Friday, February 19, 2010


It's the "stimulus bill," dummy

On Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of the signing of the stimulus bill, Obama held a press event in the Executive Office Building to praise the success of the legislation. Portions of it were widely reported in the MSM, especially this section

I want to begin by recalling where we were one year ago.  Millions of jobs had already been lost to the recession before I was sworn into office.  Another 800,000 would be lost in the month of January.  We'd later learn that our economy had shrunk by an astounding 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009.  And economists from across the political spectrum warned that if dramatic action was not taken to break the back of the recession, the United States could spiral into another depression. 

One year later, it is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second depression is no longer a possibility.  It's one of the main reasons the economy has gone from shrinking by 6 percent to growing at about 6 percent.  And this morning we learned that manufacturing production posted a strong gain.  So far, the Recovery Act is responsible for the jobs of about 2 million Americans who would otherwise be unemployed.  These aren't just our numbers; these are the estimates of independent, nonpartisan economists across the spectrum.

Now, despite all this, the bill still generates some controversy.  And part of that is because there are those, let's face it, across the aisle who have tried to score political points by attacking what we did, even as many of them show up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects in their districts.  (Laughter and applause.) But if we're honest, part of the controversy also is, is that despite the extraordinary work that has been done through the Recovery Act, millions of Americans are still without jobs.  Millions more are struggling to make ends meet.  So it doesn't yet feel like much of a recovery.  And I understand that.  It's why we're going to continue to do everything in our power to turn this economy around.

Obama was introduced by Vice President Biden, who of course also praised the bill. Would you believe that neither used the word "stimulus" or the phrase "stimulus bill"? Not once! Instead they talked about the "Recovery Act."

At least one speechwriter needs to be fired. Haven't they heard that Americans are confusing the stimulus bill with the financial bailouts, and that the mere thought of the bailouts gets them hopping-mad (even to the point of flying a plane into government offices1)? And don't they know that a sentence such as "economists from across the political spectrum warned that if dramatic action was not taken to break the back of the recession, the United States could spiral into another depression" can easily be taken to refer to the bailouts?

Jeesh! Republican PR guys will do anything for money.  Can't the Obama administration hire one of them?

Related post
A note on Obama (2/15/10)



1Although suicide pilot Joseph Stack's principal complaint was against the IRS, he also wrote this—

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?

And this—

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”. Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution.


Thursday, February 18, 2010


A domestic suicide attack

I was thinking about posting a note on the Tea Party movement when I caught the news of Joseph Stack's suicidal airplane crash into an Austin building that houses offices of the IRS. 

An hour before the crash Stack updated his website a final time by posting what is being characterized in the media as a "manifesto." I would have called it a rant, which is how Stack himself described it.  His website has been taken down at the request of the FBI, to what purpose I do not know since The Smoking Gun has published the text online.

I was not the first to think of the Tea Party movement as I read of Joseph Stack. Washington Post reporter Jonathan Capehart wrote on his blog—

... after reading his 34-paragraph screed, I am struck by how his alienation is similar to that we're hearing from the extreme elements of the Tea Party movement.

Capehart did not write that Stack considered himself a part of the movement, only that he was struck by the similarities between Stack's "alienation" and the messages coming from some of the Tea Baggers. This was sufficient, however, to trigger reactions such as—

Very trashy reporting. A cursory read of the note indicates no such affiliations. Perhaps you would like to arrest those who harbor dislike against the government? That's the logical extension of your thinking.

I have no idea whether Stack considered himself to be a Tea Bagger, but what is clear is that he might easily be found at a Tea Party event, as described by David Barstow—

Local Tea Party groups are often loosely affiliated with one of several competing national Tea Party organizations. In the background, offering advice and organizational muscle, are an array of conservative lobbying groups, most notably FreedomWorks. Further complicating matters, Tea Party events have become a magnet for other groups and causes — including gun rights activists, anti-tax crusaders, libertarians, militia organizers, the “birthers” who doubt President Obama’s citizenship, Lyndon LaRouche supporters and proponents of the sovereign states movement.

Stack in fact concluded his writing with this—

The Communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

This—along with his denunciation of George Bush and the healthcare industry—will undoubtedly cause the right-wing media to erupt, and a fierce battle of words will be enjoined between Left and Right over how Mr. Stack should be categorized. This is quite pointless.  In the end he will enter the pantheon of right-wing heros.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Comments Section taken over by aliens

You may have noticed that the comments disappeared these past few days. Haloscan, the commenting service I've used since this blog appeared, has gone out of business.  (Well, technically it's been bought and put out of business.) Not wanting to lose the existing comments, I've switched to the company that took over Haloscan simply because it's the path of least resistance.

But there are other options.  If you're feeling disgruntled, let me know.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Introducing the Simply Appalling twought

As I have complained of myself in earlier posts, I have not been able to maintain the daily flow of writing that oozed out during the Bush years. Say what you will about George Bush, he was at least inspirational.

Still I gasp at the news everyday, simply appalled. And by "news" I don't mean the real-world events that appal almost all of us—such as the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti—but the mad irreality of politics hurling us into abysses into which we need not go. Capitalism is the chief propellant, purchasing opinions and paying for their distribution throughout the American media and to a lesser degree throughout the media of other first-world nations.

Wealth and the power that attends it are now so concentrated that I'm not sure whether there is sufficient force to mount a credible resistance—at least in the "developed" countries. If there is, it will have to come from anger, desperation—and information. Anger and desperation, which we see for instance in the Tea Party movement, easily become merely ludicrous—not to mention exploitable—when the bearers of these sentiments are uninformed or misinformed, as most of us are.

So without much hope that the impetus toward neofeudalism can be halted, I'm picking up my proverbial pen again to "rage against the dying of the light." But because I feel no more capable today than I did yesterday of producing lengthier pieces, I've decided to resort to the "twought" until such time as I may recover. The twought, in the Simply Appalling lexicon, is a writing that is somewhat longer than a "tweet" but shorter than a fully elaborated thought.

Perhaps some commenter will provide the elaboration—or induce me to do it.

Monday, February 15, 2010


A note on Obama

The rank air of the decaying republic has left me almost constitutionally unable to write this past year.  It is clear—wasn't it always?—that enough Democrats, especially in the Senate, were too frightened or bought off or indeed supportive of right-wing ideology to bring about the changes that the electorate so passionately hoped to see after the election of Barack Obama and a Democratic supermajority to the Senate.

The fault must be laid principally on Obama's doorstep. Obama was the first President elected by a clear popular majority (53.1%) since George H. Bush in 1988. It was an advantage that he promptly ignored, preferring instead to wallow in the rejection of his unrequited love offerings to the Republican mini-minority. Obama is sincere when he contends that his proposals have a lot in common with the Republicans', but he and his advisors are remarkably stupid for thinking that that is what matters to them.

Obama named the odious Rahm Emanuel to be his doorkeeper, which should have alerted the most ardent Obama supporters that they were being betrayed. He then appointed Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers to continue the Republican economic calamity. He left Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense to reassure the military-industrial barons that nothing would change on his watch and turned health care reform over to the Congress after arranging secret negotiations and giveaways to silence opposition from the pharmaceutical industry.  After all these peace offerings to the right, he tried to induce a spirit of conviviality amongst his Republican opponents, apparently hoping to get them drunk at his cocktail parties. Needless to say, it didn't work.

What Obama should have done was take a page from the Republican playbook and propel his agenda by the force of a committed constituency that was prepared to help him "go all the way." This is a strategy that would have won him the "populist" label in the media and possibly gotten him assassinated. But he has already said he doesn't care if he's only a one-term President—it's the policy that counts.

He should have taken another page from the Republican playbook and used the always effective weapon of fear—but with a difference. He could have articulated the real risks we face rather than the ersatz bogeymen that Republicans manage to keep in the headlines. 

Did he want regulatory reform of the financial industry?  The public was more than ready to back his demand.  Do we need reform of the health care industry? It could have been—and should have been—presented as a matter of national defense during wartime. Want to rein in government waste? Explain the risks of the rising national debt and demand independent commissions to pour over the federal budget, including the Pentagon's. Call out the whistleblowers.

As he took office, the only thing Obama had to fear wasn't fear itself but fear misdirected. And he seems not to have seen it coming despite the right wing's history of using the tactic. Concerning health care reform, in short order the airwaves were full of talk of "government death panels" and the destruction of Medicare (yes, from Republicans who've been trying to kill the program since its inception!). And there are Republican-sponsored fear-filled analogues to be found for every item of candidate Obama's agenda.

Effectively it is hard to distinguish the Obama administration from that of Bush, though to hear it told in the right-wing media you would think there had been a revolution. It is in fact the absence of one that will see a number of Democrats unelected quite soon.

Related posts
In case you were looking to the Democrats for your salvation (8/19/05)
Must-Read of the Day (9/08/07)
Quote of the Day: On the political center of American politics (1/21/10)

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