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Lowered Expectations Open Thread

If Marilyn can score a date, so can the gang (clique) at Buttburger!

This is an open thread.

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Join Sherri Starting at 8:00pm EST

Join Sherri Tags for “The Lion’s Share” at 8:00pm ET for a special 1-hour of Feminism at 9:00pm EST.

Put the kids to bed…grab a glass of wine and sit back to enjoy!

Comments are Closed until 10:00pm EST

Put down the cup and step away from the Kool-Aid!

Just Say NO! to Kool-aid

Just Say NO! to Kool-aid

Salon editor Joan Walsh:

 Obama is the Democrats’ Great Communicator, our Ronald Reagan. It’s fitting that his highest priority will be reversing the tax and spending priorities Reagan enshrined as a new American compact almost 30 years ago, and reviving the notion of government as an engine of capitalist growth — not merely the safety net provider, but the catalyst for organizing our public resources around what makes the economy strong. We’ve been arguing at the margins during these last two years of pain: Government should regulate more, or less. Tax rates should be higher, or lower. But there’s a dangerous civic illiteracy in our country about what the larger role of government in a modern economy is, or should be, and I don’t think Obama will ultimately prevail if he doesn’t start to take it on.

Obama is the most remarkable Democratic communicator of my lifetime, I think, and even he’s not rising to the task, yet. He needs to lay out his priorities, clearly; he needs to simplify his pitch, yet he also needs to add some depth to his and our understanding of how we got here.

This is the same Ronald Reagan that Obama praised, saying:

I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.  He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.  I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating.  I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

Ronald Reagan was the slick salesman of bad policy.  He gave great speeches that other people wrote for him.  Reagan hatched the chickens that are now coming home to roost, and Joan Walsh wants Obama to be more like him.

In a moment of lucidity Walsh closes with this:

Here’s how Madrick summed up the Reagan revolution. It’s depressing: “A life of family strain, inequality and insecurity has become accepted as inevitable. It is even thought to be a strength of America. This was Ronald Reagan’s Trojan horse, disguised as optimism.” But now it’s Morning in America, for the rest of us. Obama needs to take his sales pitch to a new level. People want to believe he can make a difference, but time’s a wasting.

Joan Walsh helped sell Obama to the American  people with hagiographic coverage.  What did Obama have to offer besides stirring oratory?  Not much.  What evidence do we have that Obama wants to reverse Reagan’s tax and spending priorities?  Even less.

It’s morning in America alright, so wake up and smell the coffee, Joan.  Thanks to you we’ve all got a big Kool-aid hangover to deal with.

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It’s “Caption this Photo” Time – Deluxe Edition

67d82eafa294548ae6c26a57d4bd0b39

Caption this Photo #1!

Ya think the MSM Propaganda unit would’ve airbrushed some Hope And Change (TM) into that  photo before releasing it. Could this be why Obama looks the way he does?

WASHINGTON – His infant presidency already shaped by mounting national troubles, President Barack Obama now faces an added challenge: weathering the fallout of a spate of nomination glitches.

What?  Reporters are actually, like, reporting factual events?  Ya don’t say!  You mean Obama can’t just brush it off his shoulders?

“I screwed up,” Obama said repeatedly after two top nominees withdrew their names from consideration, saying they wanted to avoid becoming distractions for the president as he seeks to move ahead with an ambitious agenda. “I’m frustrated with myself, with our team.”

Because making “boneheaded” mistakes is just so, you know, 2008.

In a series of Oval Office interviews with TV network anchors Tuesday, he took the blame for the nomination missteps and vowed to live up to the new era of responsibility he mapped out during his inauguration speech just two weeks ago.

For all you Obama-haters out there, employing lobbyists is not the same as employing FORMER lobbyists or their wimmen folk, so don’t get it twisted!

Taken together, the problems called into question the thoroughness of Obama’s vetting process as the Democrat’s team pushed to put his Cabinet and White House team in place at a lightning-quick pace after last fall’s election. The problems also threatened to undercut Obama’s promise to change business as usual in Washington; previous presidents have faced similar problems with their nominees.

Even as he works to stabilize the rapidly worsening economy and plan for a troop decrease in Iraq and increase in Afghanistan, Obama’s most immediate objective now is to move on from what the White House called an “embarrassment.”

How does he move on from this Reporter Hate?   Deflect the negativity with an Obama Pr0n Cute Moment with kids (TM), STAT!  It worked for Dubya back in 2001, why not now?

Did you catch that last part of the video?  “doing the same job, day to day, season to season.” I hear you, Obama.   Being President can be a thankless job.  But hey, at least you have one in this economy.

Meanwhile, S.O.S. Hillary gets to go places!

In another departure from her predecessor, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to visit East Asia on her first trip in her new role. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to make her first trip in her new role to China, Japan and South Korea. The move is a departure from Condoleezza Rice’s initial foray.

And then she gets all the media love from overseas too! (via Madame Secretary Foreign Policy Blog):

US Great BritainBy and large, both the British and German papers today are delighted that Secretary Clinton’s meetings with British Foreign Minister David Miliband and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier seem to herald a new day for transatlantic relations.

The Independent detected “bittersweet moments”:

The two top diplomats gushed over each other, with Mr Miliband declaring he was “delighted” to be meet with Mrs Clinton exactly three months after Mr Obama was elected, two weeks after his inauguration and one full day after Mrs Clinton was formally sworn in. Whew. Their talks were “detailed, substantive and friendly”, Mr Miliband recounted.

But was there a hint of regret that Hillary wasn’t in the White House? As far as the Foreign Office is concerned, Barack Obama, is an inspiring but essentially [a] blank sheet of paper.

Those ungrateful Brits!  WTF don’t they understand about Obama saying:

“I serve as a blank screen,” Obama writes, “on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” He notifies readers that “my treatment of the issues is often partial and incomplete.”

Those Brits just don’t get Obama’s Zen shit right there.    He is SUPPOSED to be a blank SCREEN, not a blank piece of PAPER.  They invented the language, ya think they’d note the big difference between “blank paper” and “blank screen,” sheesh!

(Who wants to bet Obama & Hillary will trade places by the end of 2009?)

Now for Photo #2:

Caption This Photo!

Caption This Photo #2!

Equal Pay for Equal Work: Not Happening, Ladies. Now, Go Buy Some Beauty Products.

Nine to Five - What a Way to Make a Living

Nine to Five - What a Way to Make a Living

Being home sick is not all bad. Yesterday I was able to watch the end of one of my favorite movies from the 80’s, “Nine to Five“, starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and the deliciously villainous Dabney Coleman as their “sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot” of a boss.

The ladies in question all want one thing from Mr. Coleman: Respect. And they ain’t getting it. Lily Tomlin, the always-passed-over power behind the throne, finally loses it when the boss refuses yet again to give her a promised and much-deserved promotion – awarding it, of course, to the young man she trained instead. She, Fonda and Parton have a commiseration party, where they get stoned and fantasize about taking revenge on Coleman. Tomlin’s fantasy is about poisoning Coleman’s coffee. When she gets to work the next day, she finds to her horror that she has actually done so by mistake. Tomlin, Fonda and Parton then go through endless, hilarious machinations to prevent anyone from knowing that Tomlin is an attempted murderess, including kidnapping Coleman and holding him prisoner in his own house for six weeks.

During those six weeks, the ladies completely revolutionize the company that Coleman was running in such a sexist and inhuman manner. Parton can sign Coleman’s name better than he can, and they keep sending out memos from “the boss” instating female-friendly improvements, including a new day care center, a job-sharing program that allows working mothers to work part-time, and equal pay for equal work.

Coleman ends up escaping his confinement, and shows up at the firm determined to change everything back to the way it was before, and to send the women to jail for attempted murder and kidnapping. Just as he is about to call the police, the owner of the company (Mr. Tinsdale) personally shows up to commend him for increasing productivity over 20% in that short six-week period. He is delighted about absolutely everything the women have done – open to every change, except one. Holding a baby in his arms, Tinsdale remarks to Coleman under his breath, “That equal pay thing, son – that’s gotta go.” At the end of the movie, the women never solve this problem, although the script is optimistic that they will.

Alas, twenty-nine years later, nothing has changed. Mr. Tinsdale is still in charge, and he’s not even remotely as open-minded as he was in “Nine to Five.” Employers are not required to do much of anything to take care of their employees these days, and women are still paid an average of 78 cents to every man’s dollar. This disparity partially explains why the United States has fallen to 15 on the Human Development Index. (Notice that Iceland is number one – yes, the country that has just appointed an openly lesbian woman as its interim Prime Minister. Huh.)

Continue reading

Wednesday: Gambling on Resurrection

Japan eventually forced bankers to fall on their swords

Japan eventually forced bankers to fall on their swords

“Banks think with their capital.  When they have enough capital, they act smart because then they have something at stake.  When banks lose capital and don’t have anything personally at stake, for the managers and the shareholders, they act dumb.  They gamble.”

That was a quote from Adam Posen from an interview he gave last week on NPR’s Planet Money about Japan’s Lost Decade.  You see, although the bankers are wailing hysterically that this kind of financial meltdown has never been seen before. the truth is that Japan went through something almost exactly like it back in the 90’s when their own real estate bubble burst.  The crash for them took place in ’90-91 and didn’t really affect the Japanese until 1992.  Then it was bad.  The government left the economy to sort itself out.  Actually, it made the situation worse by planning to adopt austerity measures and they announced these measures, like tax increases, 18 months in advance.   Eventually, there were some changes in government and some kind of Keynesian economics wizard who started to hold banks accountable for what is called adverse selection.  As I understand it, adverse selection occurs when bankers hold onto their bad assets, like bad mortgage tranches, for example, in the hopes that they will be worth something someday, while they sell off all of their good assets for cash they need in order to do regular backing business like lending and borrowing.  When Japanese banks were finally forced to eat their bad stuff, the economy turned around. (This is from a non-econ major POV so I urge you to listen to the podcast and send your questions to Dakinikat for clarification.)

The creation of a “bad bank” where the bankers can push their bad loans is probably NOT what Posen was refering to when he said that banks were eventually held accountable.  The “bad bank” transfer that is planned for the US simply gives banks cash for toxic assets and they never feel the consequences of their actions.  They may feel tempted to “gamble on resurrection”.  After all, the capital they are receiving from us is paying their salaries and bonuses.  It’s not real money to them.  No, I’m afraid that sacrifices will be necessary for this to turn around even if it means nationalization.

Obama has announced that he will hold banker compensation down in the upcoming stimulus package.  Executive compensation would be limited to a measly $500,000, which some compensation experts say:

“That is pretty draconian — $500,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if there is no bonus,” said James F. Reda, founder and managing director of James F. Reda & Associates, a compensation consulting firm. “And you know these companies that are in trouble are not going to pay much of an annual dividend.”

Mr. Reda said only a handful of big companies pay chief executives and other senior executives $500,000 or less in total compensation. He said such limits will make it hard for the companies to recruit and keep executives, most of whom could earn more money at other firms.

“It would be really tough to get people to staff” companies that are forced to impose these limits, he said.

OK by me.

It’s a great idea but we will have to see the details to make sure it is enforced.  After all, last fall’s TARP bill was supposed to give us preferred stock in the banks we rescued.  But as it turned out, preferred stock really meant “silent partner”.  We have no control over how the money is spent or are their any requirements that the banks report to us and keep us in the loop.  So, for all we know, they could be back to their old gambling addiction and living it up on our dime.

As Krugman wrote yesterday in Bipartisan Bromides, there is no middle ground here that can be reached by a treacly anti-Randian bi-partisan compromise.

You see, this isn’t a brainstorming session — it’s a collision of fundamentally incompatible world views. If one thing is clear from the stimulus debate, it’s that the two parties have utterly different economic doctrines. Democrats believe in something more or less like standard textbook macroeconomics; Republicans believe in a doctrine under which tax cuts are the universal elixir, and government spending is almost always bad.

Obama may be able to get a few Republican Senators to go along with his plan; or he can get a lot of Republican votes by, in effect, becoming a Republican. There is no middle ground.

There are certain procedures and steps that need to be followed in order to prevent a severe recession and decade of stagflation like the one that Japan faced during the 90’s.  Acquiescing to Republicans for the sake of bipartisanship just dilutes the policy.  The question is, does Obama understand the policy that he needs to create?  Or is he so beholden to the big Wall Street firms that got him here that he can’t make them sacrifice for fear of angering them?

Hey, he wanted this job.  He was willing to break all of the rules to get the nomination and there were plenty of people with almost a billion dollars in campaign funds who were willing to help him break those rules.  But it is his responsibility now to fulfill the obligations of his oath, even if it makes him unpopular with the rich boys and even if the bankers and Broderites attack him mercilessly. No one expected him to govern as a tree-hugging lefty but they *did* expect him to govern as a Democrat.   It is his own fault that his scorched earth campaigning split the party and many of us don’t have his back but hundreds of stimulus package house parties are not going to make an inadequate stimulus bill into a thing of beauty that everyone wants to support.  He has to do the right thing or take the blame for f%*^ing things up.

Now is when the shmoozing stops and the real work begins.

The Devil is in the details

obamadevil

When you read something like this in the NYT you think maybe there’s hope for this administration yet:

The Obama administration is expected to impose a cap of $500,000 for top executives at companies that receive large amounts of bailout money, according to people familiar with the plan.

Executives would also be prohibited from receiving any bonuses above their base pay, except for normal stock dividends.

President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner plan to announce the executive compensation plan on Wednesday morning at the White House.

Then farther down you read this:

Executives at companies that have already received money from the Treasury Department would not have to make any changes.

That little detail makes the proposed compensation cap about as effective as a morning-after condom.