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      A few weeks ago, for work related reasons, I had to bone up on Venture Capital. One of the books I read was Thiel’s “Zero to One.” Thiel has become even more famous recently for bankrolling the lawsuit that put Gawker out of business and for his support of Trump.  He’s a libertarian gay man. […]
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Labor Day and Look-ahead

Happy Labor Day to everyone taking the day off. This year, it’s a paid holiday for me. Last year, it wasn’t. I paid for this day off out of my own pocket. That’s the price you sometimes pay as a contractor. There are a lot more contractors since 2008. The number one problem with this economy as I see it is income instability. That’s when you can’t count on your hours, that the site will stay open, that your start-up might close, that your second job is shopping yourself for the next gig. That’s what’s undermining the middle class. You can’t buy a house, buy a car, have a family, save, take a vacation or keep our consumer based economy going strong when you’re always looking over your shoulder for the guy who is going to lay you off.

Some billionaire entrepreneurs will tell you that fluid labor laws are essential to innovation and making piles of cash. This is not true. Piles of cash were still attainable when we were all gainfully employed in steady jobs.Maybe the piles weren’t quite so high but how many yachts do you need?

In any case, people need breaks or they burn themselves out. So, today, remember the union guys who picketed and stood their ground and gave us the weekend and Labor Day.

Joe Biden and Tim Kaine are in Pittsburgh for a speech and parade. I got up too late to attend but will try to follow up on this later today.

“Let’s fight the right wing, all workers unite”

Best way to fight: VOTE. Pennsylvania residents have until October 11 to register. Do it now.



Looking ahead:

1.) Today the press starts flying in the same plane as Hillary instead of trailing behind her jet. That should be fun. Her crew has probably thoughtfully replaced the flotation devices in their seat cushions with anchors and the oxygen with nitrous oxide. “Oh, yeah? Who’s laughing now, Andrea??” Maybe Bill will plan the in-flight meals. All vegan. But not the tasty vegan. More of the macrobiotic vegan from 30 years ago with nutritional yeast and bean sprouts. Yum.

2.) The New York Times seems to be going out of its way to Gore Hillary. I’m not linking to any of the articles because why give them clicks? But I will say that after registering voters in predominantly black neighborhoods for the past 6 weeks, I see no lack of enthusiasm for Hillary. The comments on the article were turned off so volunteers can’t give their point of view. Well, we don’t really count anyway, right?

3.) Speaking of getting Gored, the media went on the attack against Gore in 2000. It probably cost him the presidency. Sure, Naderites helped but it shouldn’t have been so close going into the final stretch. Same with Kerry. He was Swift-boated mercilessly and that really contributed to the closeness of the race. Now, it’s Hillary. It’s ALWAYS been Hillary.

I’m trying to find a good explanation why the media seems to be doubling down on her when the alternative is indisputably worse in every possible way. Simplest explanations tend to be the most accurate so I’m going to say that a very large part of it can be attributed to the fact that she is a woman. I say this because the drumbeat of negative coverage of her has been relentless since she went to Washington and from the very beginning defined herself as an atypical first lady. She was clearly feminist, intelligent and not about to let herself get relegated to teas and decorating. There was a cadre of women a little older than her who just missed the cultural revolution, the pill and feminism. And there were plenty of men who weren’t used to talking to a woman as an equal in the halls of power. They weren’t going to let her skirt their rigid rules of gender behavior and get away with it.

But you know, this has gone on for way too long now. Hillary has become a formidable politician in her own right, separate from her husband. It hasn’t stopped the attacks or the coverage of her using the Clinton Rules:

1) Everything, no matter how ludicrous-sounding, is worthy of a full investigation by federal agencies, Congress, the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and mainstream media outlets

2) Every allegation, no matter how ludicrous, is believable until it can be proven completely and utterly false. And even then, it keeps a life of its own in the conservative media world.

3) The media assumes that Clinton is acting in bad faith until there’s hard evidence otherwise.

4) Everything is newsworthy because the Clintons are the equivalent of America’s royal family

5) Everything she does is fake and calculated for maximum political benefit

As we have seen, it’s not just the Clintons that get this kind of coverage. Gore and Kerry also got it, although Clinton’s seems to be an order of magnitude worse and this has been backed up with a Harvard study.

Curiously, Obama did not get this kind of coverage.

There could be several reasons for this. One is that racism was a shameful thing 8 years ago. Two is that it was a “change election”. Three is something a little less tangible and something I have been trying to explain for 8 years now: Obama is one of them. He is from their class. He’s the Harvard educated lawyer with a fondness for the conventional values and ambitions of the country club Republican class. Note that Michelle was not actively (or publicly) involved in creating policy. She’s the Stay At Home Mom with the garden. That was dog-whistling to the media that he wasn’t going to break any new ground culturally. He’s the guy the financiers love because he’s got status written all over him. He was their human shield against the rabble who wanted the bankers’ heads and higher taxes for the upper crust. Well, we couldn’t have that. They’ll never trust Hillary because they suspect she’s just a bit more liberal than they’re comfortable with.

Anyway, we’re all worse off because the media decided to jump on the bandwagon to gore Gore and Swift-boat Kerry. Hillary seems to be holding her own right now. Trump seems to have a ceiling because he’s only been able to capture the white male vote. There’s a good probability that Hillary is going to be president. But there’s still some volatility too. None of the volunteers I work with are taking this race casually. And we are still getting people who are volunteering voluntarily. I witnessed this yesterday when one of my young black female millenial volunteers registered another young, black millenial female who then OFFERED to volunteer for us.

Take that, New York Times.

I get the feeling that the media right now is reveling in the scads of money they are making off this election. Pumping up Trump and Sanders paid off big for them. It narrowed what should have been a blowout for Hillary. And they sort of have to keep the pressure up now because the candidates are so unequal in every way that to portray them accurately at this point would make it clear who the president should be. There really is no question. But the media needs a photo finish. I guess they think that even bad news is good and if the worst happens, they can always tell Trump that they made him and they can unmake him.

That’s a dangerous game because this guy will hold a grudge forever and use every trick in the book, which is formidable for a president, to take down his enemies. We aren’t talking about a Nixon here. Nixon was subtle compared to Trump. Letting this genie out of the bottle will backfire badly for the media. They need to think this over and decide if they can live with a Madame President who’s a feminazi libtard or a malignant narcissist with his own white nationalist militia and the power to make their lives a lot more miserable than alfalfa sprouts and squishy veggie burgers on Hill Force One.

Obama is like a “too big to fail” bank

He failed the stress test but the party heavy hitters feel obligated to save him no matter how badly he f^&*s up and can’t make the case.

We all know that left to his own devices, he’s going to screw up again and put all our economic lives in jeopardy.  It’s just that the party is so invested in him.

So, we see the spectacle of Joe Biden spending a good portion of the debate propping Obama up on foreign policy.  At some point, he ditched the script and just defended his party.

He scored on abortion.  It’s perfectly fine if you have a religious objection to it as long as you don’t seek to impose that religious doctrine on others.  He was a little vague on social security.  I would have liked to have heard a definitive stance against raising the retirement age.  It’s unclear if that is Obama’s policy speaking or Biden’s.

Afghanistan was a wash.  We should be out of there by now.  Otherwise, Biden owned foreign policy.  He smiled and laughed to mock Ryan but he could have been just funnin’ with the young’un.  Biden excels in this area.

I think he kicked Ryan’s ass on the economy and how Ryan’s plan would hurt the middle class.  He was very good at selling the pitch, addressing the camera, and by extension, us, directly.

It would be great if we could just declare the Obama presidency insolvent and nationalize the office for a better candidate.  I’d vote for Biden in a pinch.  Too bad he’s not on the top of the ticket.

The Vice Presidential Debate: Loose Lips vs Howard Roark

Let’s just hope that Ryan’s concluding statement doesn’t go on for 20 pages.

I’m looking forward to this debate.  You can  watch it here on C-span if you’ve cut the cord like I have. Joe Biden’s not a bad guy. If he ever had a chance, he might even be able to rise to greatness. You never know. But what’s fascinating about Biden is his inability to keep a secret. That quirk of his personality could make this an interesting debate.

Paul Ryan just reminds me of one of the business majors in college who I never wanted to go out with. I suspect I would be too weird for him anyway and he would bore me to tears. To Ryan, it’s all about money: acquiring it, controlling it and keeping everyone’s hands off of his stack. Conservatives like Ryan use moral arguments in order to defend some very immoral behavior of the money guys. For the record, it is immoral to lie to 20 somethings in the 80s about prepaying their social security benefits and then reneg on any social contracts in 2012 because it means that some rich people have to give up the tax cuts they’ve benefitted from while the government borrowed against our trust fund. That’s called fraud and theft and it’s immoral. It doesn’t matter how the recipients intend to use their money. They worked for it, they paid for it, they deserve it. It’s not an “entitlement”. It’s a social insurance policy. Don’t let Ryan tell you anything differently.

So, without further moralizing, here is the first live blog thread. See how many times Ryan says “free market” and “market forces”. See Biden take on foreign policy with mastery and let’s count how many times he says “unemployment”. (my guess is none)

Have at it!

VP debate tonight and stray thought from 2008

Tonight is the Vice Presidential debate between Joe “the cop between my brain and my mouth is at the donut shop” Biden and Paul “Ayn Rand is my goddess” Ryan.  We should do another live blog but since the body language thing has become chic this year, maybe we should watch and listen this time.  OR, we could turn off the visuals and just listen.

Anyway, it just occurred to me that maybe one of the reasons Barack Obama did so poorly in his first debate appearance this year is because in 2008, he was actually running against Sarah Palin.  Oh sure he was.  That’s all the general campaign was about, how much smarter and more qualified Barack Obama was compared to Sarah Palin.  John McCain hardly entered the picture at all.  I think I noticed it back then too but it didn’t occur to me that this might be why his debate performances in 2008 were not a fiasco.  He was all confident and cocky about beating Sarah, that was the real race that his campaign had set up in everyone’s mind.

Plus, he was running a game of “whack a racist”.  ANY criticism of Obama was twisted to be a racial slur.  It was quite effective.  Combined with his race against Sarah, how was a liberal supposed to effectively evaluate Obama?  Any legitimate criticism of him was muted and he was running against a woman who the left had dehumanized and characterized as the stupidest person on the planet.

This year, it’s different.  Visually, Mitt is very presidential.  He’s a big, tall man with presidential hair and an engaging vital manner.  He’s also a Republican, which in my humble opinion, is unforgivable.  But that’s not the point.  As Obama supposedly believes, debates are sideshows.  From a policy perspective, they’re meaningless.  But I think they serve a purpose that can’t be underrated.  In the modern debate, we get as close as we can to hand to hand combat between chieftains of competing clans.  It *is* physical.  That’s why it was important that Michael Dukakis looked short, that Richard Nixon sweat and that Barack Obama looked like he didn’t want to be there.

It might have also done in Hillary because at 5’7″, she had to look feisty to compete with his taller frame and longer limbs. He took up more space and with a female opponent, he strut his macho stuff and acted dismissively when she talked. It might not have been enough that she was the smartest person in the room who had done her homework and could whip up a policy in 30 seconds flat.  To the liberals and progressives who were afraid of losing again, she had to look more like Boudicca than Hermione Granger.

Boudicca, ass-kicking queen of the Britons
(bears striking resemblance to Julia Gillard)

Nevertheless, she took him on and won her debates with him to such an extent that he refused to debate her again during the primaries after she beat him in Pennsylvania. He sought out a friendlier crowd in NC the next day to lick his wounds, flip her the bird and brush the dirt off his shoulders.  It has often been said that he doesn’t like confrontation and that NC appearance showed that he was much better at acting like the mean BMOC when he was with his adoring fans than taking her on and losing to her again.

It’s been awhile since I read MoDo but I dropped into her column yesterday and she seems to have matured ever so slightly.  She’s not so flip these days, probably because her mancrush in 2008 turned out to be far worse for women that the woman she mocked for two decades.  Maybe she’s learned her lesson.  She also seems more than a little alarmed.  Oh sure, Obama will do better next time.  Someone will have figured out how he’s supposed to debate a real general campaign opponent.  But MoDo suggests it’s more serious than that:

Just as Poppy Bush didn’t try as hard as he should have because he assumed voters would reject Slick Willie, Obama lapsed into not trying because he assumed voters would reject Cayman Mitt.

The president averted his eyes as glittering opportunities passed, even when Romney sent a lob his way with a reference to his accountant.

Obama has been coddled by Valerie Jarrett, the adviser who sat next to Michelle at the debate, instead of the more politically strategic choice of local pols and their spouses. Jarrett believes that everyone must woo the prodigy who deigns to guide us, not the other way around.

At a fund-raising concert in San Francisco Monday night, the president mocked Romney’s star turn, saying “what was being presented wasn’t leadership; that’s salesmanship.”

It is that distaste for salesmanship that caused Obama not to sell or even explain health care and economic policies; and it is that distaste that caused him not to sell himself and his policies at the debate. His latest fund-raising plea is marked “URGENT.” But in refusing to muster his will and energy, and urgently sell his vision, he underscores his own lapses in leadership and undermines arguments for four more years.

The debate was an uncomfortable window into Obama’s style in all things presidential.  What is urgent to you is not an emergency to him.  He’s smaller than we thought, less secure, confident and sure of his experience.  He doesn’t look like the alpha male commanding his clan.  He’s the guy who seeks assistance from the moderator with ingratiating comments.  That Obama doesn’t stand a chance against a real presidential candidate and not the carefully crafted illusions his campaign spun for him to do battle with four years ago.  And that is the weak prince we have had in office for four years while the barbarians knocked down the gates.

In a way, a strong showing by Joe Biden this evening might just do Obama in.

And here’s another quote from that MoDo column that I find deeply disturbing:

Once during the 2008 campaign, reading about all the cataclysms jolting the economy and the world, Obama joked to an adviser: “Maybe I should throw the game.”

Can someone confirm whether he really said that?

Swapping out the candidate: The Curious Case of Governor Codey

Richard Codey, 4 time governor of New Jersey than no one’s ever heard of

New Jersey has a reputation for being special.  In the summer, we go to the shore instead of the beach.  We aren’t allowed to pump our own gas.  And almost none of the nice restaurants in the area have liquor licenses because the mafia owns the few licenses the state issues.  We do have restaurants with liquor licenses that go through a sequence of “new owners” before they’re burned down, but that’s a story for another post.

We also have a history of Governor problems in the decade Brook likes to call “The Naughties”.  Our problems were exacerbated by the fact that up until 2009, the state of New Jersey didn’t have a Lieutenant Governor position.  How ironic that in a state chock full of excessive administration, we wouldn’t have a lieutenant governor during the decade when one would have come in handy.  Go figure.

Let me back up a second and say that although New Jersey is considered to be solidly blue in presidential matters, that’s a bit of a misleading statistic.  Our Congressional representation in the House is 50/50.  We also have no female congressional reps and haven’t for several decades.  The local Democratic org says that’s because none ever apply, to which I answer that there don’t appear to be any lower level female politicians who are mentored and why is that?  But I digress.  New Jersey also votes for Republican governors and while Democrats are lucky if they last through a single term, Republican governors are usually two termers.  Tom Kean and Christie Whitman come immediately to mind.  Our story begins with Christie Whitman when a Democratic legislator named Richard Codey served the first of his several terms as governor of New Jersey.

When Whitman became head of the EPA under George Bush the lesser, she left a void in Drumthwacket (that’s the gov’s mansion right outside of Princeton).

Drumthhhhhhhhwacket, Chez Governor in Princeton

Since there was no lieutenant governor, the time left in her term until the election of a new governor was filled by the president of the state senate.  In 2001, the person in that position changed three times and each senate president took a turn being governor.  Richard Codey served his first 3 day term as governor just before Jim McGreevey, the newly elected governor, was sworn in.  We all know what happened to Jim McGreevey.  When he stepped down, Richard Codey, then president of the state senate, became governor once again for about half a year until the next governor could be elected.  That new governor happened to be Jon Corzine. But during the transfer of power when Corzine went from Senator to Governor, there was some weird little protocol where the state was in danger of not having an acting governor for a few hours (Oh No!), so Codey was asked to fill in until Corzine was free to take over.

Corzine had a thing for taking risks even back then.  Early in his term, he decided that he didn’t need to wear a seat belt as his SUV raced up the highway from Atlantic City because he was special.  What former Wall Street banker isn’t?  What could possibly happen?

Corzine’s State Trooper driven SUV crashes while speeding on the way back from Atlantic City.

Well, the SUV speeding at 91 mph could be involved in a serious accident where the governor was tossed around in the vehicle like dirty laundry and broke his femur.  The fracture, and other injuries, were very serious and the governor was hospitalized and incapacitated.  Richard Codey once again stepped up to fill the vacancy while Corzine temporarily suspended his powers for about 3 weeks.

So, if you’ve been counting, that makes Richard Codey the governor of NJ *four* times.  After the last time, the state got serious about the Lieutenant Governor position and in 2009 we elected our first.

But back to Codey.  He turned out to be not bad as a governor.  He’s a true blue Democrat that leans liberal and has a passion for championing the mentally ill.  His one major accomplishment during his brief stint as governor was making sure that insurance companies cover treatment for mental illness and postpartum depression.  He also made sure stem cell research wouldn’t face any obstacles in New Jersey.  It appears that everyone played nicely when Codey was in office, although he wasn’t in long enough to make any significant policy changes.  Even stranger was that even though he got good approval ratings, nobody really knew who he was.  His tenure was just one of those special things that happen here.   When his last crack at being governor ended, he went back to the senate.  All hunky dory and people forgot about him.  Until 2009.

In 2009, Jon Corzine was facing reelection against Republican Chris Christie.  Let’s remember here that New Jersey doesn’t have a problem with Republican governors.  Christie was not as moderate as Kean and Whitman but Corzine would have had a better chance of winning if he hadn’t been so meh as a governor.  During the economic catastrophe that followed the housing bubble, he should have stepped up and presented some policies that would have helped municipalities and cash strapped property tax payers. But he didn’t.  He represented the bonus class.  He was a former Goldman-Sachs guy and I think that he thought he could ride to reelection on the coat tails of Barack Obama.

Part way through the election campaign, it looked like Corzine wasn’t going to have the cake walk he was anticipating.  He was having trouble attracting interest and couldn’t fill his rally venues.  The race was starting to tighten up.  This is where it gets interesting. Richard Codey says it happened like this:

Codey said he got a call from the White House a week after Vice President Joe Biden appeared at Corzine’s poorly attended primary night kickoff rally in West Orange in June. “They wanted to talk about what’s going on with the governor’s race,” he said. “They would call me every week, every two weeks.”

By July, Codey said there was growing concern from the president’s advisers as Corzine’s polls declined even as he poured money into anti-Christie ads. It grew worse after 44 arrests on July 23 in a corruption and money-laundering case.

Corzine privately mused to the White House he was having second thoughts about continuing his campaign, Codey said.

“He was, mentally, as low as you can get,” Codey said of Corzine, even before July 23. “Then this … hit. It was understandable he was having a moment where he was saying ‘to hell with this.’”

Codey said White House political director Patrick Gaspard called him and expressed “great concern about the governor’s race, (Corzine’s) lack of support amongst Democrats and whether or not he would be able to overcome it. He never criticized Jon personally. But he said he was meeting with Obama and ‘the president wants to know if you might run if, in fact, Mr. Corzine got out.’ Can he tell the president ‘Yes.’”

Codey said Gaspard detailed an internal poll that showed Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone about the same as Corzine, but Codey leading Christie by double digits.

“I told Gaspard I was going to be seeing Mr. Corzine in Trenton. I told him I felt duty-bound in terms of being a gentleman to tell Corzine. I sat with Corzine. I told him what I knew. I said ‘as a friend, I just wanted you to know.’ I said ‘bottom line is you’re the decision-maker. You want out, just do me a favor let me know as soon as possible. If you’re going to stay in there, I’m with you.’”

“I did not hear back from the White House.”

I guess the Democratic party leadership was concerned that losing New Jersey to a Republican would look bad.  (And it did, Oh, how it did) And even though Corzine went out of his way to make sure to deliver all of New Jersey’s delegation to Obama during the 2008 convention in Denver, from a primary that Obama LOST by 10 points to Hillary Clinton, I might add, Obama and Biden didn’t feel any sense of loyalty to this guy who carried their water and sold out the rest of the state for them.  So they approached Richard Codey and tried to work out a deal where they would pressure Corzine to step aside in the campaign and Codey would become the nominee.

Oh no they di-int.  Oh yes they did.

Corzine didn’t quit but that hardly matters, does it?  It was the thought that counts. And the thought was that Corzine was in danger of losing the governorship of New Jersey and the Democrats were concerned enough to want to make a switch of candidates at the top of the ticket of an incumbent governor with a solid, well liked Democrat former temporary governor whose approval rating was higher than Corzine’s.

So, ladies and gentlemen, if someone tells you that it’s not possible to change candidates before or during the Convention, and that the world would end if we merely *entertained* the idea of changes at the top of the ticket, remember that it was Obama himself who proposed the very same thing to the Democrats of New Jersey in 2009 when Corzine was in danger of failing.  Indeed, he did fail and Christie the Republican is now governor.  All that stuff about how an incumbent is sacred and the primary voters have spoken (because they had a gun to their heads and didn’t have a choice) and the world will end, yada-yada-yada, all that is bullshit.  The Democrats are a private party.  They can (and have) change the rules any time they want.  We have seen by 2008’s example that the delegates can be forced to vote for who ever the party wants, voters be damned.  And if they want to switch candidates, it can be done.  Franklin Roosevelt switched out his VPs, Lyndon Johnson stepped out of the race when he knew he couldn’t win a second term and, by golly, if Democrats don’t think Obama can win in 2012, they can make him “spend more time with his family”.

Obama and Corzine have a lot in common.  It’s not like Christie is well loved by New Jerseyans or that we actually wanted a Republican this time around.

Chris Christie during the first leg of his helicopter-limo-walk triathlon.

The problem was we didn’t want Corzine anymore. Voters were well aware of all of Christies liabilities and Corzine’s campaign flogged us with the fear whip and tons of advertising to make Christie look bad.  In the end, it didn’t matter.  It wasn’t about Christie.  It was about Corzine’s performance.  Voters judged him fairly, so, he lost.  I might add that Independent Chris Daggett, who I voted for, took almost 6% of the vote, almost all of it from Corzine’s hide.  New Jerseyans wanted to send a message to the Democrats but it remains unclear whether the Democrats actually got it.

But if any Democrat tells you you’re crazy to even suggest that Obama step aside for a better Democrat in 2012, and starts terrorizing you about Supreme Court justices and women losing access to birth control and dogs and cats living together, ask them why the Democrats didn’t think a candidate switch was so crazy in New Jersey in 2009.  Obama is not having a cakewalk this year.  And in spite of the media blitz against Mitt, Obama and Mitt are still tied in the polls.  People may not like Mitt personally, but they really don’t like Obama’s performance.  He has let regular people out to hang by themselves for four long years.  The Democrats are fooling themselves if they think that’s not going to hurt in November. And it’s not like the Democrats don’t have a back up who would be a lot more popular than any politician on the current scene.

Time to call Obama into the office and tell him management would like to make a change. We’re in the doldrums, the dog days and the base is depressed.  Change up the ticket, bring in a relief pitcher see what happens.  I’d be very surprised if management hasn’t already entertained such a possibility behind closed doors. In the event of an Obama loss in November, they might be in political oblivion for a very long time.  If the Democrats are sincerely concerned about all the horrible things they fear will happen if Mitt wins, then they owe voters a REAL choice.

Otherwise, the country might just end up with a Chris Christie type Republican in the White House in 2013 and it will be very hard to take Democrats seriously if they lose without ever considering changing their lineup.

Hillary, the VP rumor and what men don’t understand about powerful women

Gosh, it seems I have a lot to say today.

Charles Pierce is freaking out about the poll numbers.  Oh, sure, it was all fun and games to poke at Obama until someone loses an election.  After yesterday’s dystopian description of Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago that chilled me to the bone, Charles is backtracking today and telling the left to suck it up and vote for the bastard.

Not so fast, Charles.  In fact, if the Democrats want to dodge this rendezvous with electoral obscurity, now is the time for voters to lay down the law, draw a line in the sand and say, “You Shall Not Pass!”.  I’d make any grand bargain on Social Security and Medicare my rubicon but there are half a dozen other legitimate issues that Democrats should be forced to defend vigorously before voters yield.  No, I am not afraid of Romney, believe it or not.  At this point, the states are gleefully slashing through all of women’s reproductive rights and there are already 5 votes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. Democrats yielded women’s issues without much of a fight so they can’t fall back on that old trick anymore.  I hate private equity firms and sons of rich family firms as much as anyone but Obama’s negotiations with Wall Street have been so godawful that it hardly makes a difference who’s the coldhearted Mr. Moneybucks in the White House.  In this case, it is perfectly fair to talk about equivalence.  Pierce just better hope that Democrats fare better in Congressional races.

My problem with Obama is that it’s not enough to have good intentions but a hostile opponent in Congress to blame stuff on.  You need to look as though you’ve actually broken a sweat defending our rights and quality of life and Obama hasn’t.  No one in my generation should settle for a Democratic president doing a lackluster job and then throwing up his hands in frustration and saying, “It’s inevitable that your life is going to suffer.  Deal with it, late babyboomer.  Sucks to be you.” I’m not settling for that.  We knew the job was going to be tougher than average following a disaster like George W. Bush.  He shouldn’t have run for the job if he wasn’t ready, and it was obvious that he wasn’t.  No excuses.  He had his chance to sit it out and wait but he had to have the White House now, now, now.  So, now it’s his responsibility and solemn obligation not to screw us over even if it’s really hard to do.

But it’s not Pierce alone who is starting to panic and grasp at straws.  Over at the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky is testing the “Hillary-Biden VP Switch” idea again and seeing if it gets any more traction than it did before.  I’m not sure Obama would get the bang for the buck everyone expects from this ticket though and in some respects, it might almost be worse.

For example, did you know that recently Hillary compared the VP position to being First Lady?  That’s not necessarily derogatory but does touch on something that I think men just don’t get about powerful women, which I’ll get to in a moment.  The reason why Hillary says VP is like First Lady is because although the VP can be an important and influential advisor to the president, constitutionally, the position doesn’t have much power.  The VP can break ties in the Senate annnnd, that’s about it.  Otherwise, the VP is just hanging around for the president to experience some catastrophic event.  It’s sort of like being a political vulture or hyena.  A carrion pol.

I just finished the Passage to Power by Robert Caro about LBJ’s Kennedy years and what happened to him when he was VP was a textbook case of what you do not ever want to happen to a person with as much power potential as LBJ.  Johnson was a Senate powerhouse, a legislative genius who understood every representative and senator in Congress, their hidden desires and flaws, and how to manipulate those desires and timing to generate momentum and force legislation through.  The Kennedy brothers brought Johnson in as VP in order to neutralize his power and they were exceedingly successful.  They were so successful that they jeopardized their own policy agenda.  And Johnson was miserable as VP.  He was emasculated by the Kennedys who made sure that he couldn’t even make a trivial speech without having it cleared by the Attorney General.  When JFK was assassinated, Johnson revealed himself to be a great leader.  If he’d been as astute on Vietnam, we’d be worshipping him along with FDR and Lincoln.  But if Kennedy hadn’t met his fate in Dallas, Johnson would have faded into obscurity and the Civil Rights Law of 1964 might never have happened.  I’m no fan of Obama’s but even I wouldn’t wish that on him just so someone else could benefit.

I’m of the opinion that had Hillary wanted the VP in 2008, she could have had it.  We don’t know how it all went down but my suspicion is that she knew that she would be de-balled like Johnson if she had accepted the position and so she pre-emptively asked for State if Obama won.  And so the original choice for SOS, Joe Biden, switched places with Hillary.

So, assuming this is true, why would she want to be Obama’s VP now?  My guess is that she wouldn’t.  What really drives me up a wall about Tomasky’s post is that it reflects the guy’s point of view about what would save Obama’s ass in this election.  The focus is still on saving Obama at all costs.  Yes, he is tremendously inexperienced and doesn’t seem to be learning his job very well.  Yes, he’s not a very good politician and doesn’t act like he likes being around legislators and gladhanding for votes.  Yes, he made too many deals with Wall Street, the insurance companies, the religious right to the detriment of his base. Yes, the economy is terrible and he’s done nothing about unemployment.  Yes, he’s planning to give away all the money the late baby boomers PREPAID into social security for their retirements.  But somehow, the guys feel we’ve got to re-elect this man.  I don’t understand it.  It’s got to be a male graduate student guy thing, the cluelessness of being near the top of Maslow’s pyramid. I keep picturing that iconoclastic image of soldiers pushing the flag up Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima.  So much struggle for so little payoff.

But that’s the problem.  They act like Obama is the most-ut and those around him are expected to sacrifice their own needs for his future.   I understand that Obama has this power over people.  They want to help him achieve his own personal goals and it doesn’t seem that important that his goals should be subordinated to the welfare of the country. This is where the reasoning behind the guy thing breaks down.  For that matter, some women don’t get it either.

But if that’s the case, why the Hell would a woman with Hillary’s power and ability continually put her own needs secondary to Obama’s?? We don’t expect Obama to sacrifice his ambitions for the good of the party or country. If I were her, I wouldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t put myself in a four year sound proof booth just to help Obama achieve self-actualization as a two term president, country be damned.  What would be in it for me?  Would I be able to influence policy?  Sha!, Obama’s smartest guys in the room, like Kennedy’s, aren’t going to let her anywhere near a lever of power.  So, without the ability to affect policy, what is she reduced to but a series of ceremonial appearances where she would be dragged out in front of crowds of Democrats, like some hostage, to make Obama look good.  At the end of four years, she’s going to be permanently associated with whatever failures Obama’s administration is notorious for without having had any opportunity to influence them.  And with that she’s supposed to run for office in 2016?  Like some 69 year old Chernyenko who the party is going to feel obliged to unenthusiastically endorse until some young whippersnapper beats her in the New Hampshire primary?  Are you f^&*ing kidding me?

Did it never occur to these guys that maybe she has her own ambition that is independent of and does not make reference to Obama’s?  If I were her, I’d never settle for less than the top spot because I would have the confidence to know I’d be good at the job.  And if I couldn’t get the top spot, I’d leave politics behind and become a powerhouse on the outside, holding Obama’s feet to the fire on gender equality or education or scientific infrastructure or something equally important.  There’s no point to being powerful, competent and smart if there’s no way to exercise it.  And there’s apparently no place in American politics for a woman who is not seen as a traditional helpmeet to a man.  But seriously, ladies, why do it for a dude who is not your husband and who is secretly driving you crazy with his bumbling incompetence?

Tell them to shove their shotgun wedding, Hillary.

White House vs Women: Joe Biden does it wrong

Gee, I hope the food was better than the conversation

Oooo, Joe Biden was on The View recently and discussed the allegations that surfaced in Ron Suskind’s book Confidence Men about the problems senior staff women were having in the White House.  Ahem.  From what I can tell, Joe is trying to make it sound trivial or he’s in denial:

Vice President Joe Biden today disputed the controversial characterizations of the Obama White House author Ron Suskind made in his new book,”Confidence Men,” as a bastion of sexism that was insulated from a diversity of opinions.

“I don’t know who they’re talking about,” Biden said of former White House aides who reportedly told Suskind that the administration fostered a hostile work environment for women. “Obviously, they didn’t talk to Michelle Obama or Jill Biden. Because if there’s sexism in the White House, the person engaging in it is in trouble.”

The vice president made the comments during an appearance on ABC’s “The View” to talk about his nearly two-decade campaign to end violence against women.

“I’m not suggesting there’s not some instance where a staffer thought they were not treated well,” Biden said. “But look at  the high-ranking staff on my staff, on the president’s staff — 70 percent of the high-ranking people on my staff … they’re all women. I literally, when this came out, I asked them, I asked them had they seen it. And nobody is aware.”

Before we get to the substance of Joe’s remarks, let’s get one thing straight: the women in question have made very serious, not trivial, allegations of discrimination.  Those allegations should be investigated thoroughly.  These days, it is possible to measure the degree to which women and men were treated differently in their roles.  It is possible to mine data that is already retained on email servers and on digital recordings of meetings.  A variety of metrics can be used to determine whether there is a correlation between position, location of office, direct reports and access.  In fact, just about any parameter you care to measure can be dumped into a statistical package and trends, principal components and, probably, the truth, should come spilling out.  We rely on data mining and statistics for a wide variety of legitimate reasons these days and this is a perfect opportunity to get to the bottom of this.

OK, back to what Joe said and why we should ignore it.

1.) Joe says that if there was any of that hostility going on, by golly, Jill Biden and Michelle Obama would know about it.  First, excuse me, but are Jill and Michelle the house mothers for the senior White House staff?  From what I can tell, Michelle Obama is not a working woman.  She has decided to sit this administration out and weed the garden.  It is unclear to me what line of authority she would have with the female staff in the White House, nor is is clear what she could do about it if someone complained to her.  In fact, I can’t think of why anyone would complain to her.  It makes no sense.  Jill Biden, if I recall correctly, is an English professor.  Again, how would Jill be aware of the working environment of the professional women working in the White House?  Secondly, regardless of how Michelle and Jill are treated in their casual interactions with Obama’s male staff, the nature of such interactions are not professional, they are social.  It is unlikely that Rahm Emannuel is going to tell them to shut the f^&* up or talk over them in the reception line or at dinner.  Nah-gah-happen.

The only reason I can see that Joe would bring up Jill and Michelle is that he was appearing on The View, a chatty news show tailor made for women in a more traditional lifestyle.  If they’re watching The View, they’re not working.  (Maybe working women watch the view on the DVR but I personally can’t stand The View.  It’s the worst of the stereotype of women’s programming.  It’s watered down news discussed in a gossipy, coffee clatsch setting.  Something about it makes me think back to my vaguest recollection of Virginia Graham.)  View afficianados stay-at-home moms or senior women like my mother.  So, Joe is out there doing a political stump speech so as not to lose the ladies.  It looks to me like the White House is trying to get ahead of this.  November 2012 is going to be very scary for Obama.

2.) Asking your female staff if there is an issue is NOT going to get you anywhere.  It takes a lot of courage to say you think there might be a problem that needs to be investigated.  No one wants to walk around with a target on their back.  And lately, I have been reading (in more than one place) that the White House environment may be “tough” on women.  Once again, it’s OK if a high pressure environment is “tough”.  Presumably, the women who accepted those jobs knew that it would be when they signed on.  The question is, was “toughness” from women reciprocally appreciated?  My guess is that it is not.  We can find out by looking at the way women and men are described by their peers and supervisors.  Are men “tough” but women “abrasive”?  Are men driven but women “not team players”?  How about we ask Brooksley Born who was routinely described in such unflattering terms by her peers like Arthur Levitt, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin.

So, Joe goes to his female staff and asks them to rat on the guys who already potentially have the means to make their lives inconsequential and they say they don’t know what he’s referring to.  Big surprise there.  What would have happened if Joe had said to his whole staff, men and women alike, “These are serious allegations.  If I didn’t look into them, I might not be getting the best performance from my staff.  I think we should start an investigation and see if there are any trends in the data.  If there are, we can put a plan in place to make sure we address each one of the issues. Who’s on board with that?”

I might actually have respect for the guy.  If I were a woman, I wouldn’t be put on the spot.  If I were a man, I’d be reviewing my past behavior.  I’d expect some resentment down the line when the truth comes out.  “It’s just the way we’ve always done it” or “You can’t stop people from hanging out or working differently with people like them”.  No, you probably can’t stop it.  But you can make sure it isn’t rewarded.  But the only way to make sure it isn’t rewarded is to become aware of it in the first place.

Joe really screwed up.  And the lefty blogosphere is strangely quiet.  I have read nary a word from the Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias types out there.  Lefty blogosphere women are also quiet.  Are they afraid they’ll lose the access they already have?  How about it, Susie Madrak?  You think you’re not getting access because of your “dirty fucking hippy” remark?  More likely, they didn’t like your attitude.  You were too pushy, abrasive, aggressive.  I’ll betcha Josh Marshall could have gotten away with that.

The problem is real.  It’s not in your head.  The details are familiar to those of us who have had to put up with this crap in the corporate world.  Even Stieg Larsson, the author of the Millenium series wrote a subplot where one of his female characters runs into the same damn thing at her new job.  Same maddeningly familiar bad behavior with the email, meetings and phone calls.

It won’t get better unless you say something.  Women have very little real estate in the mainstream media opinion pages as it is and what women are there straddle the generational and gender divide uncomfortably.  Kathleen Parker at WaPo is a case in point.  In her post on the issue, the last few paragraphs couldn’t be less helpful:

Most of the complaints aimed at Obama’s house concerned Larry Summers and Rahm Emanuel. Both are now gone. And Obama has made efforts to create a more woman-friendly environment.

He knows how to listen to women, which probably explains his popularity with the gentler sex, but he’s still a guy and can’t be faulted for being more comfortable in his down time hanging with his male pals. Women like some girlfriend time, too.

But to the larger point of women feeling less engaged and appreciated at the elevated levels they’ve earned, there is a clear solution, as hinted above. More women. More women. More women. There are plenty to fill an equal number of slots — no more scrounging to find qualified candidates.

And the best part: Women no longer have to try to be like men. They can be women, which is, one humbly submits, even better.

Yes, let’s reinforce gender stereotypes.  Women are the purer, gentler sex.  Instead of encouraging them to get tough without penalty, women will civilize the White House.  And we’ll add more of them even if it doesn’t matter if 90% of them are female and the 10% that is male sets the agenda and has all of the access.  Women like Parker completely miss the point.  Women staffers don’t want more “girlfriend time”.  They want to be movers and shakers on the same professional footing as their male counterparts.  Please, don’t do us any more favors, Kathleen.

But I suspect that Kathleen and Joe Biden come from the same generational conditioning.  While we can ignore Kathleen as being insufficiently familiar with the aspirations and expertise of the White House female staff, Joe Biden should really know better.  If he doesn’t, then he shouldn’t hire any more women.  No, seriously.  Why frustrate them and allow their efforts to meet with obstructions?  You’re only costing the tax payers money.  Just hire only guys and then shit will get done.  They might not be the best solutions to the issues they are dealing with but at least there won’t be ideas that will sit on the shelf because they couldn’t get an audience.  Let’s just see the White House in all of its sexist glory.

And if the White House is arguing that the problem is solved now that Summers and Rahm are gone, they must really think we’re stupid.  I don’t believe it for a second.  The President himself set the tone.  He’s the one who had the exclusive basketball games and golf outings.  He’s the one who mocked Christina Romer in a meeting.  He knows what he’s doing and if he doesn’t, someone should tell him before 2012.  Why any woman would vote for him after the past three years of economic disaster and poor treatment of his female staff defies logic.

Poor Republicans and Obama women.  Perfectly stupid together.