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      So, while it generally takes two quarters for a recession to be so-called, it may be that the recession is here. Let us recap the non-recessionary period: The percentage of people employed in the US never recovered; More than the total amount of growth went to the top four percent or so, with most of [...]
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Presidential Campaign 2016 Kickoff: Ted Cruz, Hillary/Obama redux, notes on focus groups

Ahhh, campaign season. I guess we are officially in it now that Ted Cruz is going to announce. I don’t have much more to say about Cruz except that he is typical of his clan and will probably fluff the panties of the typical conformist, senior “I-got-mine-fend-for-yourself”, moralizing, judgmental, creationist conservative Fox News viewer. If there is anyone who has a different point of view, add it to the comments section.

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

Yesterday, commenter Perplexed left the kind of comment we have been dealing with for about seven years on his here blog. It was along the lines of blaming Bill Clinton for NAFTA (the deal was written by the time he took office. He tried unsuccessfully to get labor protections) and the financial catastrophe (for the record, the roll back of Glass Steagall was accomplished by an OVERWHELMING, veto proof majority in Congress. It was the Gramm-Leach bill, or something like that. Clinton couldn’t have stopped that train if he tried.). It is worth noting that Bill Clinton has said publicly that he regrets listening to some of his economic advisors. I’m guessing he particularly regrets the Summers and Geithner partnership that suppressed the warnings of Brooksley Born. I could go over other areas that I think the left protests too much in Bill Clinton’s record. He wasn’t perfect but he was the best president I have ever voted for and I don’t regret voting for him- twice.

But as for what happened in 2008 and why I think there WAS a difference between Hillary and Obama, I do have something to add. (By the way, I don’t buy the left’s facile excuses for why they preferred Obama over Clinton. These include, 1.) there was no difference between them 2.) We decided to let Obama go first and then Hillary and 3.) he ran an awesomer campaign. This is all bullshit. The real answer was Obama’s campaign donors offered the Democratic party more money for the following reasons.):

I think I understand your perplexity. Over the past 7 years, I’ve gone over this territory quite a number of times. I’m not going to go over it in detail today. But I do want to talk about something I think is the key to the whole Hillary/Obama mystery. There is genuine value in experience. A person who has spent a lot of time in government in various capacities has a lot of it. When we talk about the Clintons, we are talking about years of accumulated experience in many different areas and two major branches of government. We are talking about people who have done statewide politics and federal politics. They have foreign policy experience and legislative experience. Think of the first job you ever had. Now, think about all of the things you have learned since then. What you are today is a product of the opportunities you were presented, the risks you took, the envelopes you pushed. At one time, all these things were outside your comfort zone. But you either taught yourself on the job or you got an education or you learned from the experience of others. And with experience and accumulated knowledge and colleagues that you’ve known and worked with, comes power. For the Clintons, that power is substantial. They didn’t come into Washington knowing everything but they know quite a bit now.
Back in 2008, the financiers had a choice of two candidates to back. One had experience, a mentor, and a lot of mojo. That person would have known how to stand up for herself and which buttons to push, who to call and what to look for. She wouldn’t have been easy to control.
The other was a senator from Illinois with less than a single term to his name in Washington. He’d never worked on major legislation and all of the friends he had in Washington were bought for him.
If you were a big money entity and you saw a looming catastrophe coming at you and you wanted to make sure you controlled what happened to you, which one would you choose?

That’s it in a nutshell and something the right will ponder and roll around in its collective hive mind. That’s a pretty powerful motive to vote for someone. You could make a case that the political dwarfs that the right is planning to roll out won’t hold a candle to Hillary’s accomplishments and experience. Which brings me to my next point:

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Notes on Focus Groups

If you are a writer or commenter on a political blog, your comments and writings will be mined for information about what makes you tick, the strength of your arguments and trigger words. The right does it and the left does it. They might even float someone over to ask a particular question in order to gather information. They will use this information to shape a narrative or crush your point of view. It happens.

This is all normal. Do not let it bother you.

It goes without saying that we do not disclose your email address or any other personal information to any entity. We’re not into that. We believe in privacy.

But don’t be surprised if you find that something you followed here or on another lefty or independent blog gets warped or exploited in ways you find unexpected. This is campaign season. It is what it is.

Other than that, feel free to contradict your own side. The left got pretty good at psychological manipulation in 2008. We like to poke holes in consensus reality. You’ll be safe here.

No need for apologetics

Oh, my!  Hillary has astounded the left blogosphere again.  She hasn’t backed off on her “war hawkishness” and for the first time in 6 years, she has actually defied the White House and admitted that their foreign policy was full of holes.  So, now all of the left’s assessment of her is proven true, TRUE, I say!  She would have taken us into a new war had she been president, she wouldn’t have stopped with earth, she would have declared it on the Martians and then where would we be?  I can almost see the caricature Hillarys filling the souvenir shelves in 2016, hair standing on end and eyes wild and terrifying like some older, plumper version of Galadriel on ring steroids.

Will you people get a grip?  You’re starting to remind me of the right.  Yeah, I went there.  Those people are black/white thinkers without nuance. The left’s absolutism when it comes to war and pacifism is starting to resemble that.  I’m not apologizing for Hillary.  You can go back to her senate days until the present and really read what she’s said to figure out where she stands.  She’s allowed to be wrong.  God knows, the left is extremely forgiving of other politicians who were much wronger than Hillary.  John Kerry and John Edwards were given free passes and they were clearly motivated by politics.  But she’s also allowed to be right and we have to look at the bigger picture of the globe and our unfortunate and damning dependence on oil to see what might be going on here.

In the last couple of weeks, I have wondered why it is that this region of the world is still so tribal, why authoritarian religion has such a grip on the inhabitants, why it hasn’t allowed them to evolve and who is behind all that religious hierarchy.  I mean, why is it concentrated so heavily in the area where oil is located and where there are global chokepoints to the flow of oil and other goods?  You’d think that living in such a strategic area of the world that these people would have a better standard of living than they do.  Why aren’t the best minds coming from the middle east?  Why are so many of them poor?  What is the connection of religion to power and which side is wielding it?  I’m sure there are papers on the subject. But it’s not my area and I’m dissatisfied and embarrassed by the shallowness of the discourse on the left when it comes to these questions.  All I ever hear is, “why are we there?”, “why are we spending money to bomb other countries?”, “when can we get out?”, “get out now!, Now!, Now!” and “See, that was a waste, they’re back to killing each other”.

Back in 2008, I tried to warn people over at DailyKos and here that getting out of Iraq wasn’t going to be easy and shouldn’t be rushed.  The Bushies went to Iraq to steal and experiment, and, in the course of that experimentation, trashed the place.  Pulling out was going to be destabilizing and we were probably going to have to stay longer whether we liked it or not.  And what happened?  The White House, ever in campaign mode, pulled out without stabilizing before the 2012 election and the place fell apart.  (See this Frontline episode on Losing Iraq.  The evidence damns the Bushies and the Obama administration.)

I keep coming back to responsibility.  We on the left seem to think that if we didn’t want a war and didn’t start one, we are not responsible for what happens when one happens despite our protests.  And that’s just not true.  Whether we like it or not, we will be forever associated with the other fellow bone headed, stupid, mean spirited Americans who were lead over a cliff by a bunch of greedy, selfish, destructive global “citizens”.  What you might consider “war hawkishness” might be responsibility to me.  And it sucks to be the more conscientious elder sibling.  It’s so much easier to take the easy way out and enjoy the credit, while it lasts, for making everyone happy temporarily by disassociating from the war as quickly, and as it turns out, as recklessly as possible.  But getting out quickly didn’t make things better, did it?  That high was timed to last a campaign season and very little thought was given to the morning after the party.

If anything, the Arab Spring, the collapse of Iraq and the civil war in Syria has confirmed my initial assessment of the two candidates in 2008.  Clinton was rehab and Obama was an enabler.

The latter won.

Addendum:  Some dirty hippies completely discredited themselves in the last couple of election cycles and need to take an old cold tater and wait.

 

The Desolations of Smaugs

Gotta make this quick so I can bop down to the farmers’ market in East Liberty.

Here are two posts that belong together.  The first is about the crazy amount of money that the wealthy are just sitting on and not investing.  In The World’s Richest People are Sitting on Gigantic Piles of Cash that aren’t Earning them Anything, we get confirmation of what we have suspected for some time, that is, rich people are hoarding money.  But the reason they are hoarding makes no damn sense.  Apparently, the wealthy are waiting for a market correction before they dive back in to investing and since that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon, they’re going to sit on the cash.  Now, I can understand that feeling if you’re a poor schlub like me, hoarding the miserable little bit of IRA you have left after several years of employment insecurity.  It makes less sense if you’re a plutocrat with more money than god.

Hmmm, maybe we should be wondering why the wealthy think there is going to be a pullback.

The second is about the consequences of hoarding all that money.  When the shareholders demand more money and less investment, companies tend to shutter their facilities.  Recently, Hoffman-LaRoche in Nutley, NJ closed it’s doors and is preparing to dismantle the site.  When I was a young chemist a long, long time ago, I visited the Nutley campus.  Like many research facilities, it was more like a small town with a gatehouse and a shuttle that delivered the visitor to her destination.  Now that Roche has decided to stop doing research in the US because shareholder value (and Americans are notoriously easy to lay off since they have virtually no labor protections whatsoever), the Nutley facility is about to undergo a radical transformation.  If it is anything like my facility where the rent the company was demanding from small startups was prohibitively high, they probably won’t get many takers.

In other words, if some of the scientists they laid off decided to get together and try to operate one of the buildings as a small incubator, they wouldn’t be able to afford it.  And these days, vulture capitalists want a lot of the research done up front so they don’t actually have to risk any money at all.  That makes research on small scale even more difficult to finance.  Rent, reagents and researchers are expensive.  So, if Roche can’t get any takers to rent its empty labs, it may go the route of some of the other companies in similar circumstances and demolish perfectly serviceable, and in some cases, brand new research buildings, rather than keep them on the books.

Lovely.

One final thing, Hillary Clinton gave an interview to Terry Gross, former Obama fangirl extraordinaire, the other day.  It got a little testy about half way through when Gross started pushing her on same-sex marriage.  Hillary talks primarily about her four years as SOS and seems to think that Edward Snowden had other options to spill the beans.  I’d have to differ with her there though.  Snowden had superuser privileges.  Anything he revealed while he was still in the US would trace right back to him very quickly.  You don’t give su privileges to many people, or at least I don’t think the NSA and its contractors would.  I could be wrong about that.  It seems a little sloppy to allow one person to download massive amounts of information and have no one notice.

Given the reaction of the Obama administration to leakers, I think Snowden did the only thing he could have done and I’m not unhappy that he did it.  I meet people everyday who are pretty non-political who are keenly aware of what Snowden revealed and they are not happy to know that the government has so much information on them.  Until Snowden, the conversation about spying on Americans was tepid at best.  Hillary should know by now that timing is everything.  Snowden forced door open and let the sunshine in a lot more quickly than some politicians might have found convenient but he sure did get their attention, didn’t he?  No putting the genie back in the bottle now or slowing that genie down now.

Ok, enough with the foreign policy stuff.  What about domestic issues?  I want to hear about that now.  No time like the present.  Let’s not put it off any longer.

 

Katiebird asks “how did we get here?”

Update from GregT from the comments:

The Democratic Party has been the victim of a corporate takeover. It happened gradually at first, then completely in 2008. Instead of taking the direction wanted and needed by the public, the top-down infiltration of the party reached its climax in the spring of 2008 and steered clear of a corrective course. Barack Obama was a candidate not ready for prime time. No experience, no real knowledge of policy issues and no real interest in governing. But he was the quintessential yes man and Wall Street knew he would go easy on them. So the Street identified him as their preferred candidate . They used their money and their expertise in marketing to sell him to the voters. They probably got crossover help from the GOP that cycle. The Street knew Obama had potential as a ” pitch guy ” and so they played that up. Hillary Clinton was in the way, so she was vanquished to make room for the Great Savior. And even then,despite all that was done for him, he needed help to win the D primary and he needed the fall of Lehman to secure the presidency.

Those who voted for him in 08 have been used. Rather than admit it, too many have continued to support him long past the expiration date. The debate just proved it. He brought a knife to a gunfight because a knife is all he has. He wouldn’t be in his current job if he knew how to wield a gun.

That’s what happened.

And here is Quixote’s take from a different thread:

Dump your best candidate: get someone second rate. Deal with downstream consequences forever.

It reminds me of Krugman’s point that the reason the USA keeps veering away from single payer health care, starting in the late 1940s, is that there are too many white people who can’t stand the thought of black people getting some benefit from the program. Racism is the reason the country has this health care boat anchor around its economy, dragging the whole country down.

Well, in 2008 we had one more instance of too many people who couldn’t stand the thought of listening to a woman. The fact that she was the best person for the job didn’t enter into it. Sexism has always been a supertanker boat anchor dragging the country down, but 2008 was a critical time to go and necklace ourselves with it.

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

No, she is not referencing Talking Heads.

She’s asking how it could be that in 2008 we were desperate to elect a Democrat to roll back the conservative excesses of the Bush years and what we ended up with is a plan endorsed by BOTH candidates to screw anyone under the age of 60 out of their PRE-PAID Social Security and Medicare funds.  I think we can see from Wednesday night’s debate why it is that Obama has been so ineffective as president.  Maybe what we saw is the way he always is in negotiations with his opposition.  Scary thought, eh?  Now, he is a national joke after Wednesday’s performance.  Oh, he’ll look better next time but we can’t unsee what we’ve seen.  If he’s like this with the insurance industry, and Wall Street and the Tea Party conservatives, we are all well and truly fucked.

Basically, in 2008 we had a choice between rehab and co-dependency when it came to the financiers, who knew the crash was coming.  And the financiers chose the enabler and funded him.  It wouldn’t have worked except there is a peculiar tendency of Americans that the financiers and Obama’s campaign milked for all it was worth.  It worked.

How did they do it?  Here is the video that shows a big reason why we’re here.  Don’t misread this video.  It’s not a celebration or glorification of anyone.  It is a condemnation of the way Americans, and specifically a certain segment of Democrats, took leave of their senses and brought us to this point.  This kind of treatment went beyond anything Al Gore or John Kerry ever faced and should never happen to any candidate ever again.:

The choice was between the person who kept on going after the media and opposition told her to ditch all of her help and quit vs the guy who had a LOT of assistance from the media, the party and Wall Street and who was lifted and carried across the finish line.

We underestimated one candidate and overestimated the other.  And That, ladies and gentlemen, is why we are here.

Bashing Hillary was all fun and games until someone loses her birth control

This is the second time in about a week that Hillary Clinton has been photographed by her press entourage in a positive light. The first was the badass sunglasses on the plane Hillary, texting while a desk full of papers lay in front of her. That Hillary was darkly cool with an in-charge attitude and a rapier wit. This pic, well, it says to me that Hillary is someone you might like to have a beer with and Elspeth Reeve at theatlanticwire agrees:

Sixty-four-year-old Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was spotted downing beers and dancing in Colombia Sunday night, and people love her even more for it. Clinton, a dozen friends, and her bodyguards partied Sunday night at Cafe Havana in Cartagena at the close of the VI Summit of the Americas, the New York Post reports, and once upon a time, you could imagine these photos being viewed in a very negative light, considering the photos appeared as 11 Secret Service members are in trouble for bringing hookers to their hotel rooms in Colombia.

But that’s not the case this time. “Clinton letting her hair down is the kind of thing that would play well in that presidential run in 2016 that some of her supporters have suddenly started talking about in the last few weeks,” Politico’s Maggie Haberman writes. [Ah, yes, they would want to set our expectations for 2016 because they know it’s never going to happen]  Fox Nation treats the news warmly, saying, “In photos taken at the salsa hotspot, Mrs Clinton can be seen dancing with her hands in the air and swigging back a bottle of beer while surrounded by friends.” And the populist Post reports, “Clinton quickly proved she’s just a regular gal when it comes to drinking — she eschewed a glass and sucked down her Aguila pilsner cerveza straight from the bottle.”

Look, the people sitting next to her are smiling and appear to be having fun in an unforced manner. What’s up with that? Not only can you have a beer with her but she drinks straight from the bottle- like *I* do.

What gives, press corps?

20120416-140357.jpg

And where the f#%} were you four years ago?

Indulge me here: Hillary is to “corporatist” as Obama is to …

Obama at NH debate finds corporatist Hillary "likeable enough"

… what?

The reason we couldn’t have Hillary, according to the *it* bloggers, was that she was a corporatist, whatever that means. Now, I’m not stupid enough to assert that corporations are persons, as the USSC seems wont to do, but I do believe that we can coexist peacefully and that a savvy politician can help both corporations and real, live persons work together for a more prosperous America.

That’s not what we have here in the good old U. S. of A. anymore. The gulf oil spill has intensified our focus on the relationship between corporations and the Obama administration. What we have here is a failure to hold accountable. The lack of accountability has been a staple feature of the past 10 years. In fact, I think that’s what the whole deregulatory movement is all about: the ability to act with impunity. No one is accountable anymore for anything.

Now, we can blame this on the Republicans or the fact that the Big Dawg’s outgoing administration cut the deregulators some slack, perhaps assuming that Al Gore would win the presidency in 2000 and sew things back up. But how do we account for Obama’s failure to hold corporations accountable for their misdeeds well into the second year of his first term? Wasn’t that what the voters hired him to do? I think when voters heard him say “Change!”, they thought he meant setting things right and making the government work for them, putting the brakes on “irrational exuberance”, making the rich pay their fair share.

That’s not what we got. So, what *did* we get? If Hillary was the ultimate DLC loving “corporatist”, what is Obama?

Paul Rosenberg has an interesting post this morning that touches on this subject tangentially. It seems to me that Paul is finally coming around to what we have always thought about Obama. Obama is first and foremost pro-Obama. That is the driving principle by which he operates. In this respect, he is no different than any other power seeking executive. His eye is always on the next position above him. Getting there is his mission in life. Now, he’s there.

What did he plan to do once he got to be president of the United States? I suppose that like many people who wanted that spot, he had dreams of making a difference. The problem is that he had very little in the way of experience upon which to draw once he got there. Maybe he bought into the management culture where perceptions and expectations can be shaped. Maybe he really did think it was possible to relate to Republicans. I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. Any speculation at this point would be a continuation of the projection of goodness that got him into office in the first place.

But we can look at what he has done while he has been in office. And we can look at who he has used to forward whatever agenda he purports to have. (I don’t know what that agenda is because it isn’t very well articulated). From his deeds and his appointees, we can draw an early conclusion about Obama. And here it is:

He’s over his head.

It’s a complex nation. We are in an economic crisis. One of the major parties is determined to shred what little remains of the social safety net. Obama is either a willing participant or completely overwhelmed where this is concerned. I’m not sure the Republicans even know why they have to be so cruel as to remove all security from the working class. It’s like blood sport to them. There doesn’t have to be a reason. It’s simply who they are and what they believe. If their mindless enthusiasm were to affect one of their own family members, perhaps they would reconsider. But the rich and well-connected may only now be coming face to face with what they have wrought on their poorer cousins. Like rapacious grasshoppers, they’ve eaten their way through their storehouses and are now are thoughtlessly eating their seed corn in a frenzy of short term thinking and Obama is enabling them.

I think he’s weak. I think he hired Rahm Emannuel because he didn’t have enough time in Congress to know what levers to push to get things done. And if he didn’t have Rahm, he’d have to hire someone like him.

I don’t resent Obama taking his wife out on the taxpayer’s dime. I don’t begrudge him any perk of his office. Being president is hard, even for the guy who is over his head. Even in these tough economic times, it’s a good thing to show that you are committed to your wife and that you aren’t going to forego a little joy. Life goes on. I don’t think race has anything to do with his failure. Character is not fixed by a genetic mutation for melanin production. I think the birther issue is ridiculous and is racist in its formation. But in Obama, we have a man who jumped ahead in the queue not because he was African American but because he was unprepared. Ruthless ambition by the first viable African American politician for president was no excuse for abrogating the responsibility to do what was right for the country.

Would waiting until 2016 to run have made a difference for Obama? We’ll never know. But what is clear is that we ditched a politician with 16 years of executive knowledge and a thorough understanding of the mechanisms of government and how to work them. We turned our backs on a politician who came to every debate over-prepared. We humiliated a politician who was associated with the last successful presidency of our lifetime when our country needed a calm, level-headed leader. And we did it when the country could least afford to have an amateur in the Oval Office.

So, I just have to ask, now that the office has forced him to solidify out of the vapor that he was during the campaign of 2008, what is Obama? If Hillary was a “corporatist”, what is Obama?

Did he really say that?

I just got finished watching Hillary with George Stephanopolis and it was no cakewalk. George is as tough as O’Reilly but a whole lot smarter. Still, she did pretty well, I thought. She was relentlessly positive and even said it’s time to move on past Reverend Wright. I agree. The problem is not with the black church. The problem is with this one preacher who said some stupid and imprudent things. Barack should have said something to him but I digress.

I haven’t seen Obama;s appearance on Meet the Press but some commenters at MyDD have started to document the atrocities. Before I interrupt my cleaning to go watch it on the DVR, can someone confirm whether he actually said the following things? No one is this cocky, arrogant and narcissistic.

“My father is from Africa. It’s in my DNA to bring people together.”

“It’s one of my faults, being concerned with others’ feelings.” *

“I don’t think the race is over until Sen. Clinton decides she is getting out”

*This is the a variation on the standard answer to the “flaws” question from job interviews and is often cancelled out by the reference letter that says, “You will be lucky to get Obama to work for you”.

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