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.

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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.

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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.

About Welfare and Liberal Confusion

So, I was responding to Violet’s post at ReclusiveLeftist and my extra long comment got thrown in moderation.  I’m sure it’s nothing personal.  Nevertheless, this needs to be said so here is my response to a snooty comment from Tinfoil Hattie who objected to the fact that on the face of it, I agree with Mitt Romney that women with children as young as 2 should be encouraged to return to the workplace and put their children in subsidized childcare.  Said Tinfoil Hattie:

tinfoil hattie says:

With which of Mitt’s sentiments do you agree, riverdaughter? The one where motherhood is so sacred and important, and mothers should be at home raising children (the LDS doctrine, by the way)? Or the one where mothers should be punished for having children, and must be humiliated and reminded that they are lesser human beings and don’t deserve a “choice” because they are poor?

Here is my response with some additions and clarifications:

Well, tinfoil hattie, let me just say that the Republicans smell a weakness here in the area of welfare that liberals seem to be confused about. Yes, that’s right, I said it. Liberals, and I count myself as one, can’t seem to figure out what they really want in welfare. I would much prefer it if we had a system like Sweden’s or Norway’s where everyone has access to good healthcare and childcare and stipends and such. But we don’t.

But here’s the thing that I think the left is confused about: We seem to actually *want* for poor parents to collect welfare checks. That welfare check will keep them in poverty for a long, long time. When the children of those parents finally go to school, those parents will have been out of work, subsisting, barely, for 5 or more years. How is this a good thing under any circumstances? Even if you are a wonderful parent, welfare is no way to live. You end up in substandard housing, possibly in a high crime area, and all around you are people who have too much on their minds to even think about what lies beyond the confines of their public housing. It warps the perspective. You don’t strive for anything because you don’t know there’s anything worth striving for. If you grow up in an environment surrounded by lots of teenage mothers who didn’t finish their educations, that starts to look normal. Then the next generation gets trapped in it.

I can’t understand how liberals could possibly think that this is a good way to grow up. It’s horrible. So, yeah, anything the government can do to get people out of a generational rut of poverty and into a job is worth trying. Even if that means putting your kid in a government subsidized childcare center and going back to work when they’re two.

Back in the 90′s, when the Clinton administration tried to provide support for welfare recipients to help them transition to work, the Republicans were hard assed bastards and fought him on every single initiative. But think about what Clinton would have accomplished if his reform had gone through. Anyone who lost their job would have had access to training, housing vouchers, healthcare, childcare. It would have been a true safety net like we see in more progressive countries. No wonder the Republicans wanted to kill it. That would have been truly revolutionary. It would have meant that there would have been a path out of welfare and on the other end, it would have meant that no one who found themselves suddenly unemployed would be in danger of losing everything. Well, Republicans couldn’t have that. It would have been another Democratic triumph. So they killed it. And now, we’re all mad a the Clintons for wanting to change the way welfare recipients saw their lives as one endless, bleak month after month?

Don’t get me wrong, Republicans see this confusion on the left as a political opportunity and they’re going to jump on it. You don’t have to believe in welfare queens to want something better for poor people. It is compassionate to want to help single women transition to work. Yes, it sucks that some people have it better than others through no effort. But I don’t think it is a very good argument for why we should oppose work and training programs for people who need them.  There is an old Sufi proverb that says, “In the desert, there is no sign that says, “Thou shall not eat stones.””  I think this means, “I never promised you a rose garden and sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.”  If that means you weren’t born with a silver cadillac in your mouth then maybe you have to choose the best option to get back on your feet and that might mean putting your kid in daycare when they’re two and going to work.  What is at issue here is how much of a social safety net should we provide and why we can’t extend it to everyone.  What we need to do is persuade the public that helping others is a good thing and will pay off with a more stable, prosperous country.

So, I would be very, very careful about this issue. The Republicans will wipe the floor with us.  There are two reasons for this: 1.) most people are stretched to the breaking point economically.  If they can’t benefit from something personally, they don’t want anyone else to have it either.  This falls neatly into the Republican strategy of forcing Americans to look down at the next layer of the socioeconomic spectrum.  I’m not saying this is right or moral.  Only that it is human nature.  And the Republicans are very good at letting people’s ids get the best of them.  In this case, a powerless middle and working class person has the power to deny something to a person below them and they get to feel good about being selfish.  2.) The attitude that Anne Romney has it all and therefore we must question her sincerity regarding poorer women feeds right into the Republican “politics of envy” meme.  They will point to the clueless mutterings by liberals about Anne Romney’s privilege and it will look like they want to strip Romney of her money.  And the Republicans will jump all over that.  They’ll say that liberals have a problem with rich people and want to take their money away.  Well, it’s not true that we have a problem with rich people but we do have a problem when they don’t pay their fair share of taxes because that makes it harder on everyone else.  I also have a problem when the wealthy and well connected force their Ebeneezer Scrooge employment standards on the rest of us and strip us of the fruits of our productivity.

I don’t have a problem with Anne Romney’s choices.  I do have a problem with the country turning on working mothers at every possibly convenient moment, but that is not the problem with welfare.  The problem is that we are losing our grip on how to respond to political attacks like these and yes, this is a political attack.  We have failed in our ability to shift attention away from the nitty gritty of welfare and to the issue of why so damn many people are out of work and need welfare in the first place.  The way to address this is to ask why all hard working people don’t have access to government subsidized childcare and medicare for all like civilized countries. Why are we subsidizing bankers and not all women who need to work for a living? Why are we subsidizing insurance companies on top of the outrageous taxes we already pay? Shift the attention upwards to the institutions and wealth that are hiding behind a veil of secrecy.  Who is forcing us to choose and why are hard working people paying so damn much in taxes for goods and services that are rapidly privatizing and costing us more and more money?

Better yet, ask yourself why it is we gave so much money to Wall Street in 2009 only to have the banks turn around and use that taxpayer largesse to buy politicians of both parties to do their will at our expense.  Think about that.  We are subsidizing their campaign contributions that they will use against us. And why is it the banks qualify for welfare but a hard working American can’t even get a decent insurance policy without paying through the nose for it?  Why can’t women get government subsidized daycare no matter what their income is?

Why is our safety net so shitty while the banks’ is so good?  Turn the argument around.

Liberals, we need to get a grip and really think about what we are saying.  Do we really want to be the ones who say that it is ok for a poor person to subsist indefinitely on a government check and that this is the best way we can help poor people?  Because I’m not sure that’s the message we want to send.  We want to think about a policy that conforms to OUR worldview before the Republicans substitute policies that conform to their worldview.  Think it through.  The answers we are coming back with are not working for us.

Finally, never underestimate the Republicans.  They are masters at this crap and they play to win.

BTW, this man has a coherent worldview.

Imagine if the US Media had covered the Occupy Movement like this…

It looks like Hillary has been provoking the Russians again.  They’ve taken to the streets in protests of the recent fraudulent elections that put Vladimir Putin’s United Russia ahead going into the general election in March.

MOSCOW — Tens of thousands of protesters gathered here on Saturday afternoon for a second large antigovernment demonstration, as a wave of new activists struggle to convert an inchoate burst of energy into a durable political force.

Demonstrators massed in Moscow on Saturday, sustaining their protests of Russia’s legislative election results.

Organizers hope to build on the success of the Dec. 10 protests, which mobilized a broad collection of previously apolitical middle-class Russians angry over parliamentary elections earlier this month that many rejected as fraudulent and slanted in favor of the ruling party, United Russia. If the movement can sustain its intensity, it could alter the course of presidential elections in March, when Vladimir V. Putin plans to extend his status as the country’s dominant figure to 18 years.

The crowd began forming more than an hour before the beginning of the protest, for which city authorities granted a permit for up to 50,000 people. Organizers estimated the crowd at 120,000; the police offered a lower estimate of about 29,000.

The NYTimes is supportive of these protestors, who are portrayed as generally apolitical middle class Russians, compared to the dirty hippy types in Zuccotti park and they’re union sympathizers.  (Oh, they’re only *union* people.  Well, let’s just undercount them then.)

But here’s a curious thing, some of these protestors previously engaged in electoral fraud. Imagine if the Obot contingent had grown consciences over the disaster they helped create when they f%^&ed with the caucus system in Iowa, Texas, Nevada and other states.

Pavel Morozov, 23, said he had come as an act of penitence: two years ago, he had stuffed a ballot box to bolster the results of United Russia, while working at a polling station. Mr. Morozov said that he realized his quality of life would suffer if Mr. Putin was dislodged, but that he was prepared for that.

“I can say for sure life will be worse for those of us who are now well off, but we need some kind of change, because what we have now is stagnation,” he said. “Anyone now but Putin. It will at least be different and for the youth, this is better than stagnation.”

This is what we need.  We need the remaining Obot Democratic party loyalist lackies, like Thereisnospoon, to tell the party to go Cheney itself and walk away.  By the way, did you notice that Romney and Ron Paul are the only Republican candidates who actually have the organization to get their names on the primary ballots?  Organization counts.  If Gingrich and Perry are hoping for a miracle in Iowa that would force them onto the ballots in other states by public demand, well, I wouldn’t be too sure about that.  Once the ball starts rolling on the R side of the ballot, frontrunner status solidifies itself pretty quickly so they can concentrate on the general election.  The Republican voters will fall into line behind their nominee by January, while the Democrats will still be pretty pissed off about theirs.  Just sayin…

The holiday atmosphere of the first gathering has hardened into something more urgent in the two-week lull. The crime novelist Boris Akunin, who returned to Moscow this month from his home in France to participate in the demonstrations, told the crowd to gird itself for a long haul.

“We will have a difficult year,” Mr. Akunin said. “But it will be an interesting year. It will be our year.”

When I was in my 20s, a demonstration like this in Russia was unheard of.  Russians lead lives of gray dreariness and oppression under the Soviet system where the KGB followed dissidents and sent them to Gulags and Siberia for stepping out of line.  Now, it’s the United States that is slipping into gray dreariness for the vast majority of people whose cell phones are bugged and can be indefinitely detained for stepping out of line.  Here in the US, it is now the average middle class voter such as myself who is villified by the press for being occupiers who inconvenience others.  Here in the US, public *camping* is a major crime necessitating the use of riot police, pepperspray, sound cannons and pain.  Funny how we aren’t having this reaction to the anti-choice demonstrators who aren’t even nice about the way they viciously inconvenience and harrass young women who have enough to worry about.  We haven’t broken up and evicted their permanent encampments even when they have been known to fire bomb clinics and shoot doctors.  That’s ok as long as they didn’t bring a water proof shelter with them.

Well, let’s see if the protests in Russia have any effect on the way that Occupy Congress is covered on January 17.  I’ve made my reservation on the Trenton, NJ bus and am planning to meet up with Marsha and Katiebird (if we can nudge her out of Kansas.  See our donate button if you want to help dislodge her.  $10.17 is the recommended donation.).  Are you planning to go?

“We will have a difficult year, but it will be an interesting year. It will be our year.”

This is personal:  I look at those images of protestors holding up flags and getting dragged to the ground by police and my blood boils.

I’m sure we all have vague fuzzy memories from when our consciences started to flicker to life.  I have some that stand out in my mind: my mother walking into a room and leaving in disgust, Christmas lights, the long icicles hanging from the strata of shale and earth as I looked out the window of a car, of  holding onto my dad’s two fingers as I toddled beside him in the snow, the image of accidentally pushing some little girl down a flight of stairs, my mother’s baptism into the Jehovah’s Witnesses in a natatorium in Cleveland, Ohio, giving my days old sister a piece of candy.  But they’re flashes, catching a signal from an old antenna between the static.

My absolute clearest memory, the one that stands out for me as the moment the signal to my conscience came online and began its linear narrative that leads me to this day is of a clear winter day in Norfolk, Virginia where my dad was stationed during the Kennedy presidency.  We were on the front lines of the cold war, Norfolk is *the* east coast port of the United States Navy.  We were going to be vaporized first.  Somehow, I think I knew that.

There was a large field between the rows of houses.  There was a playground in that field surrounded by clotheslines.  There was a sandbox in that playground.  I was wearing a round wool hat that had ear flaps and tied underneath my chin, long pants, and a bulky jacket combination with too many layers beneath it but no gloves.  I can see the shadows of the monkey bars cast on the ground by a cold sun and I am staring at Bobby Harris, my best friend who just told me to shut up.  I raised my fist in the air and shouted,

“This is a free country.  I can say anything I want.  You can’t make me shut up.”

True story.  The first words I ever remember hearing myself say were a protest.

Over 1000 comments on the NYTimes article on science majors dropping out

Typical lab stuff.

This goes back to the article posted in the Times yesterday about Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (it’s just so darn hard). Typical of the Times, the editor has chosen to highlight a lot of educator comments that go something like, “Well, of course it’s hard.  You have to study and stop whining and then you will get a BIG reward with a generous salary!!”

The *reader* recommend comments prefer comments like this one from someone I probably know (she lists her location as NJ.  No, it isn’t me):

To be a scientist, one has to have an employer. For many reasons, it’s not possible to do science out of your garage or house.

There aren’t a lot of openings for scientist. Or in other language, there aren’t enough jobs for scientists, compared to the people who have science degrees and wish to be employed.

It’s hard for these students who get through the STEM program and realize they won’t get a job in science, because there really aren’t a lot of jobs. They have degrees in science, but no jobs.

I’m saying this many ways because while it’s a simple concept, the people who publish articles like this one don’t seem to understand the simple concept.

No jobs in science. No jobs (or very few) for for people who want to be scientists.

And yet, ome people still do not understand what she is trying to say for some reason. To be fair, the top comment for both highlight lists is this one from a person who has obviously been there:

Even when students do stick with science degrees, what are their career opportunities? I have a PhD in biology, I’m working on my third post-doc, and i have multiple publications in high profile journals. I’m currently on the job market for tenure-track professor positions, and the situation is bleak! This is a horrible job market, and it is made worse by the compression of leftover PhD’s who couldn’t find jobs during their last 1-4 years of searching. At this rate, the US is going to lose a large chunk of an entire generation of scientists. And I’m not talking about undergrads, I’m talking about highly trained scientists with PhD’s! For the most part, our training has been paid for by US tax dollars, which are going to waste when these scientists drop out of science and choose other careers. When state governments slash education funding in response to the current economic climate, this has a huge ripple effect throughout academia. In addition, NSF funding has been stagnate for years, which further reduces levels of science hiring at Universities. While I agree with the goals/aims of STEM, these programs are diverting NSF money away from research, which only makes the problem worse. I think that the biggest issue isn’t a lack of students ‘sticking with’ science degrees, but the lousy job prospects available when they graduate

Yup, pretty much.  That one has 837 recommendations.

I love the ones from people who have apparently never had to get a job by giving a 45 minute presentation on their entire life’s work  that say that scientists should stop focussing so much on money.  We should just do it for the love of it.

What’s love got to do with it?  Sure, we love it.  We were the ones who stuck it out didn’t we?  But most of us didn’t sign up for anorexia and the life of a monk on some barren skellig.  We have to eat and prefer a family life.  When was the last time we told an accountant to prepare tax returns and balance company accounts for the love of it?  Or how about teaching?  Yes, you say you love teaching and developing little minds and everything.  But if you don’t do it for below poverty wages and give up any hope of providing for your own children, how can we really evaluate your commitment?   See how that works?  Take what ever your profession is and ask yourself if you would do it for a temporary post doc salary for 3 or 4 years after your 5-7 years in graduate school.  Would you do your work for $37,000/year if you had a PhD in your subject?  For how long?  Now add three years of calculus, two semesters of calculus based physics, molecular biology, organic chemistry, microbiology, biolchemistry and hours and hours of labs where failure is the norm, not the exception.

Didn’t think so.

That’s what it’s like for the science major right now.  And those are the ones who are lucky enough to get jobs.  The ones who have the years of experience it takes to actually do the research are getting laid off in droves.  It’s really bad in the Northeast because scientists tend to gravitate to other scientists as spouses and when both parents are getting laid off…

Did you ever get the feeling that there is a small evil group to which no one we know belongs who is sitting on a giant mountain of money and would rather strangle innovation in its infancy rather than spend even one shilling more than they think the whiny peons in the labs are worth?  The money for research in both industry and academia has dried up so thoroughly that it can’t possibly be an accident or coincidence.  There is plenty of work to do on some very challenging and difficult projects.  And there are plenty of people who would be more than willing to do them.  The problem is that there is no money.  Anywhere.  Why is that and why is the Obama administration letting them get away with that?  It’s not like when the spigots get turned back on that everyone will suddenly be able to catch up really quickly with the work.  Biology and nature doesn’t work like that.  A cessation in research means a real gap in the flow, one that can’t be made up quickly.  And by the time the money comes back in, the more experienced among us will have learned our lesson, downsized, and gotten new jobs making a lot less money in another field while the new scientists who come after will have to reinvent the wheels and work for a lot less money in a field that no one appreciates.

{{sigh}}

The only thing worse is not having an opportunity to do what you love.  In the 21st century, we have reverted back to the days when only the wealthy and self-funded can afford to dabble in science.  The joy of discovery for those of us who are not independently wealthy is becoming a dream:

Yes, it really can be this fun.  S%^&, maybe the problem is we’re not supposed to be having fun at work.  It should be dreary, miserable and for low pay or it’s not the American way.

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Speaking of Occupy events, what is it about the midwest that makes them have the cleverest stunts?  These guys really go out of their way to piss people off.  Chicago is particularly good at this.  Is it because they don’t really have a place to hang out that they have turned to infiltration?  It would make a good research topic.  What makes occupier stunts successful?  Is it leadership or invention born of necessity?  Anyway, if you haven’t seen this one yet, check it out (H/T Susie Madrak):

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Atrios points to a Reuters articles that  reports that Corzine’s brokerage firm, MF Global, sent out snail mail checks to depositors who requested their money when they heard rumors that the firm was in trouble.  The checks went out after MF Global went into bankruptcy.  Anyone want to guess why the checks were mailed instead of wired?  Anyone want to guess what the “MF” in MF Global really stands for?

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If you haven’t had a chance to read it, check out Nate Silver’s recent deconstruction of the 2012 election using some updated models.  The bottom line is that if Romney is the nominee for the GOP, Obama looks like toast.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise because next year looks like another change election.  Since there isn’t much difference between Romney and Obama, it’s not that hard to change presidential parties while sending a message to the Democrats that voters expect more from them.  Keeping that in mind, the Democrats *could* get out in front of voter sentiment for change and Change! their own nominee.  Oh sure, it seems unthinkable now (although the rest of the electorate has been thinking it for about a year now) but give them a couple of months and a nice double dip to the recession and they may think that Obama doesn’t look nearly as shiny as he once did.

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Moving on…

Speaking of MoveOn, I am going to delete any comment that directs readers to a petition.  It has come to my attention recently that if you sign petitions like the one I did for an occupy event lately, you may start getting a lot of annoying spam email from MoveOn.  If you want spam from MoveOn, I assume you already know how to get on their mailing list.  I don’t like the idea that they are using petitions regarding occupy events to get your email address.  I’ll be paying close attention to the people who are doing this because it feels devious to me and I don’t like it.  If you’re using my blog as an email address collection bot, you will be moderated.

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