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Well, that’s not good

Hmmm, last spring, Congressional Democratic leadership (with Obama chiming in) forced Anthony Weiner to resign because he sent a picture to a woman he regularly twittered.  There she was, perfectly innocent, because no *good* woman tweets provocatively, innocently discussing “cap and trade” and the nuances of fresh-water vs salt-water economists when suddenly, without any invitation at all, he raped her virgin eyes with a digital dick.  {{eyes rolling}}  After she fainted and made an appointment with her therapist, it was discovered that Mr. Weiner had inadvertently twittered the pic to the entire known world, half of which consist of women who cannot distinguish between a picture of some dude’s naughty bits and an actual physical violation.  (Oh, please, don’t get your fricking knickers in a twist over a damn picture like you are the pink of perfection’s maidenly spinster aunt. The faux outrage generated over this picture is counterintuitively anti-feminist and downright nauseating)

So, Mr. Weiner, getting a helpful nudge, no-doubt, from a sprinkling of right wing operatives in the comment threads of lefty blogs who quickly whipped up the pearl clutching outrage, took his leadership’s advice and resigned.  Regardless of Representative Weiner’s political gifts, or lack thereof, the resignation eliminated a seat from the Democrats’ caucus, a liberal seat, no less, and deprived his district of a representative it actually still wanted.  Initially, I thought that Steny Hoyer was just trying to eliminate another liberal voice in his quest to homogenize the House Democrats into cream of student body president soup.  But now I think that the Democrats are so afraid of the media coming down on them with relentless coverage of non-issues that they would rather emasculate themselves than strut around the House floor like nothing happened, you know, the way Republicans do when one of their lot gets caught tap dancing in a bathroom stall or has his diaper changed by a high cost hooker.

But no, not our Democrats.  This crop of Democrats is dickless.  They decided that it was much more reasonable to cave to fabricated public opinion and unnecessarily risk a special election for Weiner’s seat.  And they lost it.

Didn’t see that comin’.

The formerly Democratic seat is now to be held by a Republican. From the post:

With 84 percent of the precincts counted early Wednesday, Mr. Turner was leading Mr. Weprin by 54 percent to 46 percent, according to The Associated Press.

National Republican leaders immediately trumpeted the victory as a sign of trouble for Mr. Obama’s re-election effort. “An unpopular President Obama is now a liability for Democrats nationwide,” Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement.

But Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said the district’s large concentration of Orthodox Jews made it unusual and meant the race had few national ramifications.

“In this district, there is a large number of people who went to the polls tonight who didn’t support the president to begin with and don’t support Democrats — and it’s nothing more than that,” she said in a telephone interview.

Riiiight.  So by getting rid of a well-liked liberal Democrat in this Orthodox Jewish district, the Democrats were helpfully restoring the district to its natural order- conservative and Republican.  (Oh, Debbie, you had such promise once upon a time)

But what’s this?  Multiple comments from staunch Democratic voters in that NYTimes piece are saying that the reason they voted for the Republican was to “send a message” to Obama and the Democrats that they are not happy with the direction the country and economy are taking.  They want the Obama administration and Congress to focus on jobs and not more budget cuts.  This is what the Democrats should be afraid of.  They have decided to make all of the decisions for the voters and haven’t offered voters a choice.  There’s no difference between the parties on policy these days and the Democrats seem determined to ram their selected candidates down the throats of voters who were OK with the guy they had before. Voters are so angry that they exercise the one choice they have left, they vote against the Democrats.  There’s no point in sending a message to the Republicans because they’re fricking nuts.  But Democrats should get the point.  Well, you would hope that after Martha Coakley and Jon Corzine and the Congressional turnover in 2010, the Democrats would have gotten the point but apparently, it’s going to take some additional bloodletting.  And this time, the voters are being vocal and specific about why they voted the way they did:

The unexpectedly tight race stirred anxiety among Democrats already worried about elections next year for president, the House and the Senate. The Turner campaign had eagerly courted disenchanted Democrats, and outside polling places around the district on Tuesday, multiple longtime Democrats confessed that despite concern about Mr. Turner’s eagerness to slash federal spending, they chose him hoping that his election would get lawmakers’ attention.

“I am a registered Democrat, I have always been a registered Democrat, I come from a family of Democrats — and I hate to say this, I voted Republican,” said Linda Goldberg, 61, after casting her ballot in Queens. “I need to send a message to the president that he’s not doing a very good job. Our economy is horrible. People are scared.”

That’s where the 2012 election season is headed.  If the Democrats continue to offer voters no choice, they are going to get creamed.  There’s always a choice.

Could we please get the plastic dry cleaning bags and sharp objects out of the Democratic Caucus room before they meet again?

Is the 401K a Ponzi Scheme? Discuss

As of this writing, the Dow has slipped -111 points.  As Atrios would say: “Weeeeeeeeee!”  Update:  It’s back up again, “whhooooAAA!”  Update: Annnd back down again.  “Weeeeee!”  Isn’t this fun?

I was amused and irritated to see the question “Is Social Security a Ponzi Scheme?” at Room for Debate in the NYTimes recently.  (Fortunately, no one debating said it was, not even the rabid Republicans)  We are only discussing this because Rick Perry, Mr. Goodhair himself, brought it up.  The answer is “No”, it is not a Ponzi scheme.  The system has been working for something like 80 years now.  It’s an insurance system.  Participants pre-pay into it through deferred wages and withdraw it when they need it.  The money collected is used to buy Treasury Bonds.  Social Security is not an investment scheme that promises to return a huge bang for the buck.  It’s a modest retirement program, a fallback in case everything else fades.  It’s supposed to be solvent for decades to come.  The only issue is whether there will be anyone still employed to pre-pay.  The more people out of work, the fewer of us paying our share and, ironically, the more we’ll come to depend on it down the road.

The 401K, however, IS a Ponzi scheme.  No doubt about it.  Investors are told that if they save in a 401K, their money will grow.  How much it will grow depends on how much your 401K managers are willing to bamboozle you.  The investor is told that whatever it is you think you can afford to put into the system is not going to be enough to retire on.  The more you put in, the greater your payoff 30 years from now when you retire.  You’ll be rich, rich, rich!  And it certainly looks like that, doesn’t it?  That little pile of cash just keeps growing and growing, until there is a market “correction” and it doesn’t anymore.

One of the characteristics of a Ponzi scheme is that it requires a lot of new investors to support the returns of the older investors.  In this game, it helps to get in early.  There are a lot of older babyboomers who didn’t get in while they were young but when they did start contributing to their 401Ks, they were in their prime earning years and were able to set aside a nice chunk of change.  Pretty soon, they’re going to want to take that money out to live on and as we all know, there are a lot of babyboomers.  And they can do that once they’re old enough.  They won’t be socked with a punitive tax when they withdraw that money.  The rest of us who are unemployed and may need those funds to live on will pay dearly.

Please do not tell me about how prudent it is to put aside your money for retirement and not spend it no matter what.  We’re not stupid.  But that money could be used to stimulate the economy at a time when the Republicans stand in the way of doing anything helpful, and could theoretically provide more jobs, and with jobs we can start socking money away again.  When money is tied up in some illiquid 401K that you can’t get to without undergoing a hemorrhage, the only people it benefits are some testosterone poisoned fund managers and their bonus loving banks.  Funny how the Obama administration and Congress are so willing to cut a break on the payroll tax but not the excise tax for withdrawing 401K benefits.  It almost sounds like they were trying to undermine social security while forcing people to stay in a 401K where there is no guarantee of a return and much, much more risk, tying up those funds for decades to come.  Now, why would they do that…?  I only ask.

A market “correction” could wipe you out.  That’s harder on a soon to be retired senior than a younger worker.  But if you don’t have a job, you can’t contribute.  So, the money that was supposed to guarantee your retirement at Millionaire Manor doesn’t really grow.  Over time, the mutual funds will require more investments coming in to offset the money taken out.  There’s bound to be a plateau, unless the fund managers find bigger and better scams, but won’t that entail more risks?

So, to recap: the 401K promises gigantic returns to people who get in on the ground floor.  More and younger investors are required to also contribute to prop up the stock prices of the companies your funds are dumped into.  Older investors can withdraw all of their funds penalty free; younger investors cannot.  The savings are not guaranteed and can be wiped out by market conditions, or diminished by the withdrawal of the generation above you.

Sounds fairly Ponziesque to me.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

 

9/11

George Bush and Barack Obama at 9/11 ceremonies (pool photo NYTimes)

Paul Krugman comments today on the perplexing subdued nature of the commemorations of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  He thinks that the shame of the anaphylactic shock that followed the event has finally caught up to us:

What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. Te atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?

The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.

While I agree with Paul that the aftermath that followed was disgraceful and shameful, I don’t agree that the memory has been irrevocably poisoned.  For me, the memorial service at Ground Zero is for the families of the people who lost their lives that day.  It’s could also be a place for grandstanding and politicians or other bad actors who use the event to push a political agenda are, in my humbler opinion, violating the spirit of the place.  But I don’t think the memory of 9/11 is poisoned.  My aunt who has visited Shanksville, PA several times tells me how powerful the place is.  It’s really not more than a scar on the landscape.  I think the thing that awes her is the idea that a group of desperate passengers were not going to go down without a fight.  Knowing that their chances of survival were slim, they armed themselves with pots of hot coffee and service carts and took the bastards on.  The plane disintegrated on impact and hit the ground in rural Somerset county PA with such force that some of the pieces buried themselves.  It makes us wonder if we would have that much courage.

The other day, I listened to an interview with a firefighter who survived the collapse of the North tower along with the rest of his company and a woman who he couldn’t bring himself to abandon on the way out of the building.  What I found so appealing about Jay Jonas’ account was that he didn’t attribute his survival to God.  He knew that physics and gravity had a lot more to do with it.  And timing.  If he hadn’t stopped to help Josephine Harris instead of abandoning her to her fate, he would have been further down the stairwell when the building fell and that would have killed him and his company.  It was cosmic chance that delayed their flight out of the building that put them in the “sweet spot” pocket on the fourth floor of the stairwell.  When it comes right down to it, you might as well stop and help your fellow traveler.  As the NY State lottery ad used to say, “Hey, you never know”.

I’ve thought a lot recently about the way the nation changed after 9/11.  What I think affects me most is the way children in this country have been raised in the wake of 9/11 but I have to be honest with myself and admit that those changes were already upon us.  9/11 just accelerated them and amped the changes up to 11.  My daughters are 14 years apart in age but they might well have lived in different centuries judging by their childhoods.  Child number one grew up in a suburban environment where children were already overscheduled to death but where she attended sleep overs every weekend, roamed the neighborhood without a chaperone, was able to walk to her friend’s house several blocks from our house and played games in the street into the evening.  Child number two started kindergarten the week that 9/11 happened.  Her every breath and movement have been strictly monitored by neighbors, school officials and parents of other children.  Sleep overs happen but infrequently and invitations require almost a background check.  There is no walking- anywhere.  The school is locked up like a prison and number two child, always a couple of years ahead of her peers, bitterly complained about the video cameras that were installed in the middle school.  I chalked it up to typical adolescent angst until I went to the middle school office to drop something off one day and saw a bank of monitors on the wall, remotely patrolling the hallways.  It was like being in lockdown.

After 9/11, the world for children has gotten harsher, less forgiving, and not at all fun.  Children get one chance to make a good impression.  There is no tolerance for childish behavior.  They live in a bubble.  Their friends are selected for them by their parents at venues and sporting events regulated with military efficiency.  Their academic success is judged not by their abilities and passions but by a matrix, as if a child’s efforts can be strictly quantified in some Six Sigma model.  Children who step out of line even slightly are treated like juvenile delinquents.  Children who defiantly march to their own drummers are socially ostracized.

We do this to our kids because of our own fears.  And those fears have been inflamed constantly over the last couple of decades by Eyewitness News and Fox and Glenn Beck types.  The fear of death keeps people in line.  It makes them look for saviors and big daddies who will protect them.  So, it’s not at all surprising that 9/11 put the nail in the coffin of American childhood.  The new American social landscape is more reminiscent of the village life depicted in the German film The White Ribbon.  Conformity and social hierarchy is strictly and cruelly enforced.  It makes me wonder if the Lesser Depression was also a result of this return to social hierarchies exacerbated by the effects of 9/11.

The NYTimes covered the ceremonies at Ground Zero this morning.  There are beautiful new fountains on the site outlining the footprints of the original towers into which water is falling.  George Bush and Barack Obama were present at the ceremonies this morning and describes their appearance this way:

It was the first time President Obamaand former President George W. Bushhad stood together at ground zero. Mr. Bush declined Mr. Obama’s invitation to join him at the site last spring, days after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

But on this bright morning, they stood shoulder to shoulder behind a bulletproof screen — two commanders in chief whose terms in office are bookends for considering how the United States has changed since Sept. 11, 2001, particularly in its response to terrorism.

Mr. Obama read from Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength.” Mr. Bush read a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Lydia Bixby, a widow in Massachusetts who was believed to have lost five sons in the Civil War.

Unlike Mr. Obama, Mr. Bush drew a brief cheer from the crowd before his reading. Applause also followed Mr. Bush as he left the stage.

They applauded the author of all the mayhem that followed.  He got a cheer for the torture and war and trillions of dollars wasted in Iraq.  This was the guy who was frozen on his little chair when he heard the news.  He didn’t excuse himself and stride purposefully from the room.  His security agencies were malfunctioning before the attack and couldn’t get his attention.  This is a man who unleashed the godly on the rest of us.

This is not a man who deserves applause.  Any president would have been foolish not to go after Afghanistan and in George Bush’s case, bin Laden wasn’t even his preferred target.  Saddam Hussein was.

Barack Obama got silence.  Maybe that’s because the 9/11 families know his assertions about the Iraq War were empty.  Maybe it’s because his PR department sent an ill-advised memo outlining how government officials should guide and shape public opinion regarding the commemoration of an event for which those families needed no instruction.  Or maybe they’re starting to realize that he doesn’t know what he’s doing with the economy.  Personally, if I were him, I would have had no role in the ceremony.

What was even more disturbing was the photo that accompanied the article.  There is George Bush, head bowed piously, and Barack Obama, nose stuck up in the air.  Pictures say a thousand words and this one says that someone at the NYTimes is preparing to Gore Obama.  Why not use 9/11 as just another opportunity?  That’s shameful.

Better yet, leave Ground Zero to the families.  It’s their day and their space.  The best way to commemorate 9/11 is to go to Jersey City just before sunset and walk to the pier on the other side of Manhattan.  As the sun goes down, the Tribute of Light will appear, filling up the sky where they once stood, those Americans and our friends that lost their lives that day.  They’re still there.  We’re still here.  We live another day to make things right.

Shadows of the Past, Reflections of the future

In his speech of 57 years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower made the following prediction:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

– President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11/8/54

And voile, what do we get from Rick Perry, politician from oil rich Texas?

Dwight was wrong about the negligible part (I’ll get to that in a second) but he sure nailed the stupid down to the last Texas drawl.  I have no doubt that there are millions of Glenn Beck fans who are ready to sell all they’ve got to buy their share of some underground survival shelter who feel that they will not be needing their Social Security because once the dust settles after 2012, they’ll be busily creating an earthly paradise free from us worldly suckers.  (No, I’m not talking *down* to the delusional malignant Christians who in spite of biblical admonitions are practicing numerology of an ancient Mayan, and therefore, pagan, culture.  I’m completely dismissing them as people with whom I wish to have a conversation about religion because it is pointless trying to get through to them until January 2013.)

Anyway, Perry is not only stupid, he’s wrong about Social Security.  While it’s true that you’ll never get rich on Social Security, it has worked extraordinarily well during the nearly 80 years it has been in existence.  The Ponzi scheme is the 401K system that requires workers who participate in it to tie up their money and pay steep penalties to remove it when they might spend it better on paying off their mortgages, and then sit back and watch as the biggest demographic in American history, who were promised all the gold they could eat by their investment fund managers, retires on all that trapped money.  It’s almost like when Enron was going down and all the big wigs were cashing in and the rank and file little workers were locked out of their accounts until the stock had been plundered and toppled from a nosebleed high to the dirt beneath their feet?  ( And if you really want to know how a Ponzi Scheme works, check out Josh and Chuck’s podcast How Ponzi Schemes Work at How Stuff Works.)  That’s not what we have in Social Security.  We paid into the system for decades, some lucky workers in the tail end of the baby boom paying extra, so that we would be able to recover our deferred wages when we were ready to retire.  Those funds were invested in US Treasury bonds, not some Bernie Madoff character’s initial investors, and, *we*, are creditors to the US, not the other way around.  Our Social Security trust fund does not add any debt to the deficit.  In fact, it was running a substantial surplus, which we lend to the government, presumably so we can fund states like Alabama and Montana.  So, pay up Perry.

I guess you could make Americans less dependent on Social Security so that someday, down the road, middle class people could check off a box on their income tax statement that says something like “Your pension and other retirement investments put your family at 200% over the average income for a 67 year old.  Would you like to contribute a portion of your social security benefits to another needy senior?”, and if I had the extra money, I might just do that.  But for that to happen, you’re going to have to get the tail end baby boomers back to work, contributing their revenue to the bottom line and re-establishing realistic pensions for their years of hard work.  But that’s not the Republican way, is it, Mr. Perry?

To see what the Republican party really has in store for us, read Goodbye to All That, Reflections of an Operative who left the Cult by former Republican congressional staffer, Mike Lofgren.  This post has been circulating the blogosphere for the past couple of days and if you haven’t read it yet, please do so now.  This piece might be seen as a one off curiosity, ripe for Republican scorn, if it weren’t followed by similar missives to James Fallows from other staffers that reinforce Lofgren’s confession. As we have long suspected here on The Confluence, the Republicans’ overriding goal is to undermine government and cause people to lose faith in it.  The public will be forced to turn to private institutions to take over the functions of government and then those same private companies will have us by the short hairs.  This is what anti-tax fanatic Grover Norquist refers to Starving the Beast and making government so small it can be drowned in a bathtub.  Oh, you newcomers have never heard those terms before?  They’re not new but you can look them up if you don’t believe me.  Nevermind that it doesn’t work to create jobs or reduce taxes or, even more naively, stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit (check out the 2nd hour of Virtually Speaking from last Tuesday where Jay has a conversation with a Republican)?  Have any of the chipper fiscal conservatives ever tried a one man drug discovery operation in their office park headquarters?  80% of those ventures fail according to the American Chemical Society meeting at Rutgers University in May 2011.  Starting a new company on your severance checks and borrowed money from your less than flush family members and then gambling it all on a venture that has an 80% failure rate is something people are forced into.  It’s not something they do by choice.  And when they fail, they’re going to need Social Security.

But nevermind all that.  Republicans are just spouting that entrepreneur stuff because they have to put a good spin on their policies, which until we have more data, appear to be grounded in pure, unadulterated greed and selfishness.  I’m going to give them the benefit of a doubt and assume they have a beneficent goal in mind because we can’t rule it out.  But let’s just say this theory is like evolution.  The preponderance of evidence points unambiguously to natural selection but there’s always the teensy, tiny, soupçon of a chance that it was all zapped into being in 6000 years ago by a patriarchal, capricious, vengeful and jealous God just like the Old Testament says.  Since we do not know the first cause of the creation of the universe we can ignore all that facty wacty stuff.

As I have intimated before, the Republicans are in their endgame now.  Between now and next November, they’ve got nothing to lose if they put the pedal to the metal and bully the Democrats into getting everything they ever wanted in their adolescent wet dreams.  If they succeed, they will be richly rewarded by their wealthy benefactors whether they are re-elected or not.  If they fail, well, it’s only one more 2 year election cycle where the can gum up the works.  The public will not be any wiser because if it was, it would vote the Republicans back into oblivion like they did in 1964.  It turns out it was the only way to get Medicare past these obstructionist confederates who are still saving their Dixie Cups (A couple of people just laughed and instantly aged themselves).  All that’s standing in their way is Brave Brave Brave Barack Obama.  He was not at all afraid to veto bills in nasty ways.

Oh, wait. Scratch that.

So, there’s nothing that stands between the Republican juggernaut and their goal.

Which leads me to this article in Harvard Business Review (HT Susie Madrak) about how Karl Marx might have been right afterall.  Let’s not confuse communism as being the right prescription but Marx certainly identified the illness.  Read the whole thing to understand that what Karl Marx witnessed was not unique in human history.  But here’s the thing that makes it so damn maddening for us.  As Americans, we should have been smart enough to avoid all of this misery.  Unfortunately, we are trapped in consensus reality as Marx might have described it, here are two particular features of the American landscape that trouble me greatly [comments in brackets are mine]:

Alienation. As workers were divorced from the output of their labor, Marx claimed, their sense of self-determination dwindled, alienating them from a sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. How’s Marx doing on this score? I’d say quite well: even the most self-proclaimed humane modern workplaces, for all their creature comforts, are bastions of bone-crushing tedium and soul-sucking mediocrity, filled with dreary meetings, dismal tasks, and pointless objectives that are well, just a little bit alienating. If sweating over the font in a PowerPoint deck for the mega-leveraged buyout of a line of designer diapers is the portrait of modern “work,” then call me — and I’d bet most of you — alienated: disengaged, demoralized, unmotivated, uninspired, and about as fulfilled as a stoic Zen Master forced to watch an endless loop of Cowboys and Aliens.

False consciousness. According to Marx, one of the most pernicious aspects of industrial age capitalism was that the proles wouldn’t even know they were being exploited — and might even celebrate the very factors behind their exploitation, [you mean like trying not to piss off the omnipotent ‘job creators’?] in a kind of ideological Stockholm Syndrome that concealed and misrepresented the relations of power between classes. How’s Marx doing on this score? You tell me. I’ll merely point out: America’s largest private employer is Walmart. America’s second largest employer is McDonald’s.

One of the things I remember studying about the American Revolution was not that we were so adamantly opposed to paying a tax on stamps and tea but *why* we were so opposed to it.  If I recall correctly from one of those giant non-fiction tomes we all passed around during Christmas break several years ago, American political thinkers were particularly alarmed by the prospect of becoming just another Ireland to the British.  Just one big Plantation where the fruits of our labor would be siphoned off to some other place and we would be forced to pay a hefty price to get them back.  It would be a place where we wouldn’t really own anything of our own and be in subjection to the British and their militias forever.  Always poor, always dependent.  Always on the brink of starvation.

Could it happen here?  Sure it could.  There is nothing special about human beings who refuse to look at the misery of the past and do not guard themselves against it in the future.  In the 1840’s, many of our ancestors fled Ireland in coffin ships, away from a devastating famine.  The famine was entirely preventable except that Irish farmers were already desperately poor and dependent primarily on one crop for sustenance as well as the British government.  But it wasn’t the blight that killed the Irish.  It was the reaction to it from the governments, the landlords and the haughty, better off public.  From The History Place, we get these shadows of the past that look uncomfortably familiar in the present:

Ireland was not the only country with serious money problems. In the fall of 1847, Great Britain experienced a crash due to bad investments by English speculators and the resulting impact on London’s banks. Wheat and corn prices had skyrocketed in 1846 throughout Europe only to tumble by the middle of 1847 when supply far exceeded demand. British investors that speculated took huge losses.

At the same time, investors speculating in the topsy-turvy British railway industry were ruined as railway shares collapsed. Money became very tight as British banks refused further credit. Eleven banks failed outright. Over a hundred established business firms went bankrupt. Stock prices and commodities tumbled.

The British financial crisis meant there would be no money available to help Ireland during its greatest time of need. British officials, greatly preoccupied with their own domestic troubles, would now pay little attention to Ireland. However, there was one exception. Charles Trevelyan remained deeply interested in relief operations in Ireland and quite determined to enforce the Poor Law Extension Act.

The British wanted to make the idea of getting a free handout as unattractive as possible to able-bodied Irishmen, fearing they would overwhelm the inadequate relief system, especially in the hard-pressed areas of southwest Ireland. The new Poor Law thus designated workhouses as the only places where able-bodied men could obtain relief, but only after surrendering all other means of support.

Anyone holding over a quarter-acre of land was required to forfeit their land before seeking relief. As a result, countless farm families with small holdings were forced into a life-and-death decision over whether to stay on their land and possibly starve or to give up their farm, surrender their dignity, and head for the workhouse as destitute paupers.  

Workhouses were sparse in remote areas of Ireland and those that existed there were already occupied by widows, children, and the elderly. Trevelyan’s idea was for these people to be ejected from the workhouses to make way for the men. But many local officials in Ireland were unwilling to do this.

To organize relief in Ireland, the British had divided the country into 130 separate areas (unions) with several parishes combined together to form a union. Each union was run by a Board of Guardians consisting of Irishmen responsible for setting local tax rates and collecting the revenue needed to provide aid to the people living within the union. But the plan encountered problems from the start due to the sheer size of most of the unions (100,000 or more acres) combined with the ever-increasing shortage of property owners financially able to pay taxes, especially in the hardest hit rural districts.

Wherever they were most needed, workhouses quickly slid into debt, ran short of supplies and turned people away in droves. Families in desolate areas resorted to living in small hovels cut out of the bog or dirt holes dug along the hillside. In Donegal Union, ten thousand persons were found living “in a state of degradation and filth which it is difficult to believe the most barbarous nations ever exceeded,” according to the Quaker, William Forster. His organization, the Society of Friends, had refused to work in cooperation with the new Poor Law.

Would the government let the landlords turn us out?  Are you kidding me?

Here’s the ting, no one loves you better than you love yourself.  Don’t expect the Republicans to grow a heart in the next 13 months.  Don’t expect the Democrats to grow a spine either.  We as a country have already been through one Great Depression and paid dearly in order to put the country back on its feet.  Now we have Rick Perry, a Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and the craven media and the well connected and clueless pundits who are ready any second now to turn us all into the peapicker’s wife and her children.  Would they care if you die because you have no health insurance, food, a roof over your head or money to live on when you’re old?  Heck, they don’t know you personally.  If you’re not making a couple million at bonus time, you’re just a parasite to them.  Better to die and decrease the surplus population.  Or go fricasee a tot.  Get with the program.  This is the Republican’s vision of the future covered in a sickly sweet oleaginous whipped cream over American apple pie and motherhood.

Onwards to the future.

Speaking of the future, the Freedom Tower is rising over the remains of the World Trade Center.  Can I just say that I really despise the name “Freedom Tower”?  Everytime I hear it, I think of George Bush, My Pet Goat in hand and “deer in the headlights” look on his face, swaggering onto The Pile a few days later acting like he’s a hero and throwing that precious word around carelessly as his VP sections off oil fields on a map of Iraq in the Situation Room.

Can we call it Memorial Tower?  Or Remembrance Tower?  Or Port Authority Tower?  Something like that?  Why do we have to continue to engage in hucksterism and propaganda?  What freedom did we get from 9/11?  The freedom to take off our shoes and have our modest adolescent children scanned naked in an airport?  The freedom to have our phones tapped indiscriminantly?  The freedom to live in a police state with our children shut up behind locked security doors at school and video monitors tracing our every move?  The freedom to be held as an enemy combatant indefinitely and without habeas corpus merely on the word of some unknown accuser?  We reacted with anaphylaxis to a horrific event.  We adapted poorly.  It’s just a building and I’m glad it’s going up to fill the gaping hole in the sky.  But let’s not forget what it really stands for.  It was a very bad day that lead to a very bad decade.  How about Havewelearnedanything Tower?

Here’s a time lapse of the new tower, whatever it’s name is:

If Democrats want to keep the White House, they must offer voters a choice

Lambert posted on a post from Peter Daou about how Obama’s base is deserting him and will determine his fate in 2012.  By the way, Obama’s base is not necessarily the whole Democratic base, much of which was jettisoned in 2008 for Obama.  So, a lot of the Democratic base left Obama years ago, mostly because the DNC chose to exile us from the decision making process. The Obama base is just now catching up to us.  Says Peter:

Recent polls (including Gallup, which shows a double-digit decline among liberals) indicate significant erosion of support for Obama among groups who propelled him to victory in 2008, reinforcing the idea that reality is catching up with netroots criticism. This crumbling of support is typically attributed by pundits to the poor economy, but the problem is more complicated: it’s the poor economy coupled with the sense (fair or unfair) that Barack Obama has no convictions, no moral center, nothing for which he will take an unwavering stand.

That perception of a lack of convictions can’t be attributed solely to attacks from the right, since they can be discounted as partisan. It’s when the left makes that argument that conventional wisdom congeals.

The impact of these critics on the left will continue to resonate into the 2012 election and despite dashed hopes and demoralization among progressive activists, they, more than any other group, hold the president’s political fate in their hands.

I’ve bolded the part that represents how we, the Democrats in Exile since 2008 always saw Obama.  He was reluctant to refer to himself as a Democrat and the congressional candidates who ran with him that year also tried hard to obscure their party affiliation.  He was ethereal.  You could never pin him down on what principles he would defend.  The biggest clue of all was the way he ran in the primaries.  There wasn’t one envelope he wasn’t willing to push and he got away with it because the DNC turned on its own voters in order to secure his installation as nominee.  We are not surprised at the way things turned out.  Doubts arose almost immediately after his election and Obama’s true self was revealed not too long after that when he failed to put a plan to stimulate the economy based on Democratic party principles and policies.

So, now that the rest of the left is catching up with us, and have all become racists now, what can the Democrats do to keep the White House?  It must offer voters a choice.  It doesn’t matter what party voters belong to these days, they all want one thing- choice.  They don’t want Obama anymore.  They don’t feel that he’s entitled to a second term.  But they’re not thrilled with the Republican choices either.  What the country really wanted in 2008 was a Democrat.  That’s not what they got.

I keep saying that what voters really want is a larger than life, unibrowed, red meat eating, Atila the Hun style Democrat who will stand up to the monied interests and fight for the middle class.  Or they want someone they have shared a history with who they feel they can trust to do the right thing.  Whoever that person is, he/she has to have titanium balls and drive to do whatever it takes to turn things around even if that means they will only be a one term wonder.  By continuing to offer Obama, the Democrats are not giving voters the President they want or need.  The Democrats have turned learned helplessness into an art form.  What difference will it make if voters choose Romney or Obama if the resulting policies are indistinguishable?  Voters will have little incentive to turn out for Obama and the other downticket Democrats may suffer.

So, make Obama and offer he can’t refuse, get him out of the White House and get someone else to run.  If Hillary won’t run, get someone like Ed Rendell.  Give voters a real choice and make sure that there’s no funny business with the electoral process in 2012.  Look like you give a f^*), Democrats, and you can win this thing.  Give people no choice and you’re looking at soviet style stagnation.

Ooooo, SNAP!

Here’s a David and Goliath story that will give you some insight as to how senseless and stupid the decimation of the pharmaceutical R&D industry has been and how insensitive upper management can be. I found the link at
Derek Lowe’s In The Pipeline blog.
It’s about a medicinal chemist who worked on a project that resulted in the discovery of a block buster drug for a company that was bought out by another company. You can probably guess the rest. Yes, his site was closed down and everybody on the project was laid off. Congratulations for discovering this shareholder value enhancing drug. Please meet me in the cafeteria at 9am and then go away.

So, the chemist did go away. Many years later…

I got recently contacted by a patent litigation attorney from a giant pharma company, a company that is advertising on TV every night and whose name rhymes with “Mergers and Massacres”: They have a drug that is selling over a billion a year and now the key patent for this drug is facing a challenge from two generic competitors. Since I am on the patent (there is about dozen authors) the lawyers wanted to prepare me in case that I get subpoenaed by those generic companies challenging the patent. They offered me a free legal representation in the hearings and they proposed to pay me as a consultant (“at my usual rate”) for talking to them and for the deposition – should this subpoena happen.

The detailed history of the invention seems important in this case because the patent that sets the invention priority (and thus affects the date of the drug monopoly expiration) is being challenged on several fronts. It appears that their legal team has been having some difficulty piecing together the exact timeline of the project – who proposed/synthesized what and when (even as they have all the notebooks and employment records in their possession). Apparently no-one from the original team is employed with the company anymore: We were summarily laid off when our research site was shut down. (The chemistry director was actually forced out, under rather contentious circumstances, shortly before the site closure). Only a handful of employees was re-hired elsewhere within the company. And surprisingly, it seems that some of my ex-colleagues are not getting in touch with the patent litigation team now…

I am also not calling the lawyers as they repeatedly urged me to – instead I wrote to them and shared some of the impressions and experiences that I had while being – briefly – a part of their company – and I also reminded them of the class-action lawsuit that my ex-colleagues brought against them, when the company reneged on their severance payments after the layoffs. (The company settled out of court and apparently paid in full the promised amount, about 2 years later.)

Also, I reached out to the two generic companies involved in this litigation and informed them about this legal team approach from my former employer – and I offered to answer questions about the history of this drug discovery and I gave them the names of the few important inventors on the patent who could be perhaps more helpful than me. Then I wrote back to the legal team of the large company and I let them know that I contacted the two generic companies. I explained that I don’t want their money but maybe they could re-evaluate how they are going to treat the R&D inventors in the future. You know, in case they need them again.

I hope milkshake doesn’t mind me quoting him in his entirety. The story is just too, um, well, let’s just say that the week after I was laid off, an official email was sent around to all the staff from the bean counters who congratulated themselves at meeting and exceeding their proposed cost cutting targets for the quarter. I guess I was supposed to feel good about how my job was sacrificed to achieve that goal. The dudes who made that performance objective probably got a bonus that was roughly equivalent to my salary. Yes, yes, party on.

So, anyway, that was pretty nervy. I am in awe and bow to his surplus of balls and everlasting righteous indignation. Score one for the geeks.

Stuff I will miss when I’m poor

It takes a lot of money to live in NJ.  I’m talking about mortgages, property taxes and food.  That right there will zap your unemployment check.  I take that back.  You can’t pay for your mortgage *and* eat on an unemployment check.  Even with a regular paycheck, it was hard to justify spending money on expensive vacations and I usually run my cars into the ground before I replace them.  Clothes were never a big issue with me because in this country, women are allowed to be skinny, plump, morbidly obese or petite, but they’re NOT allowed to be tall.  So few stores and designers accomodate my 5’9.5″ height (without making me pay a premium for a few extra inches of hem on very limited selection of super boring and unstylish clothing items) that I’ve learned to loathe clothes shopping.  You can be a size 16 and never pay a nickel more than a size 2 regardless of the extra fabric.  But ask for a dress where the waist cinches your waist and not your bust if you’re tall?  Impossible to get at any price.  How fair is that??  I guess if I were a nice size 5’4.5″  woman who looks good in anything, passing up new clothes might be a real hardship.  I might even enjoy shopping.  Since the American apparel industry has seen fit to thwart me all my life, this is not an issue for me.  But I digress.

So, while I have some money stashed away to keep me from involuntary anorexia, cuts will be made in the next month.  Politicians should keep this in mind when they put unemployment on the backburner or don’t give solving it their best effort. And I don’t mean just for fricking construction workers.  All I ever hear about is how some damn construction worker is going to get a job building a transcontinental automobile transportation thingy.  We’re not all construction workers, guys. In fact, we’re not all GUYS. Hello?!, Can we say gender discrimination in proposed jobs programs?  This Lesser Depression is hitting the sciences pretty hard, despite what the BLS is telling you (They’re about 5 years behind on their job category projections in the sciences).  You really can have a college degree and experience in a hard science and not be able to find a job.  And remember, I was one of those middle class people who was paying more in taxes last year than the yearly income required to keep a family of four above the poverty level.  Alabama might want to think about that before they let Jeff Sessions go on an idiot rant about the deficit.

To be cut:

1.) Dish Network– It’s ridiculously expensive given the fact that I only watch the premium channels.  Dish doesn’t offer a Premium only package, ala cart purchases are still not on the horizon and, frankly, I’m getting disgusted with having to subsidize the forty channels of ESPN and sports that I never watch, along with QVC, Lifetime, Oxygen and a lot of reality TV crap.  I never watch network or cable news anymore.  DeGrassi we can watch on Hulu.  I have an Apple TV and a subscription to Netflix.  I’ve called Dish about rejiggering the lineup but all they suggest is taking away the things I actually like to watch while leaving me with the stuff I consider garbage.  Besides, they announced recently that they are going for a more upscale clientele, which I no longer am. So bye-bye Dish.

2.) Dune perfume.  I ran out of my last bottle some time during the summer.  Worn it for years.  It’s my signature fragrance.  Perfume is bloody expensive but I love it.  I will continue to finagle teensy little samples of new perfumes from the Bloomingdales perfume counter.

3.) Clinque, MAC, Chanel makeup.  I shall have to make due with Revlon and tread carefully to avoid aggravating my sensitive skin.

4.) Haircuts.  There’s only one salon in my area that does it right.  They charge a small fortune.  I already go to them only once a year and get maintenance haircuts from a local salon I like less.  Oh, well.  Never had a pedicure.  Have had manicures twice in my life.  Won’t be missed.  But the hair thing might be a problem if I have to do interviews.

5.) Stopping by Wegman’s on a Sunday afternoon.  I used to love to do this.  I’d wander the aisles and sample the searing station and the cheeses, check out the fresh fish and seasonal produce.  An hour later, I’d have something incredibly delicious for dinner with a nice bottle of wine.  Not anymore.

6.) Eating out.  Anywhere.  Clearly, this has got to stop.

7.) Movies.  If it’s not on Netflix or iTunes, we will wait until it is.

8.) Pottery Barn, West Elm, Bed, Bath and Beyond, {insert furniture or home goods store here}.  If it can’t be found on Craigslist, in the free stuff category, we will pass.

9.) Home Depot, Lowes, {insert home improvement store here}.  I finished my kitchen so most of my home’s most expensive features have been replaced or finished in the past five years.  Yeah, I think crown molding would look nice on the soffit.  Too bad for me.  The bathrooms are the only rooms that still need some TLC.  Now that I know how to replace faucets and rewire appliances, I can do most of this stuff inexpensively.  Will consult craigslist for necessary items.

10.) Audible, iTunes, the iPad Apps store, Amazon.  These are dangerous habits.  You think, “Oh, it’s only 5 Beatles songs”, or “That looks like an interesting book and I could have it on my iPad in 15 seconds!”.  Before you know it, you’ve blown through half an unemployment check with stupid money sucking novels.  So, that’s out.  Will consult my bookshelf and the Gutenberg project.

11.) The Apple Store.  That place is like catnip for geeks.  It’s hard to pass it by and not bop in for *something*.  I like gadgets.  I am a gadget queen.  The BFF and I are very competitive gadget people.  My toys have to be neater and faster and more innovative than his.  The kid really does need a new computer so I might scrape together funds to get her a Macbook Air (before you PC people jump down my throat about cheaper PCs, save your breath.  I never liked PCs, don’t like Windows and don’t like the idea of troubleshooting and shelling out money for new anti-virus packages when I get infected. Been there, done that.  I’m sticking with apple.  And if the sucker has a problem, I can take it to the apple store to be seen by a genius where I will be able to sniff the gadgets.  I have to draw a line in the sand.  I will be poor but you can’t make me use a PC)

12.) Starbucks Verona roast coffee beans.  I shall make due with Columbian from the grocery store.

13.) Ikea.  Very addicting, especially the bottom floor.  There are so many cool little things that I never knew I needed until those diabolical Swedish merchandizing geniuses place it in an attractive setting where I can’t help but see it.  The Ikea designers seem so innocent with their sing-song voices and “Ha-dor!” bye-byes and non-judgmental, friendly, socialism-lite, sunny optimism but they are really just evil capitalists in disguise pushing clever furniture crack. Warning: Lack and Malm are gateway series.  Before you know it, you’ll be mainlining Isala and Hemnes and hanging out at Ikea Hack sites (I only tried it once) and you’ll need an intervention.  Still, if I have the extra money, I will go out of my way to get an almondy torte because the kid really likes them and even poor people need treats once in awhile.

14.) Gas.  It costs a lot.  We will be saving it for excursions where we can do a lot of errand running at one time and run a “travelling salesman” calculation to optimize every mile.

15.) Electricity and Gas.  I will become fanatic about shutting off every light and appliance that doesn’t need to be on.  I will be using solar battery lamps when it gets dark.  We will learn to live with lots of sweaters and cosy footwear.   The cockatiel will get a special blanky for his cage.  The programmable thermostat will be strictly monitored.  Violators will be prosecuted.

16.) Christmas.  It will be a very scaled back buying season.  Imagine the March sisters in Little Women.  Might go for a Charlie Brown tree instead of the 8 ft Douglas fir.  Or scour craigslist for an artificial tree if half of NJ hasn’t beaten me to it.

17.) The liquor store.  No more wine for dinner.  No more spur of the moment purchases of the latest boutique brewery seasonal batch.

18.) NJ Transit train to NYC.  At $28/person round trip and no discount for off-peak hours anymore, the kid and I would be spending $56 to take a slow train ride on the Raritan Valley Line, which doesn’t come frequently, with a transfer at Newark to NYC.  I could just park in Newark and take the PATH.  That’s the way I’ve been doing it in the last couple of years.  But the return trip on the PATH goes through Hoboken and then back to Newark.  It’s the most stupid, half assed system. In other words, NY and NJ have not really found an affordable, efficient option for daytrippers to the City.  Or they have found options but they refuse to go ahead with plans to implement them due to ideological reasons.  I love mass transit but not enough to spend $56.  So, the City is out.  That would also mean there’s no reason to maintain my Metropolitan Museum of Art family membership, where the kid took 7 weeks of drawing lessons for a bahgain, or the MOMA membership.  Broadway is completely out of the question.  Seats for a play are outrageous and even when I could afford them, I ended up sitting on the sides in the balcony.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a decent seat in the orchestra at a Broadway play.  At $300-400 a seat, I just figure those are for the rich, even middle class people need not apply.  Poor people can forget it.  Ditto with ballets and operas at Lincoln Center.  Loved it when I could afford to go, even in the nosebleed sections.  Must live without it now.  There are some nice local theatres, especially in Princeton.  So, we’ll go on very special occasions.

That’s just off the top of my head.  I will pinch every penny until my fingers bleed.  The piano teacher is a bit of a dilema.  The kid enjoys her lessons and even piano teachers need to eat.  We will see how it goes.  If the COBRA subsidy is reinstated, I *might* be able to fit in a lesson or two a month.  Even that will be stretching it.

It all adds up.  Multiply this by millions of people all across the country.  No money going to the IRS, no money going to merchants, no money to splurge a bit.  Just no money- period.

Thank you Republicans and President Obama.

One other thing: Number One child is auditioning this week for something special.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I will update with more specific information if she makes it.

Happy Labor Day!

To those of you who are employed and those of us who are unemployed, may your work be full of joy.

Although I am out of work now, I look back on the past couple of years as the best years in my career.  The pace was insane, the working space was unworkable (one structural biology lab spread over two buildings and three floors) and the atmosphere pretty stressful.  And yet, I can’t remember when I had so much fun.  I looked forward to going to work every day and was so wrapped up in it that I found myself still at my desk at 9pm, my hand clenched so hard around my mouse that I couldn’t flex my fingers.  I never wanted it to end but sadly it did.  My goal is to get back to that frantic pace and insanity because, weirdly enough, that’s where I think I function best.  So, good luck to me.

Tell me about your best job and what made it so rewarding to you.  And thank someone whose job it was to help you today, including your gas station attendant (if you live in NJ) or the waitress or the handyman who is going to help you hook up your dishwasher.

All work has dignity.  All workers deserve respect.

Happy Labor Day!

Arrogance, Insanity and Sociopaths

Back to the basement for more disinfecting, etc.  In the meantime, I’ve been checking out videos of Varna award winners.  The International Ballet Competition at Varna, Bulgaria every year attracts the best and brightest in the ballet world.  These young dancers go on to professional careers as principal dancers in companies all over the world.  And some of them still look like they’re having fun years later.  Here’s Michele Wiles, former Varna winner and principal dancer at ABT, checking out a slow motion camera:

I love to see people doing what they love with intensity and passion.  When they have obvious gifts, it’s hard not to be fascinated with them.  People who have a vision, perserverence and a fanatical devotion to perfection are charismatic and it’s easier to tolerate their faults.

Take Steve Jobs, for example.  The CEO of Apple recently stepped down presumably because his health was getting in the way of his work.  That must be maddeningly frustrating for a guy at the top of his field at a very creative period of his life.  Joe Nocera has a column in the NYTimes that describes Jobs’ working style and his less than diplomatic management style:

 The businessman I met 25 years ago violated every rule of management. He was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager. He had an astonishing aesthetic sense, which businesspeople almost always lack. He could be absolutely brutal in meetings: I watched him eviscerate staff members for their “bozo ideas.”

The Steve Jobs I watched that week was arrogant, sarcastic, thoughtful, learned, paranoid and “insanely” (to use one of his favorite words) charismatic.

The Steve Jobs the rest of the world has gotten to know in the nearly 15 years since he returned to Apple is no different. He never mellowed, never let up on Apple employees, never stopped relying on his singular instincts in making decisions about how Apple products should look and how they should work. Just a few months ago, Fortune published an article about life inside Apple; it opened with an anecdote in which Jobs cut his staff to ribbons for putting out a product that failed to meet his standards. But his instincts have been so unerringly good — and his charisma so powerful — that Apple employees were willing to follow him wherever he led. Apple will miss those instincts.

The guy never mellowed.

Atrios wrote today about sociopaths, the politicians whose goal seems to just get elected and don’t really care about stuff.  It’s hard to know whether he’s referring to the current Republican slate or Obama himself.  I’m not sure these people are sociopaths.  That would require a charm offensive of some sort and from where I sit, none of the people running for president so far have an excess of sociopathic charm.  The Obama contingent of 2008 were clearly mesmerized by something else because, trust me, guys, he wasn’t at all charismatic in 2008.  Obama’s success derived from a slick marketing campaign with a clever aspirational appeal and not from any intrinsic strengths or gifts on the part of the candidate.

We could take a lesson from Jobs.  Charisma comes not from some syrupy appeal to bipartisanship or the reflected light of the thousands of upturned faces of Christian fanatics.  It comes from the drive to produce something new and different, something that no one has ever seen before, something that will hit the reset switch of what is expected.  People like Jobs don’t like compromise, especially when that compromise interferes with the idea in their heads.  That is what makes a leader.  A leader can afford to be a little arrogant and demanding.  Leaders are out in front.  They shift to a higher energy level and expect us to keep up with them.

What we’ve got here in the presidential candidates of 2012 is not so much a collection of sociopaths but a bunch of uninspiring radical conformists.  They aspire to nothing, they pander to all.  They are no leaders.  The sociopaths are the ones standing behind them.  There’s not much we can do about the Republican slate of candidates.  The whole party is speaking a different language and lives in a parallel universe.  The Democrats are a whole other story.  It’s still possible to take this campaign season up to a new energy level.

Think Different.

Touchy, Touchy

I'm sorry, what was the question again?

I’m resurfacing a bit after the Big Basement Cleanup.  Still waiting for the claims adjuster to take a look around and tell me the damage.  AND, since the countertop was installed yesterday, I get to hook up my faucet, garbage disposal and dishwasher.  I know what you’re thinking.  The DIYer who installs her own dishwasher has a fool for a plumber.  But I have no choice.  It’s either this or cha-ching!

I noticed that the left blogosphere is still reverberating over the Momentous Job Package Announcement Scheduling Crisis from a couple of days ago.  Markos is starting to sound hysterical and tenderly refers to us as an “idiot fringe”* ,  ThereIsNoSpoon is analytical, as usual, and I’ve even had a twitter follower drop me over a couple comments I made when technically I agreed with him.  Oh, well, I’ve been losing friends since 2008.  I’m getting used to it.

But it looks like the unravelling of the Obama presidency is happening so rapidly that his former supporters have not had time to adjust.  For the record, I don’t think the scheduling thing was that big a deal.  It happens all of the time at work.  You check their outlook calendar and send an appointment, the recipient ignores it and you have to send another.  By this time, the date has been booked and you have to negotiate another.  No biggy.

What *is* a big deal is the way the media is handling this.  This is what I think is throwing the Obama contingent.  Up to pretty recently, the media wasn’t nit-picking.  It’s the harping on the minutiae that brings down a politician.  The constant fault finding, the mountains out of molehills, the inability to let it go.  God forbid there’s a scandal waiting in the wings.  It might be a reappearance of Tony Rezko or an agreement between the administration and some hated industry or maybe the media will finally get around to covering the 2008 Democratic primary and convention.  But, whatever, the media has turned on Obama and not just the conservative nutcases on Fox.

The Obama contingent could tolerate the Clintonistas as long as the media was still sort of on Obama’s side.  As long as he wasn’t getting the Hillary or Al Gore treatment from the NYTimes, he had a fighting chance.  Without that little bit of protection, every move he makes will be amplified.  When the media starts making your guy look like a loser, he’s in trouble. You know how it goes. You can’t pick out the color of your clothing without calculating the impact it will have on the Sensitive New Age voter.   You say that someone has been telling a fairy tale and suddenly you’re accused of being a racist.  Or you say something about Bobby Kennedy not clinching the nomination until late in the primary season and everybody goes nuts accusing you of threatening to off your opponent.   Crazy s%^& like that.  Every move, every syllable, every action is scrutinized for malevolence and dark meaning.  It’s all packaged up to make the politician look as bad, weak, imcompetent, spoiled, shallow and stupid as possible.  And if that’s what’s happening, then we very well may be looking at President Perry in 2012.  Am I right, guys?

It is disturbing, isn’t it?  The guy just looks vulnerable, doesn’t he?  He can’t catch his breath.  Yes, now he’s going to have to run a real campaign and he won’t have the media picking him up ever so gently and carrying him over the finish line.  You can blame the “horse race” tactics and insider journalism that Jay Rosen has been railing against lately.  Maybe the NYTimes wants a genuine fight to the finish.  The rest of us want jobs but red meat competition is what we’re going to get.

Or maybe the editorial boards have realized they installed the wrong guy.  You have to wonder what was going through the mind of the journalist who just a few days ago asked the press secretary if he thought Hillary was going to primary Obama.  *I* didn’t ask it.  After all, I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that it is crazy, insane, and a fantasy.  And I’m sure that the left blogosphere was able to happily ignore me until this last round of bad optics.  But now that it looks like he’s vulnerable, I’m suddenly more irritating than I was before?

Does the concept of Hillary joining the race make the Obama contingent uncomfortable?  Or are they going to hold the nomination hostage and scream “Mine! Mine! Mine!” until we put them in time out? Are they starting to think that they need an alternative and Hillary *does* look like the most likely candidate after all?  Have they figured out that a primary would be good for the party by forcing it to reconnect with it’s more liberal and New Deal base?  Can they swallow the bitter bile of their over-the-top vehemence towards her in 2008 and learn to live with her limitations in exchange for a more skillful and principled Democrat?  Nahhhhh.

I can’t get inside the head of an Obama supporter and I’m happy about that because if I could, I suspect it would be a very scary place where the AntiChrist looks something like Michelle Bachmann.  They’ll never change until they feel personally betrayed and disillusioned by Obama.  Right now, they seem to be really angry and are lashing out at the people they kicked three years ago.  If it makes them feel better, so be it.  We’re used to the abuse.  But it won’t fix the problem and it’s not going to make us give Obama our votes.  He’s still in the White House, the Democrats are charging towards a cliff with us chained to him and the media is going to assist in any way it can.

Feeling better?

* Ah, Markos, sounding just like a party loyalist, always ready to insult the regular voters and ignore their, you know, votes.  Because, after all, we can’t let the “idiot fringe” have a primary.  Obama might lose and someone like Hillary might win and that would be a really, really bad thing because, because… it is written!  So, there, you stupid primary fantasists.  Yep, according to Markos, Obama *must* be re-elected to four more years as a lame duck president because, presumably, Obama is the absolute best candidate the Democrats have.  It simply does not get any better than Obama and, by golly, even if there *was* someone more appealing that voters wanted more, the party is not going to let you have him or her because Obama simply is the creme de la creme of the Democratic party and he is entitled to your vote so get in line.  Yes, that is a winning campaign message.

More stuff:

On Virtually Speaking Susie on Tuesday, Susie suggested that the reason the Democrats are backing Obama in 2012 is because they need the African-American vote.  I don’t know if that’s true or not but the Democrats are having problems with women this go around.  And women are a much bigger contingent of the party than African Americans are.  So, I’m predicting that they have a more complex problem on their hands in 2012 than they would like to admit and the only reason they continue with Obama at this point is because they don’t want the Republicans to see them sweat.  Hillary as VP will not help the Democrats.  As long as Obama’s guys are still running the party, she would be deep sixed as VP and every woman in the country will know it.  Biden who?

So, Wall Street is having a bad day because of the jobs report.  Normally, Wall Street LOVES it when there are layoffs.  But at some point, those fund managers must be wondering who’s going to be depositing the funds they are supposed to be managing or buy the stuff made by the companies they invested in.

Weird Irene Side Effects:  I lost my apple modem in the Great Basement Deluge so I went to the local mall to buy another one at the apple store.  But when I got there, half of the mall had no power.  No, literally half.  One side of the mall was going about its business, every store lit up.  The other exact half on the other side of the main promenade was completely dark.  Same building, different halves.  It would be having power in only the right side of your house but not the left and no switch flipping at the fuse box would fix it.

So, we have to wait until tonight to get a new modem, if we can only get to the mall.  It seems like only one side of the road to it is working as well.  Funny lookin’.