Saturday, November 15, 2008


Nominations begin November 3rd.

I don't expect to win, but I wouldn't mind making it to the finals to defend my title. Please click the link below and nominate me and then go check out the other categories and see who you can name.

Suggested nominating categories:

- Best Blog
- Best Political Blog
- Best Liberal Blog
- Best Blog 5000-7501 (no, I haven't grown much in the past year).

Oh, and I'd consider it a personal favor if you named Miss Cellania in the humour and best blog categories.

The 2008 Weblog Awards

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Someone explain to me why this mother is on TV, instead of in jail for child neglect? 
2) We call this "beating a dead President to death." Oswald. Gun. Window. Nuff said.
3) Remind me, who was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, again?
4) NEWSFLASH: Conservative talk radio exploits fear. And terror. No wait, they're THREE chief weapons are...
5) Want to visit anciet Rome? Google it.
7) This week's episode of Rednecks Gone Wild!
8) Why is Bush holding this summit? I mean, the summit needs to be held, but why can't the President be there instead?
9) Ground control to Major Dick.
10) Man kills wife...from beyond the grave!
11) How big is the shitpile? This big.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

So How Bad Will It Get?

This item caught my attention this morning and made me do a little thinking:
The Chancellor [Alistair Darling, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer] signalled that Britain will suffer a short, sharp recession, claiming that it would bounce back into growth in 2010.
OK, make the jokes now. I'll wait....
I've been asked a lot lately what would I do with spare cash I might have lying around or investments I might want to swap out of stocks. Needless to say, none of this should be construed as professional investment advice, as your mileage may vary and your levels of acceptable risk may differ from mine.
For now, I tell friends, if you have time, then buy a CD. Don't even think about putting your money in anything until one of two things happens:
  1.  The market bottoms out.
  2.  January 21, 2009.
I believe the market bottom is approaching. My personal target is somewhere between 7,500 and 7,000. That's when I will begin buying stocks again, broad-based recession resistant stocks, like say food or healthcare, and probably index fund shares. I think it will bottom out next month.
OK, moving on, back to the article. I agree with Chancellor Darling and disagree. I believe things will be very tough into next year, and possibly beyond, but that by 2010, things will begin an uptick.
The nature of that uptick is in doubt, however, and here is where the chancellor and I disagree. Well, likely. Keep in mind that he is forced to operate in an environment that I am not. He speaks for a government, and has to base his statements on the available evidence. I'm free to make allowances that things will be different.
For example, I'm convinced that some form of stagflation will occur: stagflation is a moment in time when prices go up, but GDP fizzles for whatever reason.
We suffered stagflation in the late 70s because of the oil crunches. There, OPEC kept the screws on oil supply tightly, thus draining our economy of money. This meant that inflation went through the roof, but also, there was less money available here to lend which forced interest rates higher, which meant little economic activity for the increase in prices.
The question becomes, how bad will it be? New York City will be ground zero for the Bush Depression. That's two calamities he's been directly responsible for in eight years. You begin to think he doesn't like us very much.
Yesterday, in New York City, held a job fair. On a Wednesday in the middle of the day, two thousand lined up to interview with two dozen companies. Each had an average of two jobs available. Most had only one. You have better odds reading the want ads.
The New Jersey Nets are offering free tickets to the unemployed. Just send in your resume. Maybe you'll get a job.
Landmark restaurants, open for decades, close without warning in Harlem.
And as I mentioned yesterday, the state and city have both announced harsh cutbacks in services in anticipation of the twin blows of a busted stock market and bonuses being withheld for brokers and other securities company employees.
As New York City goes, in this crisis, so goes the nation, since this crisis is based in the very industry that makes New York the money capital of the country, if not the world. The ripples will spread far and wide, up and down the coasts and eventually into the heartland.
And even into other nations that depends on us.
It will be harsh, make no mistake about it. And with the current administration diddling their dicks over how best to bail us out in the short time left to them (miracles do happen, but I won't hold my breath), it will clearly be left to the Obama administration to clean things up. They can stop the bleeding.
My worry is, that may be the easy part.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A More Direct Challenge

You may recall, if you followed politics at all in the 1990s, there was a move afoot on the part of the Gingrich revolters to reform how government worked.

What happened up to that point was that the Federal government would distribute funds to states targetted for very specific goals. These were called "categorical grants". Gingrich and his orc minions proposed to change this to a "block grant" system, whereby a state would be given a chunk of money and directed to spend it as it saw fit. In a perfect world, there would have been substantially no difference between the two methods. Ideally, they would solve the same problems and be the same amount of money, with the state having a bit more discretion in how it could target money it received.

But, well...politicians, can see where this headed.

There's an interesting dynamic afoot here, and I want to study it from the ground up with you for a moment.

Little noticed outside of New York City (and even then, amidst the Obamathon, only among wonks here) was the release of an emergency budget proposal by Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Much of the hoopla over this budget stemmed from the loss of an entire graduating class at the police academy, cutting back on night-time fire coverage, as well as the suspension of a property tax rebate, an increase in property tax rates, and a 5¢ surcharge on all plastic bags.

All to close a $4 billion budget gap to $1.3 billion. Presumably, smoke and mirrors would take care of the rest. Actually, I know what will take care of the rest, but that's a different post.

Little noticed in the budget proposal, which will have to go to the city council for approval, was an item that would eliminate a program that has been around for over 100 years: public child dentistry.

Remember when you had to present a note from your dentist, once a year, certifying that you had been seen and were under his care? Some kids couldn't afford private dentists, and since these notes were mandatory, the city stepped in and established dental clinics around town for indigent (and sometimes, just lazy) kids to be checked up.

Even in the depths of near-bankruptcy thirty years ago, this program was considered sacrosanct. We could close down firehouses, reduce police presence, cut back on garbage pickup (which used to be daily), find myriad ways of saving a buck or two, but childrens' teeth were deemed essential.

This is a good thing, by the way.

Now, not so much. I pondered this rather curious earmark in the budget proposal. One day it hit me: with a President Obama, children's health insurance would be mandatory, meaning that these dentists would essentially be working for the Federal government now. He was kicking the ball upstairs.

I filed this away: city councils are notoriously slow, partly around Christmas time and PARTICULARLY ahead of an election year, to start mucking around with unions.

Comes today, this item:
ALBANY - Faced with a worsening economy, Gov. Paterson wants to slash school aid, shrink health care funding and hike public college tuition, the Daily News has learned.

The governor, who will propose $2 billion in budget cuts Wednesday, also wants public employees to go without raises for at least a year, sources said.

About $1.4 billion of the cuts to this fiscal year's budget would come from education and health care.
"Aha," says I. That cut in children's health aid, roughly a half billion dollars, would mean severe cuts in the Federally mandated children's health care program, Child Health Plus.

CH+ is funded by Medicaid, as part of those block grants I told you about earlier. You might recall the ruckus in Congress last year over renewing S-CHIP. This is that program.

Essentially, Patterson is setting up to kick Bloomberg's ball one step further up the ladder, to the Federal Government, to the Obama administration.

See, neither of these draconian budget adjustments will take effect, should they even be passed, until next summer, 2009.

Plenty of time for Obama to write, introduce, and pass his version of national healthcare. Plenty of time for the Federal government to pick up the ball.

My suspicion is we'll be seeing this same scenario repeated across the nation, as mayors and governors collaborate to kick their mandated spending programs back up the ladder to the Federal government.

For policy wonks like me, these are salad days indeed!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank You

I pray that President Obama will learn the lessons of his predecessors and never EVER send our children into harm's way without a goddamned good reason, one that involves our national security and the preservation of America.

The Most Annoying Column This Week

Y'know, I get tired of idjits like this columnist. Talk more on the flip side:
For several years, I've been writing about Bushenfreude, the phenomenon of angry yuppies who've hugely benefited from President Bush's tax cuts funding angry, populist Democratic campaigns. I've theorized that people who work in financial services and related fields have become so outraged and alienated by the incompetence, crass social conservatism, and repeated insults to the nation's intelligence of the Bush-era Republican Party that they're voting with their hearts and heads instead of their wallets.

Last week's election was perhaps Bushenfreude's grandest day. As the campaign entered its final weeks, Barack Obama, who pledged to unite the country, singled out one group of people for ridicule: those making more than $250,000. At his rallies, he would ask for a show of hands of those making less than one-quarter of $1 million per year. Then he'd look around, laugh, and note that those in the virtuous majority would get their taxes cut, while the rich among them would be hit with a tax increase. And yet the exit polls show, the rich—and yes, if you make $250,000 or more you're rich—went for Obama by bigger margins than did the merely well-off. If the exit polls are to be believed, those making $200,000 or more (6 percent of the electorate) voted for Obama 52-46, while McCain won the merely well-off ($100,000 to $150,000 by a 51-48 margin and $150,000 to $200,000 by a 50-48 margin).
OK, so why is this annoying me?

Two reasons:

1) The title of the column is "Why the rich voted for Obama against their own economic interest," which the moron never gets into except to make vague references to taxes and ethnicities and trust fund, no. But I'll get back to this.

2) The deeper issue I have is, why is this such a big topic of discussion this year, but when Reagan Democrats en masse supported Bush (or Dole or Bush the Elder, or Reagan for that matter), no one bothered to ask the why the little people were voting for their bosses?

OK, let's tackle these one at a time. So why did the uberrich go for Obama in such large numbers?

First of all, it's not like people are a distinct bloc. Take Greenwich, CT, for example. In 2004, the town went for Bush 53-47. That still means close to half the people there voted for Kerry. In 2008, the numbers were pretty much reversed, 54-46 Obama. So that means seven people out of a hundred changed their party line in this vote. That's not like it's a major upheaval in a region that is seeing housing prices drop pretty significantly, has watched as the stock markets have tanked and gotten very very nervous, and is facing the looming crisis of companies that have been the backbone of this community, brokerage houses, banks and hedge funds, swing down the drain.

Those factors alone could easily swing seven votes, but I'm more interested in the underlying thesis that, somehow, the other forty five percent or so must be economic morons to vote against their self-interests.

I'm going to reframe the question: why is it so unusual to vote for issues apart from pocketbook? This sector of the rich didn't vote for Carter, for example, because they thought his economic stimulus package was better than Ford's (subsequent events put the lie to that, anyway).

No, they voted for Carter for more prosaic reasons, just as they voted for Clinton: they liked him, thought he'd do the best job of sheparding this nation, and they were tired of Republican rule and corruption.

Or is this jackass proposing that voters of a certain class (myself included, altho I am a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat) should ignore any other issue on the table, any incumbent's peccadilloes and peculiarities, and focus only on how much richer this man or woman can make them?

Which now leads me to the obverse of this idiotic column and why this disappointing piece of fluff really burns my belly.

Why do the POOR even bother voting for Republicans? As Harry Truman said, "If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democratic." So why cut your nose to spite your face?

Security reasons, we're usually told. More trustworthy. A guy we can have a beer with.

I don't know about you, but I would rather have a beer with John McCain, who strikes me as someone who can discuss the last football game better than Barack Obama (and it now appears Senator McCain will have a better opportunity to do just that).

But here's the thing: anybody with a lick of sense would walk up to the beer-chugging President and ask, "What are you doing here, wasting time, when there's a country to run?"

How condescending is it to claim that it's so wrong for the rich to vote against their interests, when the poor do it, and we don't bat an eye?

The answer to both questions is very simple: when the strengths of a party's message exceed the strengths of the other party's message, that's who usually wins. That encompasses not only the message itself, but how its delivered and more important, who is delivering it. Also, of course, how easily the other party can rebut or dismantle the argument.

McCain lost this election back in the conventions, I'm afraid. Goerge Bush had made the environment so toxic for any Republican that McCain was lucky to make as strong a showing as he did.

Even then, McCain and particularly Sarah Palin bungled some issues so severely that they should have been punished more forcefully at the polls.

The better question is not why the rich voted for Obama, but why people voted for McCain at all?

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Now We Are Engaged In A Great Civil War..."

Abraham Lincoln meant that about the United States, but if he lived today, he could just as easily be speaking about the Republican party, the party he helped create:
It could be a tough four or eight years for conservatives.

It will be tougher yet if they underestimate Obama. His selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff suggests that Obama’s not going to be mindlessly leftist, and that he’s going to shape a legislative strategy that is attentive to Congressional realities while not deferring to a Congressional leadership whose interests may not be his own. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were both tripped up in their first two years by their Democratic Congresses. Obama intends for Emanuel to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
Curiously, while Kristol makes a good case (a rarity) for keeping some of the conservative planks of the Republican platform, he loses out to this kind of rhetoric:
But many on the losing end of last week's election want to hold on to their anger. And there are those in the media -- led by the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity -- only too ready to feed that animus, along with their own ratings.

"The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen," Limbaugh told his radio audience of 15 million to 20 million on Thursday. "Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression."

Apparently the tanking of the real estate market, record losses in the auto industry, and massive failures in the banking and investment industry have very little to do with our problems. The economic system is collapsing, Rush wants us to know, because it anticipates the tax increases Obama has pledged on capital gains and for the highest income earners.
There's a seething anger on the right wing, paralleling the seething anger on the left (and to be fair, the center) of four years ago when Bush somehow managed to struggle off the canvas of 40% approval ratings...can you imagine how nice those must seem to him now? eke out re-election.

This isn't, thank goodness, being reflected in "assassinate Obama" rhetoric, at least in the more polite circles, the ones who at least use forks to eat. There is a nascent movement to file immediate impeachment charges based upon...what, I'm not sure, since impeachment has to be for high crimes and misdemeanors and considering the guy isn't even president yet, it'd be a bit hard to accuse him of official misconduct.

There is a stiffenining of resolve amongst the crackpot wing of the Republican party to clear out anything that smells like a RINO, Bill Kristol included:
We intend to constantly remind the base about these people, monitor who they are working for, and, when 2012 rolls around, see which candidates hire them. Naturally then, you'll see us go to war against those candidates.

It is our expressed intention to make these few people political lepers.
You read that right, folks: the radical right has declared a pogrom.

There's an element of "cry-babyness" here. First off, the clear reason for this overreaction is the loss of the 2008 election. Something, power, was taken away from these folks.

Or rather, in keeping with the mindless American trope of so many of these numbbrained knuckleheads, the illusion of power, as if some mommy in Maryland with a computer, bile, and too much time on her hands is somehow responsible for the political transformation of an entire nation.

Sorry...I had to take a moment to stop laughing.

A few "inside scoops," a couple of cocktail party invitations, and the occasional television appearance or mention by some high "White Horse souse" (to use the turn of phrase), and someone like Mickey Mousekin thinks she's got stroke?

Um. No?

It doesn't work like that, and the one area in which I have to tip my hat to Karl Rove is his ability to con these folks, like Malkin and Morrisey and Nordlinger and Hannity and Limbaugh into some form of power broker, when all they performed was what Stalin would have called "useful idiocies".

Tools. Gotta love. Wish I had some.

The con works because the conner takes what the connees want, and neatly pastes it over what he, the conner, has.

Unwittingly, tho, Karl Rove may have destroyed the Republican party. Certainly, by enlisting these crackheads, he's likely disposed of the relevancy of the conservative argument for many many decades. After all, how many time could a Michelle Malkin go and inspect the countertops of a Graeme Frost, while throwing a hissyfit over the media treatment of Joe the Plumber, all while identifying herself as some media figure?

Damn, Karl Rove even had her believing her own press...that's impressive!

The tragedy for Malkin, et al's sake is that they dragged some pretty smart people down with them, people who could have had useful voices in the coming economic crisis. Like it or not, Obama is going to have a hard time selling his entire reform package of healthcare, peace AND a tax cut when people's jobs are being lost. He will need a formidable and loyal opposition, one that deals in facts and truths and not National Enquirer headlines, in order to fix the problems of this nation.

The trouble is, those folks, the ones who could help with the solutions, will be lumped in with these assholes and thus deemed irrelevant.

I for one do not want to see a "permanent Democratic majority." I want them to have to fight and occasionally fail for their ideas and ideals. One party rule, no matter how benign, is a form of fascism long term, if there is no accountability to the people, and no other legitimate option.

I would welcome a Republican party that moved back to this planet, and dealt with the reality-based reality, and not wandered off to the clouds of some pseudo-sociological experiment in strapping down the less fortunate and less privileged and hooking up electrodes to their genitalia.

I would welcome a Republican party that learned to respect its opposition, to invite their opinions, to include their concerns in forming a platform and legislative agenda.

I would not welcome a Republican party that is divisive and divided, torn asunder by four or five minority factions who lost the lessons of the Democratic diaspora of the past thirty years: we are all in this together.

I sincerely hope, as a progressive and a life-long Democrat, that one day I'll be offered a real choice of two candidates for President who both are neither tied to their extremist moneyed factions, but who actually fight for my vote.

I doubt I'll see it, but this defeat bears truth that hopes springs eternal.

(showing da love to Memeorandum)