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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 25, 2019 by Tony Wikrent Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy Give No Heed to the Walking Dead [The Scholar’s Stage, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19] The People’s Republic of China is wealthier than any rival America has faced. Its leaders are convinced […]
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Iraq: The project that will not die

Open Carry extremists in Texas

Open Carry extremists in Texas

The first significant split I had with my brother happened over Iraq.  That’s because he was struck with temporary moronity  propagated by Fox News that trickled down to all of the other media outlets by what I suspect was a small evil group of psy-ops specialists.

It’s hard to be the only scientist in the family.  I’m sure I sounded like some unpleasant klaxon harshing the “let’s go kick some Haji ass!” mellow.  Everyone in America seemed to be on the same team.  There was no talking to them. There was no proof that there were WMDs in the desert.  There was no evidence for a nuclear weapons industry.  And you could be damn sure that if there was oil to be had there, it was going to be hoarded by the companies who went in there to get it.  That last one was a particularly difficult concept to get across.  They just didn’t understand WHY you would want to withhold oil from the global market.  It just sounded crazy.

So, now Iraq is falling apart and Obama wants to sit on the sidelines and let it happen.  In a way, that’s understandable.  It wasn’t his war.  He didn’t start it.  Also, he supposedly gave a speech about it that no one can find a record of.  And there’s that Nobel he needs to live up to.

But part of the responsibilities of being the leader of the free world is having to do some pretty unpleasant things.  I never thought that the president that took over from Bush in 2008 was going to be able to walk out of Iraq on the first day.  You don’t have to be a “war monger” to realize that stabilizing a country that has been deliberately de-stabilized by a bunch of ideological and greedy nut cases is a top priority.

But I get the feeling that the Obama campaign never got over its campaign mindset.  It’s been all about being the fricking cock-on-the-walk and controlling the foreign policy to the point of strangulation lest a political rival look good.  What followed was not a serious commitment to responsible behavior  but a couple of announcements that the war was over even though the country is still a chaotic mess.  I’m as disappointed with some of the pacifism at all costs people on the left as I am with the haji-kickers on the right.  Getting out of Iraq was never going to be easy and not laying the ground work for doing so carefully is going to hurt all of us.

For one thing, we can all expect gas prices to spike now.  Yep, it’s going to happen.  And if we are on a saddle point of plunging back into recession, this is certainly going to help that along.  When oil spikes, everything gets more expensive.  Poorer people are already wondering where they’re going to get the money to feed their kids.  Imagine how that’s going to go when the already high cost of food goes even higher.  How do you get to work?  What’s going to happen to the industries that rely on tourism?

But that’s a little selfish whining from some first world citizen, right?  I mean, how would you like to be a Kurd watching as the US prepares to screw you over again 30 years later?  Or any Iraqi really who lived through the last 10 years?  And if there weren’t religious extremists in the country 10 years ago, there sure are now because there is nothing that will create dangerous extremism better than instability and economic hardship.

There’s a warning there for Americans but we’ll probably be too distracted and hypnotized to realize what it is before it’s too late.

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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.

Thursday: Here it comes

UpdateII: If you’re an ex-pharma scientist who has been laid off recently (and who in central NJ isn’t?) you really have to read this post on In the Pipeline about what Pharmaceutical CEOs really think of you.  It’s about Chris Viehbacher of Sanofi (waving “Hi!” to all the ex-sanofi people).  I’m past the stage where this kind of thing strikes me as anything but unintentional humor.  But people who actually care about preserving what’s left of research in this country and how long and hard researchers work only to be misused and discarded by the bonus class, should take note.  Pretty soon, all you’re going to be able to buy are overpriced generics.  No new drug entities will be coming out of drug discovery because there won’t *be* any drug discovery.  No one will want to work under these conditions.  This is the clearest explanation of how the bonus class wants to turn professionals into precariats that I’ve ever read and it’s coming to a workplace near you.

Update: Andrew Breitbart is dead.  He was 43.  Fox News is reporting that he died of natural causes but there’s nothing natural about dying at 43.  I’m going with apoplexy.  This must be very unexpected and sad for his family.  Or maybe not.  Rageaholics tend to be difficult.  Maybe his blood vessels just refused to cooperate any longer.  Let this be a lesson to Glenn Beck.

The Republicans have us in a vise and now they’re going to start turning the screws.  The NY Times reports today that speculators are going to push gas prices to over $5/gallon this summer. That’s going to wreck further havoc on the economy:

HOUSTON — Gasoline for $5 a gallon? The possibility is hardly far-fetched.

With no clear end to tensions withIran and Syria and rising demand from countries like China, gas prices are already at record highs for the winter months — averaging $4.32 in California and $3.73 a gallon nationally on Wednesday, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. As summer approaches, demand for gasoline rises, typically pushing prices up around 20 cents a gallon.

And gas prices could rise another 50 cents a gallon or more, analysts say, if the diplomatic and economic standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions escalates into military conflict or there is some other major supply disruption.

“If we get some kind of explosion — like an Israeli attack or some local Iranian revolutionary guard decides to take matters in his own hands and attacks a tanker — than we’d see oil prices push up 20 to 25 percent higher and another 50 cents a gallon at the pump,” said Michael C. Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research.

For the typical driver who pumps 60 gallons a month of regular unleaded gasoline, a 50-cent increase in price means an extra expense of $30 a month.

Ooo, can’t you just feel Michael Lynch squirming with delicious anticipation at the prospect of explosions in the Strait of Hormuz?  Hey, kiddies, do you remember the first oil crisis in the 70s when people were stealing gas from each others cars and gas was rationed?  Remember the line of cars around the block to the gas station early in the morning?  Remember when Daylight Savings Time was extended into the winter and we trudged to school in the snow in the dark?  Were those good times or what?

Now, before people go off half cocked about Iran, understand that this has absolutely nothing to do with Iran.  Iran is just an excuse to push up gas prices.  The oilmen need some kind of cover for the politically motivated cruelty they’re about to impose.  They’re probably counting on the left to take the bait and have a shit fit over Iran, because lefties don’t think this out any better than average Americans who just want to get to work without spending half of the grocery budget.  The average American doesn’t have time to investigate all of the causes of the spike in gas prices that is severely impacting their lives.  Who are they going to believe anyway?  You can’t trust the NY Times.  Remember what they did on the Iraq War.  No, it’s just going to look bad for Obama.  Why can’t he *do* something?

But gas is just part of it.  There are all of the downstream industries that rely on transportation.  The price of everything is going to go up, particularly food.  And since the Lesser Depression started, there are a lot more people struggling on smaller incomes and significantly smaller salaries.  It’s going to hurt.

What *is* Obama going to do?  He wasn’t particularly good at dealing with the bankers when they threatened domestic terrorism.  They pretty much got everything they wanted.  We footed the bill to bail them out.  And Obama’s going to be dealing with a Congress that’s going to be campaigning during the summer.  A hostile House isn’t going to want to cooperate by punishing the speculators.  They’ll just point to Iran and Obama when their constituents start screaming about gas prices.  And it will work.

It doesn’t matter who is in charge when the pain is inflicted, it’s going to look bad for them.  Gas prices are just the tip of the iceberg.  You can bet the Republicans have a lot more up their sleeves.  And in a way, you can’t really blame voters for reacting as they will.  Obama is in charge and he’s shown over and over again that he’s completely useless in alleviating misery.  Maybe another president would have handled this differently but we’re stuck with Obama.  And voters are bound to feel like they were betrayed.  They went to the polls in 2008 to elect a Democrat and instead got a guy who’s not really comfortable with party labels.  He’s into conciliation and negotiation with the interested parties in private conference rooms away from the public.  Let’s not get the legislative process involved here.  It’s too messy and real people will get involved.

Just because I can see what the Republicans are up to doesn’t mean I approve of Republicans.  But politics has devolved from public service to a vicious “winner takes all” game.  And in this kind of environment, it doesn’t help that your champion is a guy who has no idea how to play.

As Olympia Snowe suggested yesterday about her retirement, these kinds of maneuvers are meant to corner the opposition:

“Everybody’s got to rethink how we approach legislating and governance in the United States Senate,” Ms. Snowe said in an interview on Wednesday. She shook her head at how “we’ve miniaturized the process in the United States Senate,” no longer allowing lawmakers to shape or change legislation and turning every vote into a take-it-or-leave-it showdown intended to embarrass the opposition.

The target is Obama, the rest of us are collateral damage.  I’m sick of this game and ready to take my ball and go home.

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

Speaking of that Times article on Olympia Snowe’s retirement, we have the writers lamenting the demise of the centrists in the Senate:

Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the senator often considered the most conservative Democrat, and Ms. Snowe, seen as the most liberal Republican, will both be gone next year, as will Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent who left a Democratic Party that would not tolerate his pro-Iraq war stand. They follow a parade of centrists out the Senate doors in recent years, including the Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh; a Republican-turned-Democrat, Arlen Specter; and two Republicans-turned-independents, James M. Jeffords and Mr. Chafee.

You know, none of us Democrats or Democrats in Exile are wasting any sleep on the imminent departure of Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson or recent departure of Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh.  They were part of the problem, always trotted out to broker a deal just before some vote where Democrats were expected by their constituency to take a principled stand.  And for years now, Democratic voters have been fighting with their party leadership about what direction the party is going to go.  Arlen Specter is a perfect example of this.  The Democrats would rather back a former Republican than put all of their resources backing the guy who actually won the primary.  A similar thing happened with Hillary in 2008 where she was constantly undermined by her own party apparatus who very clearly had its thumb on the scales for Obama.  The party leadership has a bad habit of punishing the voters who insist on actually, you know, voting. As the years roll on, they’re giving us fewer and fewer reasons to go to the polls.

This health care amendment of Blunts should be an interesting one to watch.  How many Democrats are going to defect to pass it, allowing religious employers to start making exemptions for things they don’t like?  Will the Jehovah’s Witnesses stop covering life saving blood transfusions?  Will Christian Scientists stop covering everything?  What about Scientology’s conscience when it comes to psychology?  Will bipolar, schizophrenic and depressed patients now have to get their engrams expunged in place of prescription drugs?

Blunt’s bill is just another wedge issue.  It’s a way to test the Democrats and separate them from one of their constituent bases.  Will they cave to the religious and screw women or will they uphold the principle of separation of church and state in favor of the hussies?  Stay tuned.

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

Jay Ackroyd praises Amanda Marcotte’s defense of women’s sexuality even though it is inconsistent with Amanda’s well known toadying for Barack Obama, a man who thinks women should have their menfolk and pastors weigh in on whether or not to have an abortion.  Let’s remember that Amanda passed on the woman in 2008 who was the staunchest defender of women’s rights and sexuality.  Delusions of hipness and loyalty to a party tends to override Amanda’s loyalty to her own sex no matter how much lip service she gives.  If Barack Obama and the Democrats think they can win this election by appealing to the religious and limiting women’s sexuality, they’ll do it in a heartbeat.  If you want progress on defending women’s sexuality from unwanted intrusion, it’s not the Republicans you have to warn people against.  They already know THAT enemy.  It’s the wishy washy, compromising pols of the Democratic party who are our worst enemies.

How much do you want to bet that if Obama signs a bill that includes Blunt’s amendment, Amanda will think up some excuse to deflect anger over Obama’s capitulation to the religionists at the expense of women’s sexuality?  It’s only meaningful if Amanda turns her back on Obama and Democrats like him, which she will never do.  She’s just a cowardly apologist whose actions do not match the power of her prose.

Jay, don’t be a Doormat Democrat like Amanda.

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

This new Trustus Pharmaceuticals episode would be funnier if job counselors weren’t advising laid off scientists to get certification in all of this trendy MBA nonsense. This is the wave of the future:

Domo ariegato, Bitch!

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

It has come to my attention that the forces of evil are spreading rumors that this site originated the birther movement.  I don’t particularly care for having to climb the water tower with a bucket of paint in order to defend our honor but nothing could be farther from the truth where birtherism is concerned.  We have always said that birtherism had no basis in reality and that people who insisted that it did were not welcome here.  It’s true.  You can comb through our archives.  We’ve told birthers that they’re wasting their time and that it doesn’t matter if your father was Osama bin Laden himself, if you were born in the US, you have a shot at the Oval Office.  Anyone who says otherwise is cracked.  And anyone who refuses to believe that the birth certificate that Obama produced was sufficient evidence of his natural citizenship without having a similar shit fit about any other politician they don’t like, is a hypocrite.  We asked PUMAs to focus on policies and behaviors that we could actually measure because there was plenty of material to work with in that regard that didn’t require an elaborate conspiracy theory.  Sorry, that’s the way I see it and have always seen it.

By the way, PUMA just means Party Unity My Ass.  It was an expression of disgust with the way the 2008 primaries were conducted to eliminate more than half of the Democratic base from participation.   It wasn’t ultra leftist at this site.  We’ve always said we’re FDR style Democrats in Exile.  I’m not sure there are any ultra leftists left in politics these days. I mean, what is that?  Pol Pot?

I’m betting that there are a lot of Democrats who have watched the last four years of anemic “leadership” from Obama who regret getting on our case in 2008, though they will never admit it in a zillion years.  As the saying goes, “One step ahead makes you a leader, two steps ahead makes you a martyr”.

Psychopathic Cruelty

Atrios says that the oilmen are about to raise prices on gas again.  Let me guess, it’s the Iran thing, isn’t it?  The speculators are going crazy with delight.  Let’s just rattle some swords and make the Persian Gulf look all dangerous.

Or is it the refineries again?  They need to be scrubbed or something.

Whatever it is, one things is for sure.  It’s going to bite.  It will have a devastating impact on the economy.  Transportation will become more expensive and the cost of everything we eat will start to spike too.  All this and we still have a lot of people out of work pinching their pennies.  Fueling up is going to cost a lot of what we don’t have.

All of this to put the thumbs to the American public until we scream uncle.  I guess we were just too resilient.  We’re all just hanging in there until after the election, hoping things will start to turn around, doing our best Grapes of Wrath imitation.  They can’t have that.  They need to inflict real pain.  They need us to be so angry at the feckless Democrats that we turn on them.  Good!  Let’s see how long the Democrats are willing to stick with their current line up.

But for the rest of us, especially those of us who are unemployed, this really sucks and it’s cruel.  The people who have hoarded the oil are cruel.

What astonishes me is how many people on the right seem to think that we went to Iraq to get cheap oil.  Noooo, people.  This is not why we went to Iraq.  We went to Iraq so that the oilmen could keep oil off the market.  They are keeping it to themselves in order to make money and to manipulate a country that is dependent on it.  Why do you think there is all this pushback about global warming?  If we all changed to electric vehicles and solar power, how the heck are they going to extort us for money and political advantage?  You’ve been had.

And this is just in from Derek Lowe of In the Pipeline.  For the last several years, the pharmas have been shutting down business in places like NJ and PA, and moving a handful of scientists, the “best of the best”, as they say, to Massachusetts.  This weekend, Pfizer decided to lay off 40 of them.  So, now, even the best of the best in MA are getting the ax.  That’s bad news for the people who were already moved from their homes in Collegeville, PA to Massachusetts.  Relocation followed by unemployment.  Not good.  In fact, it’s just more cruelty to those families whose whole lives were uprooted, kids and all, only to be told that their projects are to be stopped and they’re out of a job.  They join the rest of the dispossessed in a precariot existence, bouncing from job to job with fewer and fewer benefits and domestic stability.

Now, you Doormat Democrats can wail and gnash your teeth about how terrible the Republicans are and will be and woe is us.  But I would remind you that all of this has taken place on Obama’s watch and much of it during the first two years when there wasn’t a thing to stop Democrats from reinstating the New Deal and then some.

Face up to it: The Democrats are a complete and utter failure.  I don’t like it either but that’s reality.  I’m no fan of Republicans and wouldn’t recommend anyone vote for one but for gawd’s sakes, stop being such fricking Doormat Democrats.  The squeeze is on and real people are getting hurt out here.  Stop giving Obama a pass and all this praise for having mass and taking up space.  He’s a complete failure and it’s not going to get better in term two.  If anything, it’s going to get worse.

Get angry for once.

The summer we gave all our money for gas: How high can it go?

I get stopped at a certain corner every morning giving me plenty of time to look at the price of gas on the sign there. And I swear, it’s going up at least 3¢ a day — and it has for weeks. Last time I filled my tiny gas tank, I paid $35 the last time I filled up. Gas has gone up nearly 20¢ a gallon since then (shaking my head).

Hillary has Plan to Address Soaring Prices at the Pump

Americans are being squeezed at the pump like never before. The price of oil is approaching $120 a barrel. Gas is at a record high in North Carolina of $3.59, up from $3.26 a month ago and $2.90 a year ago, a 23 percent increase in just one year. And while the average family’s energy costs have gone up $2,000 a year since President Bush took office, average North Carolina family incomes have fallen by almost $5,000. Record oil prices are contributing to higher energy prices, food prices and a squeeze that is making many middle class families feel like they are falling further behind. American families are hurting now. They need a President who will focus every day on ensuring that they can make ends meet. That is why today, Hillary is unveiling her aggressive plan to address the problem of skyrocketing gas prices. Hillary’s plan includes:

  • Imposing a windfall profits tax on oil companies and using the money to suspend the gas tax for the peak summer months;
  • Closing $7.5 billion in oil and gas loopholes and using the funds to provide assistance for lower-income families to pay their energy and grocery bills;
  • Cracking down on speculation by energy traders and market manipulation in oil and gas markets that are driving up the price of oil by at least $20 a barrel;
  • Pressuring OPEC to increase oil production, including by filing a WTO complaint against OPEC countries
  • Stopping new additions to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and standing ready to release oil to counter market spikes and reduce volatility.

This plan builds on Hillary’s long-term plan to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and address global warming. She has committed moving America towards energy independence by cutting foreign oil imports by two-thirds from 2030 projected levels, more than 10 million barrels per day. (read the full plan)

But Obama isn’t quite so concerned.

Clinton highlights Obama’s objection to gas tax holiday

Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday criticized Barack Obama for opposing the concept of suspending the gas tax during the peak summer driving months, a plan both she and Republican John McCain have endorsed.

The idea to suspend the 18.4 cent federal gas tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day was first proposed by McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, as a way to ease the economic burden for consumers during the summer.

Obama does not support the “gas tax holiday” and has said the average motorist would not benefit significantly from such a suspension; by some estimates, the federal government would lose about $10 billion in revenue.

“My opponent, Senator Obama, opposes giving consumers a break,” Clinton said, campaigning in North Carolina. “I understand the American people need some relief.”

Clinton said she would make up the difference in revenue by imposing a “windfall profits tax” on oil companies.

I think this is a good chance for the candidates to prove they can work across the aisle. But, maybe he thinks working with McCain would be a sign of weakness? Hillary’s fearless though. The idea might have started with McCain but, she found a way to make it work within her plan. She keeps coming up with ideas even while she’s running for president. Her responsibilities aren’t on hold for the campaign.

It’s so nice to know that more and more voters are appreciating her message.