Friday, February 13, 2009

Best In Show

Don't hate me, bitches!
A belated congratulations to Ann Coulter, for winning Best In Show at this year's Westminster Kennel Club show.

...and a big hello to my new found friends at Margaret and Helen's place. Go visit. To say this blog is unique is an understatement. And a hat tip to Nomi for linking me in comments.

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) The city of Gloucester, MA has come up with what I think is an unique solution to trash collection. Charge per item. Think about this for a second before you go ballistic. It only costs $2 a bag. You have to use the "Offcial" (sic) bag, or the trash collectors won't.
Let's assume that there is no other funding provision for trash pickup. Charging you $2 to buy an official bag which guarantees pickup is small beer. You buy a hundred, which should last you the better part of a year. You pay for the service you use, in other words. Too, it now becomes part of your purchasing decisions, and might even make you think twice about buying something that you're only going to toss in the trash later. You'll see a direct connection between how much your trash costs and how much you actually throw out.
2) How tough are times? Municipalities are going to charge inmates for toilet paper.
3) And to think Bush didn't like stem cell research. How about a cure for HIV, folks?
4) OK, then, how about a cure for the common cold?
5) Truth in advertising? Maybe she ought to have been clearer that she actually hadn't swum the entire distance. Or maybe the reporters really ought to have listened to the captain more carefully.
6) You decide: Photoshopped or is the pot-o-gold missing?
7) You wouldn't think it was possible, but Microsoft really DID find something new from Apple to copy.
9) Maybe they should name the kid Bristol Palin?
10) Oh what a dilemma for orthodox Hindus: stay faithful to the religion or drink Coke?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sully Sense

Earlier today, I posited about the Republican anger, and it's underlying roots.

Truly, this is intriguing:
It gets clearer. When Judd Gregg approached the Obama administration to see if he could be a part of it, he was assuming that his own party wasn't going to adopt a policy of total warfare against the newly elected president in a time of enormous economic peril. Between that moment and the current all-out ideological assault on Obama, his position became untenable. His recusal on the stimulus package provoked fury at home ... and dyspepsia among the GOP who are intent on responding to an open hand with a clenched fist.

First, who could have figured Andrew Sullivan to be a voice of reason? But I digress...

More important, Gregg appears, as Sullivan points out, to be the latest victim of this right-wing hit on anything that smacks of bipartisanship. I'd like to think we've gotten past all this, that the GOP has moved onto bargaining in the Kubler-Ross model, but apparently there's enough stench and decay from the De Lay days that there may be a complete sweep required of the old line of thinking.

People who believed America was greater than it can yet be need to be, um, retooled and repurposed. We need help, not harangues.

It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here

I'm going to avoid the whole "whatever happened to supporting the President no matter what?" theme that Blogtopia has been bandying about in reaction to the latest pathetic whining from the right:

So, President Obama phoned the Senate GOP sellouts Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter and praised them Friday night for showing their "patriotism" by cutting a trillion-dollar, backroom deal to mortgage our children and grandchildren's future.

If that is "patriotism," then I'm proud to be an unpatriot.

I should point out that Michelle Malkin is an American citizen through a loophole in the Constitution that allowed her mother to fly here, give birth, and have her daughter declared a "natural-born citizen." This is also known as having an "anchor baby," and allowed her parents, here on student visas, entree to American citizenship without going through the usual processes. 
I'm sort of hoping she was a C-section, so that we could claim she wasn't born naturally, but a surgically delivered abomination and therefore deportable.
Which in no way should be construed as deprecating any other C-section births, of course. But I digress...
It would be easy to poke fun at these "sunshine patriots," as Thomas Paine put it. After anally-raping Uncle Sam for the past eight years in support of a President who couldn't spell "mandate" much less claim one, they now turn their backs on a country that so thoroughly repudiated them that their losing candidate, John McCain, couldn't claim as much voter support as the least palatable Democratic candidate since Michael Dukakis, John Kerry in 2004.
They are saying, as Eric Cartman would say, "Screw you guys, I'm going home!"
America, love it or leave it. One is tempted to say that to a group so ugly, brutish and vile that they contribute nothing to the national dialogue beyond foam and bluster.
And one might be wrong. I'm a liberal, so I guess that makes me tolerant. Here's what I think is happening.
The groundbreaking psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross devised the now famous "stages of grief" Kubler-Ross model in 1969. We can celebrate that accomplishment by analyzing the right wing reactions to November 4, 2008.
As the event approached, and the death of conservative became apparent, there was an awful lot of denial going on. Remember how Barack Obama was "clearly not an American citizen"? The outlandish extent to which conservatives attempted to prove his illegitimacy is called "denial" and was Kubler-Ross' first stage.
Indeed, this stage kept going right up to the final electoral college vote on December 12. Some people didn't get out of denial until the inauguration. And some, bless their stubborn little hearts, to this day claim he's illegitimate and not their President! How cute!
Anger, which is the next stage, is still pretty obvious, as any trip to any website where more than one conservaroach is infesting. Malkin's post about "unpatriot" makes that abundantly clear. Some have moved beyond this point however, so let's continue.
Bargaining: We've seen this in the Senate this week. I don't think it's a coincidence that the folks who have the most progressive outlook in the Republican party have begun to negotiate the waters of an Obama administration and an economic meltdown. If you've read carefully the statements politicians have put out this week, you've read words along the lines of "if only..."
"If only the stimulus bill had more tax cuts. If only the stimulus bill didn't cost so much."
That, my friends, is bargaining.
Next comes depression. We're going to start seeing that as the Obama stimulus bill begins to revive the economy. Make no mistake. It will. Even if President Obama opened a window and threw $800 billion onto Pennsylvania Avenue, some stimulus would occur. Obama knows this. The smart Republicans do too. They just don't like that it's a Democrat who, once again, gets to save the nation from the folly of the GOP.
And finally, acceptance. Now, I don't think we will ever see an en masse admission by Republicans that Barack Obama has done a fine job in turning the nation around. But it will be there in the dark shadows of the Republican psyche, a grudging acceptance that the nation chose wisely, as it sometimes is wont to do, particularly when the chips are down and we need the right man in office.
Until that day, thought, you can expect more of this.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Howie, Howie, Howie....

Why do you write stuff like this?

I'm not an economist, but when Tim Geithner unveils his long-awaited bailout plan and the Dow plunges nearly 400 points, that's probably not a good sign.

You're right. You're not an economist.
Anybody who's spent even the past three months watching the market can tell you the Dow Jones Industrial average bears about as much resemblance to good economics as Alex Rodriguez does to clean living: none!
When Obama was inaugurated, and a President who wasn't warming the chair of the Oval waiting for the moving van took charge, did the market leap skyward, aware that finally the problems in the economy would be looked at as more than a band-aid-able scratch?
Nope. Dropped 300 points. Why?
Who knows?
On the other hand, Howie, you almost get it right here. Or rather, Obama does:

The president told ABC's Terry Moran that Wall Street wants a magic bullet, a painless solution. That may be right, and it ain't gonna happen. Too many financial institutions made too many bad decisions and are in too deep a hole. You can't print enough dollars to make up all the losses.

I assume your little editorial comment after the indirect quote is an acknowledgement that this problem isn't going away soon, but here's what you missed, and why the Dow dropped yesterday:
It's not about the uncertainty of the plan, or the pain involved. It's that Wall Street realized the cushy little ride they've taken on the backs of Americans is not as safe and stable as they thought it had been, and that their days of automatic profits are over.
Let's face facts: the easiest job in America is moving money around, whether you are a broker or a banker or an investor. All it takes is luck. It's a glorified lottery that involves an MBA and a fairly expensive suit to play.
That's all it is. It ain't brain surgery and nobody dies if you screw up. There's no heavy lifting involved, and you get not only a nice salary, but a handsome bonus at the end of the year, plus an expense account you can run up with your buddies at Scores because, hey, one day they may have a few bucks laying around and suddenly you're a rainmaker!
Not so much, anymore! Now Wall Street can expect to be scrutinized and observed and dissected carefully by an SEC that for the past eight years has been so woefully lacking in oversight that it missed two, count 'em, two stock bubbles! No other administration in the history of America has presided over the collapse of two stock market bubbles, until George W. Bush (the burst of Clinton's dot-com bubble and now the mortgage-derivative bubble)
And if not scrutinized by the SEC, then their own shareholders are going to scream bloody murder if expenses aren't brought into line again, and deals aren't more carefully examined, and the board of directors isn't committed to its primary fiduciary duty of actually overseeing management.
This is why Wall Street is down, altho I believe it has hit bottom, barring a real screw up globally. They'll actually have to work for a living now. That would depress anyone.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Speaking Truth To Power

In all honesty, it's about time a president had the nerve to speak honestly to the powers that be in this country: the American people:

Warning that a failure to act "could turn a crisis into a catastrophe," Mr. Obama used his presidential platform — a prime-time news conference, the first of his presidency, in the grand setting of the White House East Room — to address head on the concerns about his approach, which has by and large failed to win the Republican support he sought.

"The plan is not perfect," Mr. Obama said in an eight-minute speech before taking reporters' questions. "No plan is. I can't tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis."

Imagine, a President imagining that he might actually make a mistake! Even Bill Clinton (and anyone who's been on this blog for any length of time will know how hard I have to cough to get this furball out) had a near-impossible time doing that.
The money quote for this old liberal is this one, however:

It is absolutely true that we can't depend on government alone to create jobs or economic growth. That is and must be the role of the private sector. But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life. It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money, which leads to even more layoffs. And breaking that cycle is exactly what the plan that's moving through Congress is designed to do.

Precisely. Precisely the situation at the moment and precisely the philosophy that should be etched in stone over the entrance to Capitol Hill: There are some problems so big that only government can provide an adequate solution.
I know. Try telling that to a conservative waving the "free enterprise" banner. After they've larded up at the Federal trough with everything from free research and development to bailout funds. And allowing nothing for the poor family down the street trying to pay rent and feed their children.
Look, the markets are marvels of social engineering. They provide an environment where ideas get tested, proved or discarded. The wheels move on. The successful can make as much money as the market allows. The unsuccessful...ahhhh, see, there's the rub.
All economic philosophies fall apart the second you take them out to the real world. Capitalism probably works the best, as I've said before, because it at least acknowledges a very human urge: greed. But capitalism will also grind up and mash down anyone who is unsuccessful, or worse, charitable.
And that needs to be acknowledged too, and that aspect of humanity simply must be incorporated into a free market society.
Period. Whether it's the ludicrosities of "A thousand points of light," or "compassionate conservatism," or the very real "mend it, don't end it" philosophy of the centrist Democrats, those who are unsuccessful in this economy have to be protected and provided with more opportunities.
Not a job, necessarily, but a chance. Not a hand out, but a hand up. It is imperative to the long term health of this nation that this be done, and a structure put in place that allows no one to "accidentally" fall through the cracks. Not a safety net, a safety TARP.
At eleven o'clock this morning, Treasury Secretary Louis Geithner is scheduled to announce phase two (or is it three already?) of the bank bailout process. President Obama has previewed that relief for individual homeowners is part of this package, and I applaud that. Like smoking in past decades, people had the prospect of easy credit and humongous mortgages as "healthy" dangled in front of them, marketed like the newest shampoo or car. "Keep up your payments and keep up with the Joneses, and we'll make it easier for you to do both!"
It's not enough. Indeed, I'd go so far as to upside down the payout: $300 billion to the American people who are struggling with mortgages, and $50 billion more to banks who are having a credit crunch. Mortgages get paid down, bank capital is immediately straightened out, and the crisis melts away over time. We can focus on the other problems we face.
But this plan is a start. It's at least an acknowledgement that capitalism has failed the least among us.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Tilting At Windmills

It's fun to watch the Republicans gather up their skirts and try to stand in front of a force of nature:

Three months after their Election Day drubbing, Republican leaders see glimmers of rebirth in the party's liberation from an unpopular president, its selection of its first African American chairman and, most of all, its stand against a stimulus package that they are increasingly confident will provide little economic jolt but will pay off politically for those who oppose it.

After giving the package zero votes in the House, and 0with their counterparts in the Senate likely to provide in a crucial procedural vote today only the handful of votes needed to avoid a filibuster, Republicans are relishing the opportunity to make a big statement.  Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) suggested last week that the party is learning from the disruptive tactics of the Taliban, and the GOP these days does have the bravado of an insurgent band that has pulled together after a big defeat to carry off a quick, if not particularly damaging, raid on the powers that be.

Emphasis added.
First, I'm not sure comparing yourself to the people who assisted in killing 3,000 Americans on September 11 is one you really want to make, Pete. After all, by opposing the stimulus package, you are in effect telling many Americans, perhaps as many as millions, to drop dead.
Second, the ineffectuality of "small victories" only proves the point Obama is going to make in the coming days, that obstructionism is a party-centric tactic and that Republicans are more interested in the good of the party than in the good of the nation.
Which is fine. It's the Republicans' party and they can cry if they want to and if they are more interested in standing on principle as opposed to winning the occasional election, then let them join the Naderites and the Communists and the Libertarians in holding their conventions in a phone booth at Port Authority bus terminal.
Hell, the entire right wing will be able to fit in there soon, if Rush loses weight!
But let's take a look at the nuts and bolts of this tactic for a second, and see why precisely it's a doomed strategy:

Republicans are holding congressional Democrats responsible for the wasteful spending they say is in the stimulus package, even though most of the big-ticket items -- for renewable energy, health care and schools -- are ones that Obama wanted in the package to advance his long-term goals.

For a while, the president did not exactly resist this tack, leaving the impression that the bill is mainly a congressional creation, but he started to defend it more vigorously last week. It is a triangulation of sorts, with Republicans hoping to drive a wedge between congressional Democrats and Obama.

"The president has done a good job reaching out to Republicans, and he has said he wants to approach this crisis . . . on a bipartisan basis. That's good, and we're willing to work with him on that. But this bill is not the president's bipartisan plan,"  Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."

Apparently, the Republicans have suddenly forgot the lessons of history.
When the economy "recovered" under Reagan's tax and spending "cuts", does anyone recall that the Democratically-controlled Congress actually cut Reagan's budget proposals by a total of $16 billion dollars over eight years?
Nope. They only recall that Reagan cut taxes and created an economy.
When the Republican Congress ran up the budget in the first six years of Bush II, does anyone remember that Congress created these massive deficits with their pork?
Nope. They only have this nebulous sense that somehow Bush's foray into Iraq was responsible for the enormous (to that time) budget deficits.
Somehow, the right-wing of the Republican party has worked out in its head that the American people have somehow begun to pay attention. And perhaps they have, but to the other guys, not to you. I'm curious to see how the Republicans believe they can somehow grab enough of a spotlight to make a case that relies on two things: One, the economy remains flatlined for two years and two, people won't blame Bush in the first place, the way they blamed Hoover even after FDR had a hard time restarting the economy during the Great Depression.
The irony in all this is, if the Republicans had listened to even their moderate members during the Bush years, they may have actually salvaged some of the argument they are trying to make, by making themselves seem as responsible budget hawks in a decade that will require loose, and I mean "loose" as in a drunk sailor on a dock full of hookers, spending.
We probably need that. The temptation to spend money for spending sake is great, even if the numbers are staggering, and we've seen that Democrats are as liable to contract trichinosis as Republicans.