Friday, July 30, 2010

The jobless recovery - yeah right it's all Obama's fault

Over in the digital pages of today's Washington Post, Steven Pearlstein makes the genuine case that, whatever the faults of Mr. Obama's economic policies are (and I think there are more then a few), the lack of job creation isn't one of them:

This week, Princeton's Alan Blinder, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics and a onetime adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign, released a paper laying out in simple and compelling terms how the government saved the country from another Great Depression. Using a standard econometric model, they backed out everything the government did to tame the financial crisis and stimulate the economy -- the zero interest rates and extraordinary lending by the Fed, the bailouts of the banks and the auto companies, the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the tax cuts and the infrastructure payments and the money for the states. And what they concluded is that, without these actions, the economy would now be 8 percent smaller, with 8 million fewer jobs and a federal budget deficit this year of $2 trillion rather than $1.4 trillion.

The irony is that this set of bold government initiatives that saved the country from economic catastrophe remain as unpopular today as when they were introduced.

Now I've written before about how the economic crisis, dubbed the Great Recession, isn't all its cracked up to be. I've also written about how the myth that government doesn't create jobs needs to die. Yet here we are still slaved to the idea that if only businesses were free to do what they wanted, they would hire, and the economy would recover.

Its a nice theory, but it doesn't hold water. Yes, GM and Chrysler are adding new employees, thanks to government bailouts. But with the Chevy Volt set to debut at $41,000 one has to wonder if they have really learned anything. To say nothing of the fact that, nearly two years into the supposed recovery:

One would have hoped that, by this point in the recovery, businesses would have begun to use some of that cash to ramp up spending on research and development and to invest in new plants and equipment. But after falling sharply for two years, such spending has only just begun to rebound, and much of it has focused on faster-growing markets outside the United States. Some of the cash has been used to pay down debt or buy back stock. But so far the one thing businesses haven't done is hire back full-time employees, preferring instead to contract for temporary workers or increase the hours of the workers they already have.

The failure of the unemployment rate to back off from ts 9 to 10% "precipice" is not a failure of the White House's economic policy. Its conscious decison by business large and small (but mostly large) to hold profits for short term gain rather then make long term investments. Call me nuts, but didn't that behavior get us into this mess in the first place?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

E.J Dionne - a Newly strident voice for Liberals!

E.J.Dionne is my new favorite liberal commentator. Not because he's new as a commentator, but because he has - finally - started to call our present government what it is:


Sadly, as a Washington Post columnist, he's likely to soon be working for Huffington Post (as his former colleague Dan Froomkin is). But atleast until then, I really hope we see more of this:

I'm a chronic optimist about America. But we are letting stupid politics, irrational ideas on fiscal policy and an antiquated political structure undermine our power.

We need a new conservatism in our country that is worthy of the name. We need liberals willing to speak out on the threat our daft politics poses to our influence in the world. We need moderates who do more than stick their fingers in the wind to calculate the halfway point between two political poles.

And, yes, we need to reform a Senate that has become an embarrassment to our democratic claims.

More Invasions of Privacy by the FBI The National Security Letter Goes Viral

There is absolutely no way this can be anything but the opening of a huge can of toxic worms:

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication.

Sorry folks, but from a privacy and civil liberties stand point, the "need" to intercept terrorist plots just doesn't outweigh the Constitutional directive to protect citizens from warrantless search and seizure. And rooting around in my browser history and diving into my email traffic is the modern equivalent of compiling a list of my known associates, or even worse, the Blacklists that were generated during the Red Scare of the 1950's. This sort of thing is what rogue nations do; it is historically the tool of authoritarian states like the Soviet Union and 1930's Germany where the government used fear and active spying to undermine the fabric of society. An nation divided against itself is a nation that is easy to manipulate.

And it comes from a Democrat too now, not just a Republican. Shame on Mr. Obama for even considering it. And shame on us for voting for him.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Shirley Sherrod Affair Redux - E.J. Dionne finds his back bone (Sort of)

Hard on the heals of the pillarying of Shirley Sherrod for becoming more racially sensative and thus a more effective advocate for the poor, columnist E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post manages to find some backbone:

The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that "fairness" requires treating extremist rants as "one side of the story." And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year's election.

Now Let's be frank - The Washington Post has long been part of the problem. They, like all MSM these days, seem to fall victim to this false "fairness" doctrine daily. Two of my blogging "heros" - Glenn Greenwald and Dan Froomkin - have called the Post out regularly for this kind of behavior. I suspect they will again.

Still, it's nice to see at least one Post columnist actually earning the "Liberal Media" label that is so often, and so falsely, pinned on the Post by these very same right wing talking heads.

Now, Adams is accusing the Obama Justice Department of being "motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law." This is racially inflammatory, politically motivated nonsense -- and it's nonsense even if Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh talk about it a thousand times a day. When an outlandish charge for which there is no evidence is treated as an on-the-one-hand-and-on-the-other-hand issue, the liars win.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hey hey, ho ho, Charlie Rangel's got to go!

Harking back to the days of real protest marches, and the pithy chants that seemed to go with them, I am calling today for my fellow Democrats to purge yet another political dinosaur from our ranks. New York Congressman Charlie Rangel now stands formally accused of numerous ethics violations, including failure to pay taxes on a vacation house, using House stationary for campaign fundraising, and improperly dealing with donors to a "pet project" on government relations.

Mr. Rangel, the recently deposed House Ways and Means Committee chair, of course maintains his innocence. After all, the House Ethic Committee is now moving to what passes for a trial phase in its work, and Mr. Rangel needs to be able to defend himself.

That said, Charlie Rangel is another of the political dinosaurs who kills the Democratic Party, all the while smiling and proclaiming that, if he did anything wrong, it was all in the name of public service. Excuse me while go hack a hairball out of my throat.

What bugs me about Mr. Rangel's conduct - like the conduct of so many national politicians these days - is that Mr. Rangel seems to really believe that the ends justify the means. So he "slipped" a little with the IRS - he needs that house as a place to truly retreat thus ensuring his focus on the issues of his constituents. So he "misused" some stationary. He'll buy more out of his pocket to replace the lost stuff. And besides, in this day and age you need the real stuff to prove that the letter asking for money is really for a Congressional campaign. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

In that mindset, however, Mr. Rangel betrays the common Washington affliction - the rules don't apply to me because I'm a (insert Congressman, Senator, President here) and thus far too important to be bound by silly little things like laws or ethics or morals. I have important work to do for you the people, and you shouldn't care how I get it done. Or so it seems to go.

Out here on Mainstreet, however, Mr. Rangel's actions ar just another sordid tale of a Washington Politician loosing touch with reality, and thus not being worthy of our time or interest. As these scandals have grown in number and complexity over the years, ordinary people have reached the conclusion that if you are elected to Congress, or electable, you have to be some sort of sadistic narcissist, and thus not really normal. Is it any wonder that political identifications, by party, are falling off?

So to the Democratic Party, and the House of Representatives (and the DCCC) I say this - as a liberal I'll vote for you more then against you, but only because I have no real alternative. That means you have an obligation to make sure your ranks are peopled with the best and the brightest, not the sleaziest and the laziest. Charlie Rangel is hurting our brand, he's hurting liberal politics, and he's making it hard to keep the Democratic Party separate from the Republican Party, at least based on conduct. He's a mill stone around our collective necks.

Hey hey, ho ho, Charlie Rangel's got to go!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

from a close friend - One Good Thing: Guilt Trip

While I have added mandy's blog to my blog roll on the right side of the aisle, I wanted to call this one out. it's especially tough to read but it's so worth it. Once you are done, spend some time in the other entries - you will be glad you did.

One Good Thing: Guilt Trip: "I had another guilt dream last night. In this one, I was taking care of someone else’s baby (I have no idea whose). I laid the baby back in ..."

The Shirley Sherrod Affair

The only person who comes out good in the recent firing and now probable re-hiring of Shirley Sherrod at USDA is Ms. Sherrod herself. Not only was she revealed (finally) as a person who is open to what her life can teach her, but she showed grace and class under extraordinary pressure. Pressure that came, I might add, because Shirley Sherrod gave an honest, heartfelt speech abotu a change in her world view based on a racial incident.

In the "we look like asses" department - nearly all the MSM, the White House, USDA, and definitely Andrew "I hate context and nuance" Breitbart. Its so sad that honest criticism of the Tea Party's one-time refusal to deal with its own racists devolved into a proud African American woman loosing her job.

And yet, this, my fellow readers, is what We The People now allow our polticians and media to do in our names. That, in my humble view - puts us all in the "wee look like asses" department as well. For what its worth, I thnk we ALL owe Shirley Sherrod an apology.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Here comes the rain again

I haven't posted since 22 June, and it's been both refreshing and frustrating. I spent most of that time down in Louisiana as part of the federal government's response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Mentally,I think I have that processed, but I am not yet sure how much I want to write here. Sadly, the Administration for whom I work is really clamping down on communications regarding the spill, and I am having an internal debate about whether the spill is really worth my career.

In that respect, sadly, the fear mongers have won.

UPDATE (22 July 2010):
Check out this article on early signs of the ecological impact of the spill.