariatism because as the salaries disappear to be replaced with lower, precarious wages, the tax base will continue to shrink.  It won’t be that we don’t want to pay for social security. It will be that we just can’t anymore.

The 99% don’t want to live a precarious life.  We know who was responsible for the ruination of the American middle class.  We focus on the robber barons of Wall Street now but come November 2012, with a handful of notable exceptions in Congress, they ALL have to go, Obama included.

What the OccupyWallStreet protestors object to is the increasing economic injustice forced on the precariat and what they demand is that it stop.

OccupyWallStreet: We are not cannon fodder for Washington policy wonks

 

My Favorite Sign

Glenn Greenwald gets OccupyWallStreet in a way that many doubters do not.  In his latest post at Salon, Can OWS be turned into a Democratic party movement, he writes:

Given these facts, does the Center for American Progress really believe that the protest movement named OccupyWallStreet was begun — and that people are being arrested and pepper-sprayed and ready to endure harsh winters andmarching to Jamie Dimon’s house — in order to devote themselves to ensuring that these people remain in power? Does CAP and the DCCC really believe that most of the protesters are motivated — or can be motivated — to turn themselves into a get-out-the-vote machine for Obama’s re-election and the empowerment of Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Party? Obviously, if when the GOP nominates some crony capitalist like Rick Perry or eager Wall Street servant like Mitt Romney, few if any of the protesters will or should support them, nor can it be denied that the GOP in its current incarnation is steadfastly devoted to a pro-Wall-Street, corporatist agenda. But it also seems to me quite delusional to think that you’re going to exploit this protest as a way “to mobilize protesters in get-out-the-vote drives for 2012″ on behalf of the Democratic Party that I just documented.

Presumably, people who are out protesting and getting arrested are politically astute enough to be aware of some, probably most, of these facts. A rejuvenated outburst of “populist rhetoric” from Obama — a re-reading of the 2008 Change script — just as election season is heating up and Obama again needs progressive enthusiasm to remain in power seems quite unlikely to make people forget all of this.

As Robert Reich recently pointed out, OWS and the Democratic Party are not exactly natural allies given that “Obama has been extraordinarily solicitous of Wall Street and big business” and that “a big share of both parties’ campaign funds comes from the Street and corporate board rooms.” As Naomi Klein explained after speaking to the protesters, the reason they are out on the street rather than working for the DNC or OFA is precisely because they concluded that electoral politics or working for either party will not address the issues motivating them; part of what they’re protesting is the Democratic Party. For an FDL Book Salon discussion this weekend, I reviewed Lawrence Lessig’s excellent new book on our corrupted political system, Republic: Lost, and he documents exactly why he transformed from an enthusiastic supporter of his long-time friend and colleague Barack Obama in 2008 into a harsh critic of both parties: because the political system itself has been subverted by oligarchical control. As he put it in his book: : “Democracy on this account seems a show or a rule; power rests elsewhere. . . . the charade is a signal: spend your time elsewhere, because this game is not for real.”

So best of luck to CAP and the DCCC in their efforts to exploit these protests into some re-branded Obama 2012 crusade and to convince the protesters to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested all to make themselves the 2012 street version of OFA. I think they’re going to need it.

My spidey sense tells me that the occupiers know that the Democratic party is an enabler of Wall Street behavior.  Where I disagree with Glenn is that *anybody* who takes financial industry money is going to do its bidding.  I don’t believe that.  The crisis of 2008 was so severe that getting away with murder could only be pulled off by making sure the weakest presidential candidate won.  Obama was weak in character as well as experience.  But I digress.

While OWS is still working through the process of what it can do with all of its newly found power, let’s talk about business in America.  What drives me nutz about some activists is the inability to separate the finance industry from corporations in general.  There are some forms of industry that are best carried out by corporations because they provide an economy of scale and physical set up that make working together ideal and logistically possible.  Some industries that come to mind are car and aircraft manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.  Go ahead, try to build a new plane or discover a new drug without a corporation.  It’s bloody hard.  Many unemployed chemists right now are faced with this dilemma.  I have a sneaky suspicion that the clueless MBA class thought cutting a huge number of pharma workers was going to pay off for them because these people would just turn into entrepreneurs and when their  projects got to the development stage, the big pharmas would swoop down and buy them out.  But this is a business school grad’s fantasy.  With very few exceptions, this will never happen.  It’s just too expensive and physically exhausting for a few people to get together and create a whole pharma company out of their garages.  The start up costs alone will bankrupt you before you even get started and there are years, decades even, before a drug hits the marketplace, if it ever does.  The risk is too high for small entrepreneurs who still have to eat.

I hope someone is paying attention to what I just wrote about garage startup pharmas.  Stop hoping for this to happen.  Getting a new drug this way is about as likely as an immaculate conception.  At best, small companies can only do a piece of the puzzle.  The rest has to be farmed out and even when the idea is a good one, what these entrepreneurs really want is for someone with deep pockets to buy them, which most venture capitalists these days are increasingly unlikely to do without a guarantee of a payoff.  Since you can’t get close to guaranteeing a payoff without significant start up funds… well, you can see this is a vicious cycle.  The pharmas would have been better off keeping us and leaving us alone in our labs for about 5 years.

Now that there are a lot of people struggling to make a living by starting their own companies, vulture capitalists can make them offers they can’t refuse.  That will discourage new entrepreneurs from trying it and pretty soon, chemists and biologists will turn in their labcoats and go work for Wall Street where bonuses of only $500,000 will make a spoiled 27 year old Ivy League graduate cry but not your average lab rat.

Anyway, the problem with corporations is that at some point in the last 20 years, their upper management was taken over by people who wanted to play by the finance industry rules.  Many of them, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, have no idea how their businesses work.  They are raised in a business culture that puts making money ahead of everything else.  An executive reading that sentence would laugh derisively and say of course they’re there to make money.  And who would disagree?  That’s what for profit businesses do.  More power to them.  Make gobs of cash.  BUT the way you make that gob of cash *does* matter.  If you do it by reinvesting some of your profit into your business and innovate and grow, your business is going to do pretty well but it might take longer for that gob of cash to grow.  If you do it by slashing your labor and compensation costs, raising prices astronomically and then skim the profits off the top and share the profit, that’s like eating your seed corn and your company will start to show diminishing returns over time.  This is already happening to pharma with many of them going over the “patent cliff” starting this year.

Corporations have decided to go with option number 2 because the finance industry puts pressure on them to deliver more and more money to the shareholder.  And that money gets managed by Wall Street and is used to invest in foreign markets and the people who are left in those corporations are encouraged to put money into their 401Ks and they are compensated with stock options, which are supposed to incentivize you but tend to make you feel like your future is not in your hands whenever the shares plummet.

And then there is the deregulation and non-transparent derivatives, which are also not regulated, and the credit default swaps and the over-leveraged banks and on and on.  The whole system has been changed over the past 30 years to reward speculation by the wealthy.  None of this is news to anyone.

But it just may be occurring to some that the horror stories about what Brookseley Born, Sheila Bair and Elizabeth Warren have come up against in Washington DC is the result not of the bankers but the politicians who have been compromised by the financial industry.  And this problem affects *both* parties.  The Republicans are more up front about it but the Democrats haven’t been much better.  I won’t leave Bill Clinton off the hook here but in his case, there were mitigating factors in addition to Larry Summers and Robert Rubin acting like total assholes.  But we have to remember who rehired Larry Summers after his reputation preceded him.  It was Barack Obama.

We can debate whether Obama was a knowing tool of Wall Street or just aspired to be like the class that reigns there.  But there is no doubt in anyone’s minds by now that under Obama, the finance industry will suffer no shocks to its system at the hands of government regulators.  By the way, Greenwald includes a graph of the politicians that have received the most campaign cash from Wall Street and Chris Dodd’s name was on that list. It should come as no surprise that Dodd was one of the people who obstructed Elizabeth Warren’s appointment to the CFPB.  This article from Vanity Fair gives all of the gruesome details.

So, what does this have to do with OWS?  Well, the naysayers who have never been to an occupation site (hello myiq!) seem to think that the occupiers are or can be co-opted to become another Obama for America organization.  My sense, having actually, you know, *been* there, is that that’s not true.  The occupiers like me who already know that the politicians are standing between the Wall Street and regulation are very suspicious of any activity that pushes them to support Obama.  The other’s are still working through this process.  And the fact that they are working through this process slowly and methodically indicates to me that they will soon reach the same conclusion that we early birds did: if the finance industry plays by its own set of rules, the way to make them behave is to change the rulemakers.  And you can’t re-elect the same rulemakers who answer only to Wall Street and not to you the citizen and taxpayer.  And if the faulty rulemakers are in both parties, then even if some of those more sympathetic rulemakers are on your side, you need to force them to become accountable to you.  And to become more accountable to you, you need to threaten them with electoral losses until they get the picture that the power is at the ballot box and not on Wall Street.

So, will OWS become a tool of the Democratic party?  I don’t know but I doubt it.  That’s because what OWS wants is to make life more fair for the 99% and right now that’s not possible with the current set of rulemakers.  OWS has to apply pressure from the outside of the system.  Becoming a part of that system will never work.  The Democrats will try.  They’ll use fear, uncertainty and dread.  But the power that OWS has is in staying separate from any political party and gathering bodies and momentum behind it.

My best guess as to where OWS is headed is as a voting bloc first and then as a new political party.  What they are doing right now is laying down the foundation for what that party represents and what it values.  I know, I know, they’ll tell you they are still working on what they want and party building is not on their agenda.  But the process they are pursuing has a new party as a very logical endpoint, among other things.  And if the platform focuses on economic issues primarily, it could be extremely appealing to millions of Americans who have had enough of both parties.

The Democrats have more to fear from OWS because so many occupiers have given it a chance, over and over again, to do something to rein in the investment class and have seen nothing come of those efforts.  They know they’ll never make any headway with the Republicans, who are busily invoking images of murderous radical marxists with tattooed faces who poop on cars (well, now we know how to spot the radical marxists).  The occupiers have had it with Democrats but they also have more to gain by taking Democrats on.  They are just now feeling their power.  They’re not about to turn it over to a bunch of Wall Street lackeys

OccupyWallStreet: Why it has to be

I’ve noticed a certain deranged Klown has a provocative and baseless post up on his blog (see myiq?  We are sending you traffic) that suggests that OccupyWallStreet and other Occupy events are part of some broader astroturf campaign.  I’m not sure how he came to that conclusion.  I mean, they aren’t infiltrating blogs, promoting candidates like Sarah Palin or her Tea Party organization.  I’ve got nothing against Sarah as a person and I don’t think she’s as dumb as the left would have you believe but I do judge her by the people she hangs out with, like Glenn Beck.  So, there’s that.

But OccupyWallStreet is not about politics.  Oh, indirectly, it is, but what it’s really about is something we at The Confluence have been challenging since 2008.  We are talking about “consensus reality”.  In this particular case, we are talking about the consensus reality that says that the bailing the financial institutions out was the most important thing that needed to be done after the crash in 2008 to the exclusion of everything else.  And the media message that exemplifies this attitude the best is this interview from 2009 between Adam Davidson of Planet Money and Elizabeth Warren, candidate for Senator in MA and Harvard professor of law specializing in bankruptcy and consumer finance protection.  Here’s a partial transcript with the money quotes:

ADAM DAVIDSON: What it feels to me is what you are missing is that — I think we put aside your pet issues. We put them aside. We put them aside until this crisis is over.

ELIZABETH WARREN: The cr– What you’re saying makes no sense. Now come on. [interpolate Davidson sputtering and attempting to interrupt throughout.] It makes no sense. On an emergency basis, on one day, one week, one month, there’s no doubt in my mind we’ve got to step in, we’ve got to make sure we have a functioning banking system. I think I’ve said that like nine times now. Of course we’ve got to have a functioning banking system.

DAVIDSON: Wait a minute. I want to make you go farther. I want to make you madder before I –

ELIZABETH WARREN: No no no. [Davidson snickers] We’re now at what — we’re now seven, eight months into this. And it’s the second part of what you said. We can’t do anything about the American family until this crisis is over? This crisis will not be over until the American family begins to recover. [More Davidson sputtering.] This crisis does not exist independently –

DAVIDSON: That’s your crisis.

ELIZABETH WARREN: No it is not my crisis! That is America’s crisis! If people cannnot pay their credit card bills [Davidson tries to interrupt] if they cannot pay their mortgages –

DAVIDSON: But you are not in the mainstream of views on this issue. You are not –

ELIZABETH WARREN: What, if they can’t pay their credit card bills the banks are gonna do fine? Who are you looking at?

DAVIDSON: The [sputters]–

ELIZABETH WARREN: Who says a bank a bank is going to survive — Who is not worried about the fact that the Bank of America’s default rate has now bumped over 10%? That’s at least the latest data I saw. So the idea that we’re going to somehow fix the banks and then next year or next decade we’re going to start worrying about the American family just doesn’t [Davidson talking over] make any sense.

DAVIDSON: The American families are not — These issues of crucial, the essential need for credit intermediation are as close to accepted principles among every serious thinker on this topic. The view that the American family, that you hold very powerfully, is fully under assault and that there is — and we can get into that — that is not accepted broad wisdom. I talk to a lot a lot a lot of left, right, center, neutral economists [and] you are the only person I’ve talked to in a year of covering this crisis who has a view that we have two equally acute crises: a financial crisis and a household debt crisis that is equally acute in the same kind of way. I literally don’t know who else I can talk to support that view. I literally don’t know anyone other than you who has that view, and you are the person [snicker] who went to Congress to oversee it and you are presenting averyvery narrow view to the American people.

ELIZABETH WARREN: I’m sorry. That is not a narrow view. What you are saying is that it is the broad view to think only about trying to save the banks [Davidson sputters] and say Hey! the American economy will recover at some point and we’ll worry about the families [Davidson talking over]. I think that is the narrow view and I think I have the broad view. The broad view is that these two things are connected to each other. And the notion that you can save the banking system while the American economy goes down the tubes is just foolish.

Well, now we know that Elizabeth Warren was right and Adam Davidson and his serious people, what Paul Krugman calls the “VSPs”, were dead wrong.  And who’s point of view has Barack Obama subscribed to since 2008?  That’s right, the VSPs.  According to Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, Christina Romer, his economic advisor, was unable to get Obama to commit to a paltry $100Bn for the creation of potentially 1,000,000 jobs in 2009.  It’s not like he thought he couldn’t get it, although that was one of the excuses he was making.  It’s that in the overall scheme of things, it just wasn’t all that important to him.  No, seriously.  If you’ve been out of work since 2009, you can partially thank Obama for not thinking your situation required all that much attention.  It was much more important to him to bail out the bankers.  He admitted as much today.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. As you travel the country, you also take credit for tightening regulations on Wall Street through the Dodd-Frank law, and about your efforts to combat income inequality. There’s this movement — Occupy Wall Street — which has spread from Wall Street to other cities. They clearly don’t think that you or Republicans have done enough, that you’re in fact part of the problem.

Are you following this movement, and what would you say to its — people that are attracted to it?

THE PRESIDENT: Obviously I’ve heard of it. I’ve seen it on television. I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel — that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street, and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place.

So, yes, I think people are frustrated, and the protestors are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works. Now, keep in mind I have said before and I will continue to repeat, we have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow. And I used up a lot of political capital, and I’ve got the dings and bruises to prove it, in order to make sure that we prevented a financial meltdown, and that banks stayed afloat. And that was the right thing to do, because had we seen a financial collapse then the damage to the American economy would have been even worse.

And then he goes on to give some lip service to financial reform and Dodd-Frank, which was so watered down as to be less than a tap on the wrist with an anorexic feather, blah, blah, blah.  There was a reason why he concentrated all of his efforts on saving the financial institutions.  He relied on Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke who were spooked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  They were scared to death to rein in the banks for fear of triggering another catastrophe.  But instead of feeding the roots, the homeowners and working people who could have pumped up the banks from the bottom up, Obama lavished all of his attentions on the bankers, giving them all they wanted without considering whether it was good for them or us.

In the meantime, the Very Serious People decided that we should all share the sacrifice, even those of us who did everything right and still got hammered.  The Villagers have been on a tear about deficit reduction and austerity and entitlement reform for the past 3 years.  It’s disaster capitalism with a capital D.  And this relentless message to rip the working class to smithereens to make sure the financial sector comes to no harm has been the consensus reality that has dominated media coverage for the last three years.

The problem is that consensus reality isn’t meshing with real reality for the rest of us these days.  We’ve been told to have compassion for the bankers but somehow must blame ourselves for the mountains of student loan and housing debt we’ve been forced to shoulder because the productivity gains of the past 30 years got siphoned off as profits to the shareholders.  We’ve been told that bankers’ contracts for bonuses are sacred legal documents but union contracts for wages and pensions are not.  We are told that bankers are entitled to taxpayer largess to keep them functioning even if it adds trillions of dollars to the deficit but that we the taxpayers are not entitled to the social security insurance program that we paid for in advance and which adds nothing to the deficit.  We are told that it is unfair to tax rich people because they earned their yachts and second homes and private schools but it is perfectly ok to decimate public schools and foreclose on families when they are out of jobs and can’t pay their property taxes and mortgages.

What the f%^& kind of fools do they take us for??

OccupyWallStreet was destined to happen, even without astroturf.  A nation can’t exist in two realities forever.  One of them is going to start feeling a lot more real-er than the other.  That is what is happening.  Suddenly, all across the country, millions of people are starting to ask themselves, what kind of bullshit have they been feeding us for 3 years or 30 years?  It’s insane that the Very Serious People would expect that we perform a form of ritual suicide to spare them any sense of obligation to the unity of the United States as a national entity “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”.

In that heated discussion above, Adam Davidson, his voice dripping with mocking contempt, told Elizabeth Warren that she wasn’t worth listening to and no one would take her seriously.

OccupyWallStreet is about to change all that.

Update:  I don’t know if the picture below is from The Occupation but it sounds right from someone who was there:

After the 2008 election, those of us who were heartsick with the way things turned out wanted very much to start a new movement but didn’t know how to begin.  I doubt it would have caught fire in the aftermath of the 2008 election, in spite of all that we saw that went wrong in 2008.  But how to do it?  Would it be organized?  Decentralized?  What kind of credo?  No one could agree, no leaders could be spared, some of us didn’t know the first thing about starting movements. At one point, I thought that the best example would be like the spread of Christianity in the first and second centuries.  Small groups of self lead believers, figuring it out as they went along, writing their own books, strewn like pearls along the Roman road.

The Occupation has that kind of feel to it.

Elizabeth Warren runs for Senator from Massachusetts

Dave Dayan has a great post on this at FireDogLake.  Check it out.

Here’s Warren’s announcement video:

I have to say that I’m a little bit surprised by the Eeyore comments I’m seeing around the web.  They go something like “she’s a sacrificial lamb” to “it’s the wrong year for her to jump into this”.  The last one doesn’t make any sense at all.  This is almost an open Senate seat.  Scott Brown took Kennedy’s seat when the Senator died of brain cancer a couple of years ago.  Elizabeth Warren can totally take this seat, provided she resists the standard homogenization procedure for Democrats seeking to run for office.

Snagging my comments from myiq’s Crawdad site, here’s why she can pull this off:

Can she make her case in terms easy enough for a Tea Partier to understand? Yep, I think so.
Can she separate herself from the current Obama administration screwups? Well, Tim Geithner hates her guts. That’s a plus.
Is she passionate enough? Heck, did you hear that interview she had on Planet Money with Adam Davidson?
Scott Brown might be a good senator but does he represent the people of Massachusetts as well as she would?
Her strength is that she is genuinely on the side of the middle class.

There’s some weird concern that she’s going to come off looking like an Ivy League elitist.

I don’t see her as an ivy league elitist despite her job. She’s pretty plain spoken, a strong advocate for the middle class and has demonstrated a clear understanding of the challenges it faces.
One other thing is that she won’t be running to represent Cambridge. She’s running to represent Massachusetts.
What potentially makes her candidacy so strong is that no one in congress is representing the failing middle class and in debate, she’s going to wipe the floor with Scott Brown on those issues. She can effectively argue against austerity.
I’m glad she’s running. Her candidacy could be a real plus next year.

Let’s hope that Elizabeth Warren can motivate voters to take control of their government again.  She should be passionate, define the issues and compare/contrast (see Hillary Clinton’s techniques for this), and she must propel voters to put aside their learned helplessness.  Start by pointing out that big corporations can purchase politicians and comandeer the airwaves but they do not have a vote.  Those votes are like Dorothy’s ruby slippers.  Voters have always had the means to take power away from the rich and well connected.  This is the point that Elizabeth Warren has to make.

Oh, and if Warren needs paid help on her campaign, I am available.  ;-)

Saturday: Too much news

More beach, less news

July is supposed to be a slow news month. Everyone is on vacation and nothing much is going on. But for some reason, the powers that be, who may also be the idiots in charge, have decided to misbehave and act up and basically do things that piss us off. Too much of this stuff is interesting. Such as:

* Obama has deep sixed Elizabeth Warren as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Speculation is that he is going to appoint some dude named Raj Date who used to work for a bank. Becaaaaaauuuse that makes so much sense from a Consumer Protection POV? Call me skeptical. I know, I always have to be the one who just has to be different but not appointing the woman who created the agency in the first place seems like a really bad idea. I’m sure the usual excuses will be rolled out to justify this: the Republicans were being mean and wouldn’t let me appoint her, she doesn’t have any experience running an agency (variation of the Penis Years argument), and my favorite, she doesn’t have the personality for the job. People found her abrasive and “not a team player”, ie she wouldn’t kiss someone’s ass and actually took the description of the job seriously or she was determined to get the job done in spite of the guys who refused to cooperate and she did not disguise how impatient and displeased she was about their unhelpful behavior. Queue the talking points! In another display of mean spirited misbehavior, the Republican House is trying to pass a bill that would prevent recess appointments to federal agencies from getting paid. (Check out the pic of Warren on this link. Yep, they’re going with the personality excuse) So, unless you’re independently wealthy, you will have the same pay as an unpaid intern. That should encourage plenty of the altruists and experts to apply!

*Rupert Murdoch’s media empire continues to crumble. Two of his long time generals, Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton have resigned under fire. Check out The Guardian UK for the latest fallout to this scandal (Oooo, it just allowed the use of the word *fu^&ed* in a quote on the front page. It must be serious.) The Guardian seems to think that the spread of the scandal to the US through the phone hacking of 9/11 victims phones is going to spell the end of Fox News here. It cites the creation of an investigation of the matter at the FBI. That sounds serious and very promising until you read the news article that says…

*Republicans are holding up the extension of Robert Mueller’s appointment as head of the FBI. He’s been serving a long time, 10 years long, in fact. He needs a special dispensation to serve longer and the Republicans are not going to give it to him. In particular, Rand Paul, the Libertarian nut, has filed a stay of the extension. We can only speculate why but the repercussions are clear:

There may be significantly less time to complete the steps necessary to avoid a disruption at the F.B.I. than had been generally understood.

The widespread understanding has been that Mr. Mueller’s term will expire on Sept. 3, because he started work as F.B.I. director on Sept. 4, 2001.

But the administration legal team has decided that Mr. Mueller’s last day is likely to be Aug. 2, because President George W. Bush signed his appointment on Aug. 3, 2001. Coincidentally, Aug. 2 is also the day the government will hit a debt ceiling if Congress does not raise it.

So, there ya’ go. Mueller could go out with a bang if he ramps up the investigation of News Corp in the three weeks he has left. Scratch that, I read somewhere that the debt ceiling crisis really happens on July 22 because the legislative process takes a certain amount of time to work its way out. Soooo, thanks Rand Paul for leaving this position unfilled on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11! Good job. And how conveeeenient for Fox News. How much you wanna bet the Republicans are holding out for a guarantee that the Fox News investigation goes nowhere? Hey! Maybe this is a good time to call your cable or satellite company and insist on them dropping Fox News from the lineup until the investigation gets to the bottom of the matter. We need a little righteous indignation here. And if I were Democrats who were serious about changing the narrative, I would bring this up at every opportunity.

*And while the Republicans and Obama fiddle with the debt ceiling, Rome burns. Governors of various states are very worried that they will not be able to meet some obligations, such as Medicaid and unemployment benefits. The last one is rather near and dear to my heart at the present time so I am most seriously displeased. Note to the still employed: have at least 6 months savings on hand and a Plan B in the event that your government decides to screw you over. I’ll do ok but I worry about others who have been out longer than me. And, NO, I don’t think we should be forced to fork over our future Social Security and Medicare bennies to satisfy the serious peoples’ desire for a Brave New World without a Safety Net for average American Workers, although this suspiciously looks like a pressure tactic to make the poor and desperate even more poor and desperate. I find this terror tactic completely unacceptable. I want Obama to soak the rich, stop letting them separate themselves from their patriotic tax obligations, or instruct air traffic controllers to redirect their private corporate jets to the Cayman Islands where they can spend more time with their money. Please include an air and naval blockade, landline internet with 512 kb DSL and only the base package cable featuring all the reality TV the bonus class can eat.

*Virtually Speaking last night was pivotal. Stuart Zechman went all PUMA. (I can almost see Stuart flinching as he reads that) But really, Stuart, what you suggested at the end of the program was what we recommended 3 years ago. We told voters to remain undecided. That was particularly important for Democrats in Exile because so many disenfranchised voters were mad enough to jump to the Republicans. I have always felt that Friends don’t let friends vote Republican, even though I personally logged a protest vote for McCain at the very last second in the voting booth. I cried, Stuart. I was so upset that my former party forced my hand and I wasn’t going to reward them for it. It wasn’t a racist thing. I don’t have that in me and Obama has never struck me as particularly black, to be honest. I just had to draw the line. So, I applaud your sensible suggestions to the new unterbussen to remain undecided. Now, you are partially responsible, as are we, for what comes next. We have to a.) stop people from panicking and screaming “Oh My Gawd We’re All Going To Die if a Republican is Elected!” and b.) we have to find a replacement. We need to identify a different candidate to endorse or draft. You know my preference because it’s actually possible and will put the fear of God into the Democrats but if you still have a strong objection, let’s find an alternative that all Democrats, not just the “creative class” can endorse. You need the people who left the left for the Tea Party (um, that would not be us. We were liberals before, during and after 2008). Welcome to the unaffiliated independent Democrats in Exile. I don’t recommend you actually use the term “Democrats in Exile” in any official capacity as the acronym is not terribly uplifting.

*Avedon Carol found a post about the end of Harry Potter. Let’s face it, it was all about Hermione. What she really thinks of her fellow Gryffindors is truly priceless:

In the final book, the girl has to wipe her parents’ memory of any trace of her so they’ll be protected. Essentially orphaning herself. But do people feel bad? Do they start going all Harry Potter on her? No. They are like, “Oh, hey, Hermione, all of my friends and family who still love me and still know who I am are getting together for a massive party. You can come if you want.” and she’s like, “Jolly, fucking jolly, assholes”

*Finally, this one is for katiebird. Guerilla knitting is something we bitter knitters can get behind. My favorite is the lava-esque emanations from the crack in the pavement. I also like the knitted tree, which looks like one badass Fu^&ing fractal.

Yes, that *is* yarn

* Oo, Oo! I nearly forgot. Brook made me go to an arty indie movie theater last night to see Tree of Life. It was the most incomprehensibly beautiful film I have ever seen. Still have no idea what it’s about but I recommend it anyway. I seriously want the kitchen in that movie.

One final thing: for you new unterbussen who are just tuning in, you may be wondering when we lost the New Deal. I periodically replay this video to show you when it happened. Forget Hillary Clinton for a moment. The two candidates could have been Barack Obama and John Edwards for the purposes of this exercise. Keep that in mind as you watch it and take note who the speaker is. A more potent symbol of the New Deal does not exist. Harold Ickes Jr. Is the son of Harold Ickes, FDR’s right hand man and “get it done” guy for implementing the ABC programs during the Depression. Ickes was a Chicago Republican who Roosevelt converted. He was a witty smartass who helped to execute some of the most successful programs in American history. I’d like to think his son shared that commitment to the American people. In any case, he knew exactly which principles were being violated in May 2008 and that has been our downfall ever since.

The RBC limited the number of Clinton supporters in the venue and gave most of the seats to Obama supporters. We had two front pagers attending the meeting who were lucky enough to get in and report from the inside. The whole thing was a travesty and miscarriage of justice from start to finish. And that is how we got an anti New Deal president. The party is not unified to this day. Many former Clintonistas left for the Tea Party, not from stupidity but out of anger and confusion. And we need those people back.

Here’s the clip:

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