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    • The End of the Rebels in the Ukraine and the Ukraine’s Future
      We’re down to street fighting in Donetsk.  The Russian leaders resigned in the last two weeks.  The rebels appear to be done, at least in terms of their conventional military phase (of course, I could be wrong depending on how much stomach Ukrainian troops have for house to house fighting).  It seems like that would [...]
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Question of the Day: What would Obama have to do to get your vote?

Busy day today.  I’ll be back in time for the debate tonight.  In the meantime, what would Obama have to do to get your vote?

I’m not sure he could actually pull this off for me but here are the things he would have to do immediately to get my vote:

1.) Fire Tim Geithner.  He has to do this before the election.  He has to appoint a Secretary of the Treasury who does not work for Wall Street.  This is my biggest demand.  Geithner and all of Obama’s Wall Street favorite advisors have got to go.  They have caused untold and unnecessary suffering for millions of struggling American workers and homeowners.

2.) Promise that he will under no circumstances sign any bill that reduces benefits or raises the retirement age for future Social Security beneficiaries.  He must promise not to negotiate on a Grand Bargain. (Please, Gawd, don’t let him anywhere near a negotiation table.) See the Campaign for America’s Future Website on the Lame Duck Whip Count on this issue.  Downticket Dems need to commit right this very second.  My two senators have but I have yet to hear from my Republican representative, Leonard Lance, one of the most committed hard ass Republican partisans. Obama must promise to explore cost controls for Medicare that do not fall on the recipients.  It’s time for providers to start making sacrifices since the inability to rein them in is what is going to drain us.

3.) He has to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan now.  We’ve given him plenty of time to pull out.  No more stalling, no more grandstanding.  Get out now.

4.) He has to rescind the Bush Conscience Rule immediately and without any further wordsmithing.

5.) He has to stop using the drones.  He has to empty Guantanemo expeditiously.  He has to stop siccing his DHS droogs on peaceful protestors.

6.) He has to promise to work for Rush Holt’s HR811 bill for voter verified paper ballots.  Casting votes on e-voting machines is “faith based voting” according to Holt because the machines are so easily hacked.  Obama has to get onboard right this very minute.

I’d like to remind the Democrats that all of the donors in the country can’t win this election for you.  You’ve got to get actual, genuine voter bodies to the polls and make them push buttons, punch chads and fill the circle completely within the lines to win.  There are some voters who will vote for you no matter what, some who are so gullible they’ll believe anything you tell them and US.  I suspect you’re going to need US this year.

What are your demands?  Take the poll below.  Choose up to 3 responses or add your own demand.

Let’s examine Obama’s remarks on women’s issues on Tuesday, shall we?

Thanks for coming out tonight, ladies

I see that there are number of bloggers who are falling all over themselves trying to make it sound like Obama’s comments on women were somehow better than Romney’s “binders full of women” memorable moment.  Disclaimer: I don’t like Romney, not planning to vote for him, think Republicans in general are full of s^&* and think that if you vote for a Republican instead of a third party candidate because you are still pissed about 2008, you need to have your head examined.  If you’re still angry and disappointed with the Democrats for giving us a non-Democrat for president, vote third party. It’s the only way to get through to the assholes.  You’re doomed no matter whether you vote for Obama or Romney in 2012, let’s just be honest about that.  Ok, disclaimer out of the way…

I knew it was coming.  The minute the question came about how the candidates intended to rectify inequalities in the workplace for women, I could picture the robotic elf in Obama’s brain reaching for Lilly Ledbetter. That automaton was planted there by Plouffe or Axelrod as the thing that THEY think is the surefire solution to placating the ladies, like we can’t trust our lying eyes when we look at our (non-existent) paychecks. Yeah, mansplain Lilly Ledbetter to them again.  Once again, we heard about how it was the *first* thing he signed when he was in office.  He made it sound like he fought for it, gave passionate speeches in support of it, twisted Joe Lieberman’s arm, threatened, cajoled, pled, begged the recalcitrant House Democrats to vote for it for the sake of his old, uncomplaining granny.

But no, that is not what happened was it?  The truth is that Lilly Ledbetter fell into his lap.  It was the first thing he signed because it was almost the first thing on his desk after he took the oath of office.  And THAT, Ladies and Gentlemen, is where Obama stopped doing anything for women.  Signing Lilly Ledbetter, that law that allows women to pursue a claim of pay discrimination without time limits was the first and last thing he did to correct inequity in the workplace.

Lilly Ledbetter was a consequence free vote for legislators.  You may have the right to still file a lawsuit but to do it means you need to ask human resources for the salary information and what woman in her right mind is going to do that?  Did Lilly Ledbetter make it mandatory for companies to post that information for everyone to see without identifying themselevs by asking and risking retribution or poor performance evaluations?  So, Lilly Ledbetter does not put the law on womens’ side after all.  It’s very limited and you’d have to be nuts to risk your job to put it to use.  Employers have nothing to fear.  Just ask the thousands of Walmart female employees who have been protesting gender inequality for years and lost another case as recently as yesterday. There was another more important bill on paycheck fairness that never passed and as far as I know, Obama’s attitude was “meh”.  The bill failed to pass the Senate this past June.  Please note that the Democrats are in the majority in the Senate and even though they no longer have a filibuster proof majority like they did in 2009-2010 when passing the Paycheck Fairness act would have been easier, they still have enough votes to make obstructing it very painful for the Republicans.  The Democrats didn’t do it and I can’t remember Obama marching down to Capital Hill to make life difficult for anyone who didn’t get onboard.  Wake me when Obama puts as much energy into that as preserving a banker’s bonus.  By golly, if Congress threatened to take away a bonus, you can bet your ass Geithner and the bank lobby would snuff that initiative out toot sweet but fairness for more than half the country’s population?  Nope.  Not a problem.  If he isn’t screaming bloody murder about the Paycheck Fairness act before the election, then I think we can just forget about Obama having any intention of addressing gender inequalities.

Integrity means putting your actions at the service of your words.  Obama didn’t.

What Obama did say during Tuesday night’s debate was the same STUPID personal story about how his granny was stiffed by her own employer and didn’t complain.  This seems to be a bit of a pattern with the Obamas.  If you ask for justice and fairness, you’re a whiner.  Michelle told us about how teachers worked for free in bankrupt school districts.  They didn’t complain about not having the means to feed their own kids, they just did their patriotic duty.  Isn’t that special?  It reminded me of the patriotic sacrifice of thousands of banking vice presidents, analysts and associates who, at Obama’s request, gave up their bonuses to save the taxpayers money and as an apology for wrecking the economy.  Oh, wait, that didn’t happen. But women will be expected to sacrifice without complaint in the workplace because I didn’t hear Obama once say that he intended to do anything about the persistent problem of gender inequality.  He said nothing about the Paycheck Fairness bill, he didn’t say anything about the EEOC fanning out to workplaces where there have been complaints filed in order to conduct statistical studies and presenting the employers with a compliance order or a fine in order to get their asses straightened out.  He didn’t have a policy at all like the one we might have heard from a female candidate from his own party.

It was a pathetic answer.  It was a non-answer.  It. Did. Not. Work. For. Me.  And I doubt that many professional women were satisfied with it even if a lot of clueless male bloggers were.  Neither candidate intended to use the law to make sure that women were paid as well as men for the same job.  There was no suggestion that parental leave would be adjusted so that neither parent would be penalized for taking it.  There was no concern over how many fewer women have jobs during this little Depression compared to men.  It’s like they were completely unaware of these problems.

Then there is the accusation from many women in the Obama administration that the White House was a “hostile work environment” for women staffers and appointees.  The man is a hypocrite if ever there was one when it comes to women and the workplace and as far as I can tell, he has no intention of using his power to enforce existing laws or push for new ones.  Indeed, if he is elected, what incentive will there be for him to do anything for women at all?

This election is about giving voters a choice and choices have to do with deciding who is better.  There are many reasons why we should reject Romney, the most significant one being that he is a Republican and Republicans have a recent history of being reactionary assholes when it comes to women.  Ironically, Democrats *also* have a recent history of being reactionary assholes when it comes to women, Lilly Ledbetter notwithstanding.  And by the way, how long did it take for Obama to rescind the Bush Conscience Rule?  Trick question! As far as I know, it’s still on the books.  It has simply been amended. (I take that back.  He finally got around to rescinding it last year.  No, I was right the first time.  It was only “revised”, not rescinded.  Jeez, you would have thought that rescinding it would have been the first thing he did for women after taking office since it didn’t require a Congressional vote.  You would think it would be a no-brainer for him but you would be wrong.)

In this election, I have no reason to vote for either candidate and Obama didn’t give me one on Tuesday night to vote for him.  Obama has not differentiated himself on women’s issues compared to Romney and it is too late to cram.  All nighters will not help him now, well, at least not with me or many other women who got the shaft since 2008.  So, don’t try so hard, left blogosphere.  What do women have to gain from you cheering for Obama? You and I know that Obama offers nothing to women in terms of advocacy or enforcement.  Why not just tell the truth?  Your guy is pathetic on just about everything that’s important to you but you’re scared shitless of what will happen if the Republicans eek out victories in Congress and the White House. But you have been unable or unwilling to make him do anything for you.  He and his backers think they have beaten you and you’re still carrying water for him.  Doesn’t that imply that you’re working for your enemies?

Oh, and one final thing.  Obama made a last desperate attempt to redeem himself with his constituency on the Libya disaster by taking responsibility, praising Hillary and then turning around in the next sentence and saying, “She works for me”.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  There was the old cock on the walk, stomping all over Hillary, making her look like a weak subordinate woman who not only didn’t have the right to claim responsibility but who he did a great favor by offering her the consolation prize of Secretary of State.  As far as womens’ issues are concerned, he is a dispassionate, unconcerned lightweight compared to her and it is painfully obvious to everyone by now, Naomi Wolf included, that he is not Christmas and New Years and Hannukah or a cape-crusading super feminist.  All that machismo posturing is not a winning formula to me.  But it’s still important to him make sure everyone knows that he beat that bitch. That move right there said all I needed to know about which gender he was reaching out, or reaching around, to keep at that moment and during this election season.

It wasn’t the ladies.

{{cringe}} Jon Stewart tells Obama to “Wake the F^&* Up”

First, Mitt kicks his ass.  And then last night, Jon Stewart kicked his ass.  Stewart was unsparing in his criticism. You need to go watch it.  Here’s the link.

Plus: Bill Clinton is officially backing Warren in Massachusetts.  Clinton’s probably got a lot on his plate this fall.  Busy, busy, busy.

Some possible explanations for Obama’s poor performance

While we’re waiting for the party apparatchik at Digby’s place to recover from his post debate depression, can we give a plausible explanation for what went wrong?

Paul Krugman’s take on it was that Barack Obama has reverted to The Capillary Man he was in the aftermath of the convention in 2008:

People tend to forget how close the 2008 presidential race looked as late as August, and the immense frustration many Democrats felt with Barack Obama at the time. He seemed weirdly unwilling to drive home his case against Bush/McCain economic policies; his instinct, as people said, was apparently to go for the capillaries.

At one point, Jeff Jarvis tweeted:

I dare anyone to parse Obama’s statement on preexisting conditions. Didn’t he used to be articuilate? #debate

Ah, yes, another urban legend, Obama’s famed rhetorical skills, dies an ignoble death.  I have always noticed that without a teleprompter, or over-rehearsal, that Obama’s speaking style consists of sentences with multiple, labyrinthine prepositional phrases that lead listeners down blind alleys until they are lost.  Whether he does this intentionally to baffle us with bullshit or whether it comes naturally is debatable.  You shouldn’t have to do this if you are familiar with and committed to the concepts you are talking about.

By the way, I’m surprised Jeff got away with that tweet.  In 2008, he would have been branded a racist and driven out of polite society.  He would have spent the rest of his career in a house in the country, holed up with a couple of servants and never called on by the local gentry.  This year, he might just have a point.

The Guardian’s review of Obama’s performance looks like it was written by Frank Rich when he was still considered the Butcher of Broadway:

Barack Obama on the other hand appeared nervous, distracted and unprepared. After four years in the Oval Office, he’d lost his voice. Gone was the charisma, the optimism and the eloquence. Defensive, halting and verbose – he looked tired and that made his presidency look tired. Both campaigns set low expectations, but only Obama met them. If you were watching without knowing who was the president, you wouldn’t have guessed it was him.

Did The Guardian see the transfer of remains ceremony after the Libya disaster where he fell back on his 2008 habit of repeating everything Hillary had already said and relying on his penis years to appear more presidential?  I think she out dignified him anyway but she also seems to have retained her passion for what she believes in.  See for yourself.  Here’s the video link.  Her speech starts at minute mark 7:14 and she looks pretty grave at first but has a very strong, uplifting ending.  Obama’s speech follows hers and it seems like he’s copying from her paper again but his remarks don’t come from the heart the way hers do.  Your mileage may vary, of course, but it took me right back to the 2008 debates where she kicked his ass and the moderators always let him have the last word.

So, why did he blow it last night?  Here are some possible explanations:

1.) The dog ate his homework.  He didn’t take debate prep seriously, went to the debate prep session but spent most of the half hour shooting the breeze with his coach, forgot to take his book home, blah, blah, blah…

2.) He was tired from being all presidential throughout the day.  This is possible.  But we’ve seen Obama fresh as a daisy during other presidential appearances after long days and he wasn’t just tired last night, he was off.  As I commented during the debate while watching his body language, he looked dweebish.  His facial expressions and the smallness of his gestures reminded me of Michael Dukakis.  Capillary Man indeed.

3.)  He’s playing 11 dimensional chess!  We should expect to hear a variation of this theme from thereisnospoon after he takes his medication.  It was all a setup so he could look like the underdog coming from behind in the last couple of weeks.  Rejoice, comrades, for the glorious triumph of our leader is near!  And Romney lied!  It’s all fact checked!  See?!?

Give it up, guys, debates are visual experiences, Blink! moments.  You can follow them up with facts but it’s too late to stop the first impression from forming.  Hey! Why don’t you get on the White House’s case and tell Obama to actually start talking like a true Democrat or you were going to desert him, like you should have been doing for the past couple of years??  No?  Ok, well don’t waste your time trying to convince US to accept subpar performance.  We’ve got standards.

Ahhh, I see that Mr. Atkins has already posted an excuse.  It seems that everyone who thought Obama tanked last night was a white southerner over 50.  It’s not Obama’s fault at all.  It’s the voters’ fault for being rural, ignorant bigots!  Sooooo, that would make Jeff Jarvis, Paul Krugman and the Guardian redneck racists. It’s reassuring to know that the campaign *is* going to fall back on accusations of racism after all. The Obama campaign pulls out that sledge hammer when all else fails, just like in 2008.  Well, my equilibrium is restored.

4.) He’s worried.  He’s looking at the poll numbers and they seem to be obstinately sticky.  He can’t seem to take a commanding lead over Mitt despite Romney’s own fuckups and a steady stream of negative characterizations from the Obama campaign.  He’s even unmasked himself as a true moderate Republican to reach out to the independent swing voters and blue collar women the advisors are always telling him to target and it’s not getting him the space he needs between Mitt and himself.  God, what do they want from him??  And where is the disaster that would make him look good?

5.) He needed to be primaried for his own sake.  He’s been living in an insulated and isolated bubble, surrounded by the 1%’s henchman who keep telling him that the banks need to be saved above all else and that austerity must be imposed.  In the process, he lost touch with his base and has forgotten that it’s also necessary to fight.  The debates are the whole campaign thing again and he’s not in shape and doesn’t seem to remember that he has to differentiate himself from Mitt, not agree with him.  If he had been primaried, he’d have more of an idea of what the base thinks is important instead of constantly discrediting it, and he might be more energetic.

Or, it’s a combination of some or all of the above.  Any other theories?  Put them in the comments.

In any case, he’ll look better next time, because it’s hard to imagine him doing worse.  There’s a lot of money riding on this race and the Democrats put all their eggs in this basket for the whole duration.  Stupid, in retrospect, but even though many, many people are kicking themselves for gleefully murdering Hillary’s career (I’m talking to you, Chris Matthews), they’re stuck with Obama now.

The honeymoon is over

Post debate thread: “The Horror, The Horror”

Um, I don’t know what to say. I feel for you loyalists.

I guess you could comfort yourself with the idea that this is part of his 11 dimensional chess strategy.

That was cruel. I’m sorry.

If it’s any consolation, I’m not happy either. I keep hoping but it’s not looking good.

Forget Romney’s taxes, what will Obama do about unemployment??

Sorry Matt Taibbi, This tax return issue is one gigantic distraction:

The Obama administration, if it wanted to, could make a lot of hay over this. It could say, “Mitt Romney doesn’t want to release his tax returns for years and years during the last decade. But the years for which he did release returns, he paid a rate that’s less than half of what most ordinary American professionals make – and he thinks that’s ‘fair.'”

Now, Obama has gone after Mitt’s tax returns – a little. He’s released a few ads here and there, including one called “Makes You Wonder” that called Mitt’s use of carried interest in his tax return a “trick,” a semantic move for which Obama was criticized, since it was actually nothing of the sort. Mitt Romney’s ability to pay a top rate of 15% for his work was no trick at all but a fully-legal expression of the values of our current political system, a system, again, that Mitt Romney is “proud of” and thinks is “fair.”

I can’t blame Matt for doing what all the other journalists do during an election year.  Jay Rosen has written extensively on the “horse race” reporting of election year journalism.  Journalists write stories only other journalists would love.  It’s all about petty tit-for-tat and gossip and gaffes.  But this is not like other election years.  In a way, you would have thought that the politicians with their slick psychological manipulators on the payroll would have figured out that the voters want to talk about serious things this year.  They should be on the cutting edge.  But I’m beginning to think that the parties are not as modern and hipster as they’d like to think.  Maybe that’s because both *presumptive* nominees are representing old, establishment money and power.  Old guys think the world revolves around their interests and that they can still mold the culture to suit them.  But it is social distancing that prevents them from seeing the American landscape as it truly is.

Jonathan Chait recently encapsulated this mindset in his recent piece, Why Washington Accepts Mass Unemployment. Chait is critical of the Washington establishment that thinks that bad things happen to other people.  But the weird thing is that he doesn’t even know how vulnerable he is:

It’s important to respond to arguments on intellectual terms and not merely to analyze their motives. Yet it is impossible to understand these positions without putting them in socioeconomic context. Here are a few salient facts: The political scientist Larry Bartels has found (and measured) that members of Congress respond much more strongly to the preferences of their affluent constituents than their poor ones. And for affluent people, there is essentially no recession. Unemployment for workers with a bachelors degree is 4 percent — boom times. Unemployment is also unusually low in the Washington, D.C., area, owing to our economy’s reliance on federal spending, which has not had to impose the punishing austerity of so many state and local governments.

I live in a Washington neighborhood almost entirely filled with college-educated professionals, and it occurred to me not long ago that, when my children grow up, they’ll have no personal memory of having lived through the greatest economic crisis in eighty years. It is more akin to a famine in Africa. For millions and millions of Americans, the economic crisis is the worst event of their lives. They have lost jobs, homes, health insurance, opportunities for their children, seen their skills deteriorate, and lost their sense of self-worth. But from the perspective of those in a position to alleviate their suffering, the crisis is merely a sad and distant tragedy.

Maybe in the plush Washington suburbs 4% unemployment among college graduates is the norm.  But I’m sitting here in NJ with the dead corpses of the careers of PhD’s in Chemistry and Pharmacology all around me and it is most decidedly not all sunshine and roses.  We are also part of the “elite” and we’re dying out here. All we hear is myths about how there aren’t enough of us while vast numbers of us can’t get jobs or keep the ones we relocate our families to take.  Jonathan Chait joins Bill Keller in the same clueless club.  Who exactly do they think they are talking about?  Are journalists and poli sci graduates guaranteed gold watches and pensions these days?  A couple of years ago, the kids around here also would have looked on the recession as “a sad and distant tragedy”.  These days, those same kids are the ragged refugees of the middle class.  Their childhoods will be permanently marked by the changes their parents are going through.

The tax distraction serves both parties.  Neither one of them wants to talk about unemployment.

Here we are, 3 months from the election and no one is talking about unemployment.

How is Obama going to put people back to work?  If I don’t hear some concrete policies, then I am going to assume he has no plans.  I am going to assume he doesn’t care.  I’m not going to be the only one.

Yes, yes, it’s really crappy that rich people do not pay enough in taxes.  If politicians are really concerned with this, the first thing they could do to help level the playing field is eliminate the cruel excise tax for people who are chronically unemployed who have to liquidate their 401Ks in order to keep their kids in the same high school.  That’s where I would start.  No, do not lecture them about saving their money for retirement.  If they needed a lecture, they wouldn’t have a stash in their 401Ks to begin with.  You want to lecture people about saving for retirement? Go talk to a 30 year old who hasn’t saved a dime.

You know, I have no intention of helping Republicans achieve a damn thing.  I’m not harping on Democrats because I want Republicans to win.  I’m harping on Democrats because I want them to do something.

It gives me no pleasure to have to be a Democrat in Exile looking forward to a long hard slog and decades of being in the wilderness while we build another party.  But that’s where we’re headed.  And I’d like to remind the party who wants to make it sound like resistance is useless that that’s probably they way the Liberal party treated the New Democratic Party of Canada about 10 years ago.  Times change, people change, and it happens at a much quicker  pace these days.  The Democrats might not feel so smug in a few months when 5-6% of us decide to tough it out and turn to replacing one of the two parties with something different.

The unemployed will have plenty of work to do to get rid of the party that wanted to waste our time with a pointless exercise of distraction while we were losing everything.  That will motivate us to get up in the morning and work for a shake-up of the two party system.

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

Updating Shakespeare: “First thing we do, kill all the marketers.”  Grocery stores are now using loyalty card information so that food manufacturers can reward some of their customers more than others.  There are a zillion reasons why this is a bad idea.  It’s unfair.  It’s like putting your thumb on the scales for some customers while others still generate a hefty profit margin thinking they’re getting a break.  As one commenter noted in this NYTimes piece, if you’re poor, you don’t look loyal enough to the companies who might offer you a lower price so you end up footing the bill for the upper middle class suburbanites.

If there isn’t a law, there oughtta be.  For one thing, it feels like someone is always looking over your shoulder and invading your privacy.  For another, it seems like the whole world is manipulating prices with a giant optimization algorithm in just one more way to pick every penny of disposable income as it can from our pockets.  I don’t feel like a consumer anymore.  I feel like a crop that is being harvested.

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

More dance loveliness.  Afternoon of a Faun combines two of my favorite things: Debussy and Dance.  The original was choreographed by Nijinsky and was scandalous.  In the end, a faun that has been stalking a nymph throws himself on her discarded scarf and lustily pelvic thrusts into it.

But when I was a kid, I searched the NYCB schedule at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center for the Jerome Robbins version.  The music is the same but the setting is different.  In this ballet, two dancers are in a studio and dance alone and together, seemingly unaware of each other as they stare into an imaginary mirror.  It’s playful, romantic and clever.  And no scarfs get messy.

I’m pretty sure the version I saw was danced by Allegra Kent.  The name sticks out.  Allegra.  Only ballerinas have names like that.  Allegra, Darcy, Gelsey, Paloma.  Even their names are in arabesque.

In the case of the Robbins’ updated version, the original dancer was the ethereal Tanaquil LeClercq.  Tanaquil was the name of an ancient Etruscan queen.  Tanaquil’s career did not last very long.  She was married to George Balanchine at the peak of her ballet career when she was struck down with polio while she was on tour.  She never danced again and spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair.  But we have this video of a substantial portion of this short ballet where Tanaquil and Jacques D’Amboise  dance as “nymph” and “faun” in a studio in an afternoon.  You can watch it here if the request is disabled.

Enjoy.

Romney and Obama statistically tied in Gallup Poll

Well, so much for women helping the Lightbringer out this year:

According to Gallup, 47 percent of voters polled are backing Romney, compared to 45 percent who prefer Obama. That’s well within the poll’s margin of error, which is plus or minus 3 percent.

While both men are doing well within their respective parties, the most notable finding came among self-described independents, a swing voting bloc that could very well determine the outcome of this fall’s election. According to Gallup, Romney leads Obama among indie voters by 6 points, 45 percent to 39 percent.

If I might venture a guess, I might imagine, hypothetically, that the “indie” voters are actually former Democratic working class women of a certain age that Obama and the Democrats blew off in 2008.  Some of those women went to the right or ended up supporting Sarah Palin. They’re probably more interested in economic issues than birth control and life is about to get a lot tougher on them this summer when gas prices skyrocket.

What goes around comes around.

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